A standing ovation welcomed the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School’s class of 2013 to the stage at their commencement ceremony last Sunday afternoon. The crowd cheered excitedly as the graduates, wearing wreaths of purple flowers in their hair, entered the white tent.
The charter school’s Class of 2013 is its largest since the school graduated its first class in 2001. The class includes 12 students: Trey Araujo, Erin Brown, Ian Chickering, Eli Dagostino, Spencer de Langavant-Sahr, Zachary Dupon, Kaelin Nelson, Ruth Oliviera, Teo Reidy, Zachary Smalley, Erin Sullivan and Oscar Thompson.
“We appreciate the lessons you have taught us and the gifts you have given us,” said charter school director Robert Moore in his opening address. He described the class as “exhibiting qualities of goodness, kindness and trust” and urged them to “seek out the good in goodness.”
Students from the charter school’s lower grades presented gifts to each of the graduating seniors. The gifts from the younger students are a charter school tradition and each one is personalized. The gifts ranged from a snowboarder mobile given to Mr. Reidy by the kindergarten class to a mirror of self-esteem decorated with encouraging adjectives for Mr. Dagostino. The charter school’s high school presented each of the graduating seniors with a personalized walking stick taken from various species of trees native to the Island and a bag full of whimsical gifts, like rubber erasers.
The senior class presented to the charter school a handsome wood bulletin board with glass doors to be hung outside the school’s main entrance.
Several scholarships were presented at the ceremony. Mr. Smalley received the Marvin Joslow Memorial Scholarship, presented by the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association. Miss Oliviera received the Lumina/Darrell Foundation Scholarship. Mr. Thompson received several scholarships, including one from the Thomas H. and Barbara Fish Lee Scholarship Fund, the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Scholarship and the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Leadership Initiative Award.
Once the scholarships had been awarded, each of the students received a personalized award and a selection of books based on his or her interests and personality. For example, Mr. Dupon received the Wolfgang Puck award for his interest in the culinary arts and his “Puck-like” demeanor. Mr. Thompson received the Henry Clay award for his work as a farmer and a statesman, and Mr. Reidy received the Philosopher-Sartorialist award for his propensity for deep thoughts and daring fashion statements. The family of Erin Brown also received the Power of Five award in recognition of the five daughters, of which Erin is the youngest, the family has graduated from the charter school.
When the adults had finished giving their awards, the graduates were given the floor. Several seniors spoke briefly to give thanks to their families, friends and to the charter school for all the support they received along their journeys.
“Thank you so much for making this school my second home,” said Miss Brown. “I love you all.”
Mr. Dagostino spoke at greater length to the audience about his tumultuous, but ultimately successful, high school career. He began at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, only to find that he was having a hard time fitting in. In a twist of fate after his first year at the regional high school, Mr. Dagostino secured a place at the charter school. He emphasized the importance of his transition to the charter school in finding friends and in the success of his photography business, which has since grown significantly.
“The senior class is the most endearing of dysfunctional families,” said Mr. Dagostino, jokingly.
Mr. Dagostino finished his remarks with a simple declaration. “If there ever comes a day that I’m as rich and famous as I hope to be and the charter school is still in need of a gymnasium, I will be donating it.”
Mathea Morais, an Island author and director of the charter school’s writing lab, gave a moving commencement speech in which she described the graduating class as “tenacious.” She had kind, and often humorous, words for the graduating seniors to guide them as they enter a new world.
“Your quiet determination will take you far,” she told Mr. de Langavant-Sahr.
To Mr. Sullivan she said, “You are the definition of coming into your own.”
Addressing the whole class, Ms. Morais acknowledged that they were moving forward with their lives and gave some advice on how to prepare for the changes that awaited them.
“When you enter these new realities, don’t forget to bring some of your old reality with you.”