Trust your hearts, a Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduate advised her classmates during commencement ceremonies in West Tisbury Sunday.
“Trust your heart, trust your gut . . . and always use your noggin,” said Fawn Pelletier, who has attended the Island charter school since kindergarten and is one of five in the graduating class this year.
Families and students gathered on school grounds Sunday afternoon to celebrate the graduation of the class of 2014.
The graduates are Isabella (Izze) R. Canham, Chase N. Eppers, Gregory A.M. Allan, Nantawat (Earth) Laothong and Fawn R. Pelletier.
The ceremony began as the five seniors processed into a whimsically-decorated tent. Following longstanding school tradition, the seniors donned wreaths of purple and white flowers and took seats on stage. Director Robert Moore welcomed the audience and thanked each student individually for their contributions to the school community over the years.
Mr. Moore urged graduates to keep the memory of beloved Islander and board of trustees member Pat Gregory in mind as they move on to the next steps of their lives.
“Teach others through your words, your efforts, your actions, and your deeds,” as Pat did throughout his lifetime, he said.
In the keynote speech, art teacher Ken Vincent addressed each student and reminded them that whatever mark they make on the world, the charter school community will be there to celebrate their success.
Fawn Pelletier and Earth Laothong also spoke, delivering emotionally charged addresses to their classmates and the audience.
Earth Laothong reflected on his experience moving to Martha’s Vineyard from Thailand at the beginning of his freshman year. He recalled barely speaking during his first year on the island because he knew so few English words. He thanked the students and teachers at the charter school who have since helped him find his voice.
He brought tears to the eyes of several audience members as he also showed gratitude for the sacrifice his mother made, moving to America while he was still a young boy in order to secure a successful future for him.
As part of the commencement ceremony, advisories from all divisions of the school came on stage to present a series of specially selected gifts to each of the five graduating seniors.
Each student was awarded a $500 scholarship for future educational endeavors as well as a graduate award, designed by the high school advisors to honor their intellectual passions. As part of the graduate awards, each senior received a copy of Neil Gaiman’s book Make Good Art.
The Juliet Burkett Memorial Scholarship, a $500 grant established in honor of a member of the Class of 2007, was given to Earth Laothong.
After the conferring of diplomas, the new graduates recessed from the stage. The event was followed by a reception featuring light foods and beverages.