Annabelle Brothers is no stranger to the spotlight. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School senior has been a regular cast member of the school’s musicals since her freshman year, scoring leading parts in Les Miserables and Chicago.

On Sunday, Ms. Brothers will take the stage for the final time in her high school career, at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs, to perform an original piece: her valedictorian speech.

Like her starring theatre roles, the high school valedictorian tradition required some rehearsals.

“I’ve started thinking about it a bit,” she said. “But it’s really hard to ask an 18 year old to write a speech giving advice to [her] class.”
Still, she is confident she will find the right words, she said. Ms. Brothers has been performing since she was eight years old, when she made her on-stage debut as a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz.

“I first started doing plays with Island Theatre Workshop in the summers,” she said. “In middle school, I was able to do those plays and take on a couple of leads. Then, of course, there’s the big high school theatre which has been an awesome experience.”

In addition to theatre, Ms. Brothers’ high school schedule was packed with AP courses, field hockey and sailing team practices, Minnesinger rehearsals and other extracurriculars.

She said she didn’t set out to become the valedictorian, but with a natural affinity for school, encouragement from friends and family, and the help of Google Calendar, she found her way to the top spot.

“It was a nice surprise,” she said. “There’s so many other great students in this class who do so well and have done really cool things. I think that I’m just lucky to have a really great group of friends and an awesome mother who always supports me.”

In the fall, Ms. Brothers will leave the Island for New Haven, Conn to study at Yale University. After living on the Vineyard for most of her life, she is nervous about making the transition to city living.

“I don’t know how well I’d rate my own street skills,” she said.

She isn’t sure yet what she wants to study in college, but is certain it will be something that engages with the environment.

Raised in a West Tisbury home bordering the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, Ms. Brothers said it was inevitable that she would form a deep connection to the natural world. Her zest for climate advocacy began in middle school, when she watched a group of students successfully campaign to ban plastic straws on the Island.

“I wasn’t directly involved in it, but it just blew my mind,” she said. “I thought, hey, kids are actually doing stuff on the Island and it works.”

In high school, Ms. Brothers joined the Protect Your Environment club, spearheading campaigns for sustainable lawn care and events such as the Youth Climate Summit.

She also served as a student advisor to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, helping to draft and apply its Climate Action Plan.

“I got to learn a lot about our different local climate issues,” she said. “We talk about climate resiliency a lot, and now I actually feel like I understand what it takes to prepare for climate change here on the Island.”

Ms. Brothers was drawn to Yale for its wide selection of environmental opportunities and diverse student body. Its theatre program is also a plus, she said.

“They have endless performing opportunities there,” she said.

At graduation, Ms. Brothers will have one last chance to sing with the Minnesingers, a group she has been a part of since her sophomore year. Saying goodbye to the Island’s performing arts community will hard, she said.

Madeleine Bengtsson, a regional high school senior and Minnesinger, performed alongside Ms. Brothers for most of high school and the two grew especially close this year as the only students in the high school’s AP music theory class. Ms. Bengtsson said that she can’t think of anyone more fitting to lead the class to the finish line.

“I could rave about Annabelle all day,” she said. “I have always looked up to her and am just so happy that she got valedictorian this year.”

Before heading off to Yale, Ms. Brothers said she will spend the summer honing her waitressing skills at The Homeport in Menemsha.

She plans to rest a bit, too.

“There’s a lot of people who are just so excited to leave the Island,” she said. “But I’m ready for summer. I’m not quite ready to leave.”