For the last few weeks, the graduating seniors of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School have been living a very different kind of senior spring. As the first-ever charter school seniors to have completed the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the nine-member class of 2023 has been steeped in IB exams, projects and papers to complete its academically-rigorous requirements.

But by this Wednesday it was all over, the tests turned in and papers submitted. The class gathered at Owen Park in Vineyard Haven that afternoon, an annual tradition for charter school seniors, celebrating the end of their studies with a lunch on the lawn together before beginning the next chapter in their lives — to college, traveling during gap year or working on the Island.

“They’re very humble, but they’re an unbelievable group,” said charter school director Peter Steedman, looking to the students as they split up their sandwiches and laid out colorful blankets on the grass. “They’re an incredible class, and they took so many academic and social risks. They are bold.”

Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduating class of 2023 are Cate Cosgrave, Putu Crowell, Andre De Sena, Matti-Lyn Floyd, Kent Healy, Amelia Kyburg-Abbott, Graysen Kirk Linn, Brianna Oliveira and Nathaniel Weisman.

The graduation ceremony takes place on Sunday, June 4 at the charter school in West Tisbury, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Two of the graduates, Matti-Lyn Floyd and Kent Healy, started at the charter school in kindergarten, though Ms. Floyd spent her freshman and sophomore years at the regional high school.

“I was a little rebellious after eighth grade and wanted something different, but I soon realized that it’s definitely way better at the charter school,” she said of her decision to leave and return.

Other students joined the school in various grades, some early in elementary school, and some just a few years ago.
Amelia Kyburg-Abbott started at the charter school two years ago, enrolling specifically to participate in IB.

“It’s a somewhat prestigious program,” Ms. Kyburg-Abbott said.

Mr. Steedman, who was hired as director of the school in 2018, has long been involved in IB education and felt it would be a good match from the start.

“It fits the spirit of the school and the curriculum of the school . . . they complement each other,” he said.

The program’s college level curriculum culminated with an intensive weeks-long stretch of examinations.

“You’ve gotta work on your handwriting,” said Nathaniel Weisman, as advice to other prospective IB students, and Ms. Kyburg-Abbott agreed. “Your hand will get very tired after the week.”

Asked which test was the hardest, several students answered in chorus: “math.”

Students also had to complete a number of major projects, including a 4,000-plus word research essay. Graysen Kirk Linn said this was the most fulfilling part of the program.

“I wrote mine on how the war on drugs created a mass incarceration state,” she said, a topic that influenced her choice to study human rights at Columbia University, as well as continuing her dance career.

Matti-Lyn Floyd will also continue to study dance in college along with photography at Bennington college in Vermont.

Other members of the class will spread out across the country — and the globe — for the next phase of their lives.

Putu Crowell will attend Northeastern University’s new campus in Oakland, Calif., Cate Cosgrove plans to focus on literature at Emmanuel College, Ms. Kyburg-Abbott will attend St. John’s College and Brianna Oliveira will study speech pathology and Portuguese at Bridgewater State University.

Mr. Weisman said he is as yet undecided on his course of study, and plans to spend a gap year with the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole.

“We will be circumnavigating New Zealand,” he said, after prompting from his classmates.

Andre De Sene and Kent Healy pursued vocational training at the charter school while also taking some IB courses. Mr. de Sene said he will start a career in welding after this summer, while Mr. Healy plans to continue working on his family’s Mermaid Farm in Chilmark.

This year’s students, Mr. Steedman said, have undertaken a challenge unlike any other, working closely with parents and teachers to fine tune the school’s IB program for years to come.

“When I was their age, I would have chosen the comfortable path, particularly in the pandemic. I would have sought safe shelter,” he said. “For them to take this risk, they ought to be commended...They really are exceptional.”