Walking in pairs with flowers in their hair, arms linked, the 14 seniors of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School proceeded to the stage for their graduation ceremony Sunday afternoon to the Beatles classic With a Little Help from my Friends.

A fitting choice, if understated—the class of 2017 did not merely get by. Again and again, speakers returned to the impressive accomplishments of the class, the largest to graduate in the school’s history.

Students entered graduation tent to tune of With a Little Help from My Friends. — Albert O. Fischer

Director Robert Moore stressed how the seniors created a sense of community and support at the school. To show the depth of those bonds, younger classes from kindergarten to 11th grade presented each of the students with personalized gifts, including a handmade stuffed animal, a book of original poems, and a freshly-baked strawberry rhubarb pie.

English teacher Sarah Smith presented each student with a unique award. Belle Joie Dupon “leaves a little sparkle wherever she goes,” Ms. Smith said, and so she was honored with the Tinkerbell award. For her commitment to being in the moment, Grace Camryn Meyers got the Namaste award.

All the seniors received $500 scholarships from Options in Education. Some have won scholarships from other charitable organizations as well, including MVYouth and the Permanent Endowment Fund.

Zora Morais, sister to graduating senior Isabella Morais and a student at the charter school herself, sang Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing as a tribute to the class. Isabella stood behind her younger sister as Zora filled the tent with her arresting voice. Many in the audience, some in tears, clapped and sang along.

Graduates took their turn to thank the school community. Avery Miner and Clancy Conlin presented a gift from the seniors, a picnic bench that the class decorated together.

Students thanked the charter school community, and received personalized gifts and awards in turn. — Albert O. Fischer

Mr. Miner also described the sense of pride he felt about being a part of the charter school community. Carlos Vincente Dos Santos Mullen thanked teachers and others who had supported him through his education.

Yolani Doddy, who joined the class in high school after moving from the Marshall Islands, strummed the ukulele and sang her mother’s favorite Marshallese song.

Isabella Morais praised the unique community fostered at the school. “When I first walked into the charter school, I remember thinking that this is just a really strange art project,” she said. “Not only was that my first impression of the charter school, but my lasting impression too. Only now I’m forever a part of this strange project.”

Lucy Thompson, who had attended the school since kindergarten, said she’d gained self-confidence and determination as she begins her next adventure. “The halls have seen me grow and change, and have changed with me too,” she said.

Math teacher Deborah Cutrer traced the 13-year journey of the graduating class in her commencement address.

“The class of 2017 rolled into charter school like a rising tide—quietly and a bit at a time,” she said.

Three cheers for the class of 2017. — Albert O. Fischer

The charter school’s 17th graduating class set other records, she said, beyond largest in number. The class also had the highest number of middle school students who stayed on through high school, and had a large influx of new students, from as near as Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and Falmouth and as far as the Marshall Islands.

“They came to us like a rising tide, Ms. Cutrer continued. “Certainly not as predictable, but set to flow in, leaving their watermark and lifting boats.”

She encouraged the students to continue to share their opinions and support each other. “Laugh, laugh a lot,” she said. “Keep your eyes open for the gift of the unexpected.”

The crowd burst into applause as she closed: “Graduates, thanks for the lift.”

More photos from the charter school graduation.