120 at MVRHS to Go on to Post-Secondary Study

By BRIEN HEFLER

On Sunday, the class of 2004 at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School will graduate. Said to be bright, hardworking and proactive, the class of 189 will shed backpacks and combination locks for gowns and mortarboards and enter the outside world, one that was hard to ignore during their school years.

As these graduates entered their sophomore year, the class and nation were rocked by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. In their junior year, students reacted to the war in Iraq, some marching out of class and lining the street in protest. Sharing the same experiences and education seems to have formed a deep sense of unity, a rarity in the high school world of cliques, groups and niches.

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"The class of 2004 is funny, very diverse with all kinds of people. They all are a big community, a big family," said graduating senior Henrique Aguiar, 18, of Oak Bluffs. Mr. Aguiar plans to attend Northeastern University in Boston, majoring in arts and sciences.

"They're a strong, cohesive, tight-knit group of kids," director of guidance Michael McCarthy said.

"I would say we might look like a tightly knit class, but we're a little more independent. There is a bunch of talent and individual pursuits in the class," class essayist Jesse Wiener said.

Class advisors Todd Sawyer and Christine Ferrone have been watching the class bond, learn and grow and are particularly impressed with the students' dedication, academic achievement and intelligence.

"[The class] is a very talented, diverse, interesting, intense group of kids," Mrs. Ferrone said. "A lot of teachers see them as real gems. They're some of the brightest kids I've ever taught."

Mrs. Ferrone went on to cite the leadership skills evident in the class, such as student body president Stuart Bangs and Michelle Holmberg's involvement with the SafeRides program. She described the graduates as an everyman class with diverse interests, typified by the class valedictorian, Hans Buder, who quarterbacked the varsity football team and is also an artist and poet.

More than 120 of the 189 graduating students are pursuing such post secondary education avenues as four-year, two-year and vocational schools, including Duke University, George Washington University, Harvard, Emerson, Skidmore and four or five Ivy League schools. Many are choosing schools outside the New England region. Zachary Gerson-Nieder plans to attend St. Andrew's University in Scotland; one student is looking at colleges in England and another in Arizona.

"They really have a big view and have widened their choices," Mr. McCarthy said.

Echoing Mrs. Ferrone's thoughts, Mr. Sawyer was impressed with the class's thirst for learning and enjoyed the opportunity to watch it develop and pursue differing avenues of education and employment beyond high school.

"As an advisor it's been a thrill for me to watch them grow through the four years of high school," Mr. Sawyer said.

And so the class of 2004, unified by proximity and a desire to learn, will soon scatter into the outside world, some to colleges around the nation and world, others entering the workforce and some staying on the Island, continuing at jobs discovered through the school's work study programs.

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"Sometimes you get a group of kids who don't know what they want to do. The kids I spoke to all had some sort of a plan. Even those who aren't going to college have a plan, they're not just going to sit around," Mr. Wiener said.

"In 10 years it's going to be interesting to see the success this class has in such a wide and diverse field of achievement. We might have senators to rock stars, you never know with this class," Mr. Sawyer said.