The band played the Pirates of the Caribbean theme as the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2011 milled about the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, ready to line up for their final procession as high school kids. In the Tabernacle, it was standing room only with hundreds of friends, family, teachers and neighbors gathered to watch the graduation ceremonies. Overhead the skies threatened rain, but the event stayed dry except for the occasional shower of tears.

The boys in their purple gowns marched in on the right with the girls in white gowns on their left. Led by class marshals Mia Benedetto and Delmont Araujo, the class of 2011 entered the historic open-air auditorium to receive their diplomas.

Master of ceremonies Alicia Oliveira got things under way by saying, “If you’re sitting in this Tabernacle today, you’ve probably had some sort of positive influence on one of our graduates.”

It was clear that those other attendees, who easily outnumbered the 166 graduates, felt influenced by the students in turn.

School principal Stephen Nixon, introduced by Ms. Oliveira as a “stern principal by day, sensitive songwriter by night,” explained that as he tried to write his own speech, a memory kept returning to him. It was of seeing a young girl and her mother waiting for the bus day after day, year after year, “until that little girl has grown to the point that she sits among you today.”

As he paid tribute to the senior class, Mr. Nixon said, “I cannot ask you to take chances without being willing to do so myself.” And then, mid-speech, he surprised the graduates by pulling out his guitar and singing Forever Young: “May sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home ...”

The graduates, who had clapped along and watched with rapt attention, leapt to their feet when he finished, quickly followed by the rest of the crowd.

There were many showers of applause. Ms. Oliveira called for applause for co-valedictorian Mary Harrington, who did not attend the ceremony.

Kira Shipway, the class essayist, spoke of how unremarkably such momentous days pass. “This day was predetermined to feel significant and therefore its significance seems unorganic,” she said.

Vineyard schools superintendent Dr. James H. Weiss took nature as his touchstone as he stressed the importance of community, using geese as a metaphor for the support that Islanders provide one another. Just like geese flying in V-formation, he said, “people who share a sense of community and common direction can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling under the thrust of one another.”

Mr. Weiss thanked the community for donating $800,000 in scholarships and grants, which were awarded at class night on Friday. Putting his own spin on the African proverb made famous by Hillary Clinton during her days as First Lady, Dr. Weiss said, “It takes an Island to educate a student.”

He handed out the Superintendent’s Outstanding Student Award to co-valedictorians Sarah Johnson and Mary Harrington.

The combined choruses, in a final performance with their graduating members, sang With a Voice of Singing by Martin Shaw. The senior song was That Lonesome Road.

Principal Nixon asked for a moment of silence for Joy Flanders and Arthur Cormier, two former teachers who died this year. He also mentioned the four teachers who were retiring: Bill McGrath, Dianne McDonough, Scott Campbell and Annette Sandrock.

Mr. Nixon awarded the Javan E. Bayne Memorial Scholarship to Rykerr Maynard. The Vineyarder Award went to two students, Alex Jernegan and Elsie Fantasia, who teared up as she listened to Mr. Nixon describe all the obstacles she had overcome to earn the award. Finally, the Principal’s Award went to student body president Rachel Pires.

Ms. Pires gave her own speech, moments after winning her prize, in which she kept with Mr. Weiss’s theme of community, saying, “It takes an Island.”

In a speech filled with memories, inside jokes and words of thanks for teachers and friends, Ms. Pires bid her school good-bye, reminding her classmates that they didn’t need luck for they had confidence.

Ms. Johnson spoke to the graduates following Ms. Pires.

Before Priscilla Sylvia, chairman of the school district committee, handed out diplomas to cheers from the audience and many smiles and fist-pumps from the graduates, Ms. Johnson reminded them all that the class of 2011 would never be more united than it was on its graduation day: “Every single one of us will remember today.”

Adults in the community, Ms. Johnson said, placed the students into two groups, those who could adjust to life off the Island and those who couldn’t. She hoped that her classmates would instead find a third way – those who “adjust the world to themselves.”

She called on the graduates to make their communities, whether on-Island or off, better ones.

“Do something,” Ms. Johnson said, “to be part of the bigger picture.”