True to the ethos of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, the 2015 graduation ceremony was marked by a heartfelt and casual atmosphere. The young women wore sundresses, and flower wreaths in their hair. The young men also wore flower wreaths in their hair, and Henry Jephcote remarked, “it’s impressive that I actually wore clean clothes.” Twins Dylan and Skyler Cole both walked on stage barefoot.

Eight seniors celebrated their high school careers through speeches, songs and scholarships. The graduates are Julie G. DeOliveira Alves, Dylan James Cole, Skyler Everitt Cole, Anna Elizabeth Hill, Henry Marsden Jephcote, Brigida Marie Larsen, Isabella Goff Maidoff and Franklin Freejohn Pilcher. Austin McGowan, who was not in attendance, will graduate later this summer.

MVPCS director Robert Moore opened the ceremony by praising the graduating class. 

Willy Mason spoke to and sang to the graduates. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Each of you has brought special gifts to the charter school, and we are grateful for what you have given us,” he said. 

The small size of the graduating class allowed him time to speak to each individual’s initiatives and accomplishments. Mr. Moore commended Brigida Larsen for her nursing mentorship at the hospital, Henry Jephcote for his work as a mechanic at Mid-Island Repair, the class’s activities at local farms and on farm to school initiatives, and, more generally, their intellectual curiosity and brilliance.

He acknowledged the efforts of Dylan and Skyler Cole, twins from Falmouth, who have commuted to the school every weekday for four years. “The charter school has benefitted greatly from your presence and contributions,” he said.

Mr. Moore closed with thoughts not just for the school’s graduates, but for everyone in attendance. “Take with you the idea that friendships and relationships matter and always be kind to others. Life is easier when you do,” he said.

Brigida Larsen spoke about the support the charter school gave her. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Development director Paul Karasik spoke highly of this year’s graduates. “I consider this class a success story,” he said. “Every one of these students knows how they learn best and what they are interested in learning more about, and that is our number one goal here. A couple of students even have their lives focused on what they want to do through the mentorship program here. It is going to be their life’s work.”

As per tradition, the lower and middle school students presented each senior with a personalized gift. The first and second grade classes presented Franklin Pilcher with a customized pillow because they knew how much he appreciates reading and naps. Heather Capece, who helped the children with the art work, explained its versatility and practicality for college, too. “You can take the pillow out and put your dirty laundry in the case,” she said.

The gift from the fifth and sixth grade students to Julia Alves was accompanied by a note which read: “We wish for you to get a kitten. We wish for you to make lots of money. We wish for you to live your life with no regrets. We wish you a happy future.”

In turn, the senior class presented a gift to the school: boxes for library cards. Skyler Cole referred to the school library’s analog system and said, “no doubt you are able to perceive that they are somewhat rustic looking and that is their appeal in my mind.”

Skyler also addressed the audience and announced his plans to study sustainable agriculture and draft horse management at Sterling College. “Thank you for the best year of my life so far, and I hope it doesn’t stay that way,” he said.

Walking boldly into the future. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Brigida Larsen delivered a poignant speech about her struggle with self-image and depression. Transferring to the charter school and finding support there showed her how helping others could help herself.

“I didn’t see a future for myself until I transferred to the charter school,” she said. “But I made it through the bumpy dirt road of high school and am now going down the beautiful path of nursing. I have watched C–sections, sponge-bathed old men, held new born babies while getting their IVs, and I can’t think of another career that would be more satisfying.”

Brigida was also the recipient of numerous scholarships, including those awarded to her by the Dukes County Deputy Sherrif’s Department, the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association, the Scottish Society of Martha’s Vineyard, the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Permanent Endowment Fund for Martha’s Vineyard.

Thomas H. Lee and Barbara F. Lee awarded Isabella Maidoff a $1,700 scholarship, and every graduate received a $500 scholarship from Options in Education.

The commencement address was given by former student Willy Mason. He offered advice for the graduates whose shoes he once wore. “Take the change in your own life and run with it. You will find a whole new set of advantages and limitations and you will seek to overcome these. Your greatest ally is your ever-growing knowledge. You must know yourself — your strengths, weaknesses, what you like and what you don’t want. To truly know oneself has become an art. To truly love yourself is to love yourself without exception.”

After his speech, Mr. Mason pulled out his guitar and sang for the graduates. “I’ve never done a gig like this before,” he said.

School board member Ted Bayne conferred to the seniors their hard earned diplomas. Upon receiving his diploma, Dylan Cole did a back flip on stage. A perfect 10, bare feet and all.