The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School class of 2017 earned praise for its resilience during an afternoon of reflection and celebration at commencement ceremonies in the Oak Bluffs Tabernacle Sunday afternoon.

Class essayist Paulo Pereira Filho. — Ray Ewing

Clad in the traditional purple and white robes, 177 graduates took their place near the stage on a summery June day as speakers explored the theme of overcoming difficulties. Master of ceremonies Benjamin Nadelstein opened with a story about finding a creative route back to the high school after getting lost as a freshman during cross-country practice.

He said it reminded him of upcoming journeys. “You may get lost, you may be scared, and you may be tempted to eat your friend,” he said. “But don’t be afraid to improvise.”

Class essayist Paulo Pereira Filho gave his own perspective on what lies ahead. “After graduation, after today, it’s not going to get any easier,” he said.

“When times are tough, look to your loved ones, who are here today supporting you, because they’re the ones who are going to help you get through it,” he said. “When times are good, look to those same people, because they’re the ones who make life worth living.”

Teachers hold signs describing the class. — Ray Ewing

Salutatorian Lily Davey urged her classmates to stay open to all kinds of interactions and stressed connections.

“It’s not the things we know that make us who we are, it’s the people that taught them to us,” she said.

The combined school choruses, some in their graduation gowns, performed I Was Here and the class senior song, That Lonesome Road by James Taylor and Don Grolnick.

Superintendent of schools Matthew D’Andrea emphasized the importance of addressing fear in order to realize potential. “What is your bully? What is holding you back?” he asked the students.

Mr. D’Andrea presented the superintendent’s Outstanding Student Award to valedictorian Whitney Schroeder.

Students proceed into Tabernacle. — Ray Ewing

During her own speech, Ms. Schroeder called on faculty members in the audience to stand and hold up posters on which they had written words that they felt captured the class, including creative, persistent and committed.

“Class of 2017, look around. Look at the people we’ve affected, look at the positive impact we’ve had,” Ms. Schroeder said. “We’ve all shaped the world in some way.”

Principal Sara Dingley honored Alison Daigle and David Webster with Vineyarder Awards. Dylan Araujo won the Principal’s Leadership Award.

“May you live in interesting times,” Ms. Dingledy told the class, quoting a Chinese proverb, as she commended the group for their accomplishments.

Student council president Danielle Hopkins. — Ray Ewing

Student council president Danielle Hopkins emphasized what she sees as the defining characteristic of her class: resilience.

“It is resilience that enables one to stay balanced on the inside when forces on the outside are not balanced,” she said.

The class of 2017 experienced unbalanced forces both in school, as five principals headed the administration in their four years, she said, and in the world.

“Creativity, compassion, respect, curiosity, and the ability to respond to situations with grace and resilience are the qualities that define the class of 2017,” she said. “And they’re the very qualities our world needs more of today.”

Then the members of class of 2017 lined up to received their diplomas, tossed their caps into the air and stepped into the future.