The following is a speech given by Keith Chatinover, a senior at the Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School, at the graduation ceremony on Sunday.

Thank you all so much for being here and taking part in this celebration with us and for all of your support, in one way or another, over our high school days here at the charter school. Every single person in this building has helped me get to this day. It could have been when I had four compost buckets in my hands and you held the door for me or it could have been when I needed to rant about something or somebody and you were there with open ears.

I especially want to thank my wonderful and incredibly awesome parents, and my grandparents, who have now attended all seven of their grandchildren’s graduations, and Bob Moore, who has been one of the most influential people in my life and is departing as director after leaving his indelible mark on this school. We are all incredibly grateful for your work in making this school the welcoming, heartwarming and innovative institution that it is.

I won’t be talking for too long today. I just wanted to thank all of you for helping me become the person I am today. I would never have gotten into the college of my dreams, I would never have made the connections and bonds that I have today, and I never would have enjoyed being at school if it weren’t for the charter school. The one topic I want to discuss today is what I think the most important moral that the charter school has given me.

The charter school has taught me so many things, but one that I will carry with me every single day is to be idealistic. I will give you a quick example. Last weekend, I was supposed to go on a five-day hike with my friend Lucy on the Appalachian Trail. I packed my bag, we planned where we would be camping and bought our supplies. Unfortunately, neither I nor my dog, Gracie, were even remotely prepared for our excursion, and by the end I (and Gracie telepathically) were begging Lucy to just leave us at the top of the mountain and save herself. Thank you Lucy for not listening to me.

Why did I tell you this story? Because I fell short on this trip, I was soundly defeated. But when you’re idealistic, when you think you can do anything you put your mind to, you will inevitably, sometimes, come up short. But sometimes, you will succeed. Sometimes you will get seven dozen rowdy high schoolers and community activists on two buses down to D.C. for The March for Our Lives. Sometimes you will lose an election that you were never supposed to lose because your candidate dared to be a woman in politics. But sometimes you will win an election you were never supposed to win because America was never going to elect an African-American President.

There will be times when you will be defeated, and you should accept it when it happens. But don’t ever be satisfied by it. Work harder, and know that if you stay positive, if you think that anything can happen, something will happen. Before I went to the charter school, I wasn’t idealistic. I didn’t think that my life would be anything special. I was just glad to finally be at a school where I was happy every day.

But to me, the charter school has been about so much more than a safe space. It has given me the confidence to be a member of this community and to be idealistic, to think that if we try at something, we will get it done, however unlikely it is. Thank you for giving me a can-do spirit and a positive attitude about life.

Thank you again, all of you, for lifting me up. Thank you for giving me the opportunities I have had to grow in ways I never thought I would. Thank you to all the teachers, the mentors, the friends, the high-fives, and the support. Thank you for giving me a community where I feel appreciated, can help others, and make my voice heard. Without y’all, I don’t know where I’d be. I will carry this school in my heart forever. Thank you.

Keith Chatinover will attend Middlebury College in the fall.