Commencement Day: Hail to the Class of 2005

Tabernacle Is Stage for 195 Graduates at Regional High

By RACHEL KOVAC

Sunday was an afternoon for storytelling as the Class of 2005 was graduated from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School. With humor and sensitivity, students and school leaders drew on the past and looked to the future while the 195 graduates sat listening under the protective covering of the Tabernacle. The warm weather and blazing sun only added to the excitement.

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"This truly has been a most excellent adventure," Jonathan Ryan told his classmates after welcoming family and friends to the 46th annual commencement.

Mr. Ryan reminded his classmates this was a day to celebrate their own accomplishments and to thank the people who helped them reach their goals. Then he told the audience to remember graduation is a day to celebrate the students.

Salutatorian Patrick Smadbeck laid the welcome mat for all the people who were at the ceremony and for those who could not attend.

"It would seem the job I have been sent to do is to deliver the final big welcome before the beginning of the good-byes," he said.

He then turned the stage over to his brother, the class essayist.

Jamie Smadbeck spoke on the subject of seriousness, which he concluded comprises many characteristics: responsibility, initiative, creativity and even humor. He added that his own unwillingness to treat graduation seriously - by procrastinating and writing several drafts of the speech as jokes - was a sign that he was scared of leaving his comfortable niche on the Island.

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"I ended up with a speech that I feel represents everyone. It, just like all of us, is torn between two feelings: confidence and uncertainty. Torn between a longing to go on to the next stage of our lives but also a longing to hold on to the happy memories that our past school years have made for us," Jamie Smadbeck said.

He told his classmates to walk confidently into the future while still remembering the lessons of the past. And he challenged them to set more and more significant goals - and to never forget the humor in life.

Superintendent G. Paul Dulac presented the Vineyarder Awards and the Superintendent's Outstanding Student Award.

Mr. Dulac, who has been acting as interim superintendent for only six months, apologized to the graduates for not having the opportunity to get to know them better. "It has been my pleasure to learn about these three people from their friends and teachers," he said.

The first Vineyarder award went to Michael Pachico, a guitarist and artist who Mr. Dulac called honest and respectful. Mr. Pachico is also the first person is his family to continue his education post-high school; he will be attending Bridgewater State College next year. "This is a man all of you would like to have as a friend or colleague," Mr. Dulac said.

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The second Vineyarder award went to Kerry O'Donoghue, an ice hockey player, dancer and a tutor in special education classes. She also volunteered as a big sister to a child with Down syndrome. "She has a commitment in the form of time and effort. A motivation to life," Mr. Dulac said.

Valedictorian Eric Herman earned the Superintendent's Outstanding Student Award.

Mr. Dulac joked that Mr. Herman had the longest tenure at the high school of anyone in his class, noting that as an elementary school student he was already a member of the high school chess club - and often beating his older competitors. He also noted Mr. Herman's math prowess and his commitment to music and soccer. Sincerity and caring could be the qualities that are his destiny, he concluded.

As the ceremony continued, graduates began tossing a beach ball back and forth. Observing the festivity, Mr. Dulac told the seniors he planned to balance the ball on his nose after the ceremony.

He then told them that the values and insights learned during their 18 years on the Island will serve them in the years to come. Be curious, he said. Be worldly.

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"Today you will hear a lot about new beginnings," he said. "Let what you have learned here be what you really take with you in the future."

Principal Margaret (Peg) Regan honored Jamie Smadbeck as a National Merit Finalist, a national award presented to students who earn top scores on the PSAT taken during their junior year of high school. The Principal's Leadership Award went to senior class president Jessica Stone and the faculty leadership award was presented to Audrey Furlong.

Then Ms. Stone took center stage.

"When talking about our futures people ask us, ‘What do you want to do with your life?' So we all think we must have one specific ready-to-go answer . . . . But in reality, we're teenagers; we're going to change our minds a dozen times. Instead our response should be, ‘I'm going to explore, experience and enjoy,'" she said.

"You may find your true calling is nothing you expected it to be, a completely different course than you had planned after high school," she said, adding:

"Make sure you explore your options. You could discover your hidden talents, and don't be afraid to change your mind during these formative years."

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The next story was told by Mr. Herman. He walked to the podium tossing a football.

"Most of you know me as the football coach's son, but that seems to have taken credit away from my mom, which she deserves, for she too has to put with me," he said.

After a brief thank you Mr. Herman began his version of the story of the Class of 2005.

"Once upon a time there lived a class of graduating men and women on an island far, far away. But before I proceed any further with the story, I will suggest how we arrived here, at graduation. In the cracks of school we found time to soak up morning cartoons, enjoy our fair share of Red Rover, Red Rover during our two recesses each day, and we practiced. Some of us danced, some of us played sports, some acted on stage, some of us read and wrote, some of us knit, some fished, some of us worked a job, some of us created music, while some sang."

Mr. Herman said that during his childhood he contracted mistakaphobia, the fear of making a mistake. But he said he soon learned that mistakes are okay, comparing them to the Uh Oh Oreo, the reversed cookie with chocolate cream on the inside.

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"It sells because we as humans understand that mistakes can still taste good," he said.

Mr. Herman then spoke about Kevin H. Johnson 2nd and David D. Furino, classmates who died in a car accident in May 2004. Mr. Herman told of his friends' childhoods and shared his memories of their time together.

"They both had an impact on each of us and we all have memories. And in this harsh world I draw my breath in pain, as did Horatio at the death of his friend Hamlet, to tell their story and show you all how glad I am to have grown up with them."

Many cried during Mr. Herman's speech, and again later when both Mr. Furino and Mr. Johnson were awarded diplomas during the ceremony. As the families of the young men walked across the stage to accept the certificates, the audience stood, clapping, cheering and crying.

Mr. Herman concluded: "Each member of this class has a story to be written. A chapter, perhaps only a prelude has been completed thus far. I hate to give away the ending, but frankly I don't know it."

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As Mr. Herman left the stage and took his seat amongst his fellow classmates Mrs. Regan again addressed the students.

"This class has given me more than I could have ever given you," she said. "Class of 2005 you will always be with us."