Sunday’s Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduation was an emotional affair, as teachers and administrators bade farewell to students who had, in many cases, attended the school since the elementary level.

Adorned in flower crowns, the senior class walks in to applause. — Jeanna Shepard

Adorned in flower crowns, the nine graduates in the 2023 class marched across the school grounds in the early afternoon for the ceremony, taking in a rousing applause from family and friends while the Jackson Five’s ABC played in the background.

The class was the school's first group of seniors to finish the International Baccalaureate program, drawing praise from school officials.

“All of our graduates are shooting stars,” said charter school board president Toni Kauffman. “After today they will be out of sight, out of our physical sight, but forever in our hearts. We will forever marvel and be grateful for the great light they shined upon us.”

School director Peter Steedman extolled the class’s achievements in undertaking the intensive school program.

“I stand before this group to recognize your willingness to embrace the unknown, to take unbelievable academic and social risks,” he said. “I ask the audience today: would you have been so brave at 16?”

Following his speech each of the other charter classes came up to the stage, as per tradition, to present gifts to the graduating students. The offerings ranged from hand-drawn pictures and chalkboards to bubbles and peacock feathers.

School board president Toni Kauffman praises the seniors. — Jeanna Shepard

Charter school teacher Mathea Morais also had gifts for each of the students, presenting them with an award based on their personality and achievements. Nathaniel Weisman won the Butterfly award for his growth in character, while Amelia Kyburg-Abbott won the Compass award for her nautical skill and determination.

Graduating seniors Matti-Lyn Floyd, Putu Crowell and Graysen Kirk Linn all gave speeches reflecting on their education.

“The charter school is more than a community, it’s a family,” said Ms. Floyd. “This community has given me so much more than I could even ask for.”

Mr. Kirk Linn agreed, recalling how teachers at the school made a last-minute addition to her Columbia University application (where she will study human rights), sending a video of her speech in favor of the Martha’s Vineyard housing bank.

School director Peter Steedman addressed the class. — Jeanna Shepard

“I say goodbye to you all now, but as you know, once a charter student, always a charter student,” she said. 

The three speakers also presented a gift to the school, another graduation ceremony tradition. In honor of the opportunities they had to travel abroad, the students created an international travel fund in the hopes of giving those opportunities to future classes.

Teacher Jonah Maidoff gave the commencement address, impelling the students to use what they have learned, and what they will learn, to better themselves and the world.

“While there is much hard work to do, if we can do this together…we can make change,” he said.

Reminiscing on a canoeing trip he took with the class on the Penobscot river, he concluded: “paddle in the water, make your contribution one stroke at a time. You have not forgotten, you are not lost, you are flowing towards the sunrise across the unlimited wild.”