Pomp and Circumstance: High School Graduates Take Stage at Tabernacle

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By KATE BRANNEN

Clad in purple and white caps and gowns, 197 graduates walked across the Tabernacle stage in Oak Bluffs on Sunday and received their high school diplomas. It was a joyous day for the community to recognize the accomplishments of the class of 2007 and to give them an Island sendoff before they leave to pursue their future plans.

Graduate Céleste Bailey characterized the ceremony as a true Island moment: the Tabernacle packed with proud parents and friends and an almost cloudless, blue summer sky overhead.

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"This showed me how wonderful this Island really is," she said about seeing everyone come together to cheer on the students. After growing up here, she leaves in the fall to go to Montreal's McGill University.

"It's a big step for a lot of the kids," said Wendy Briggs, whose daughter, Jen Ward, also graduated on Sunday. She said the students will leave the safe environment of the Island to start the next chapter of their lives.

For her daughter, this means heading to Salve Regina University in Rhode Island this fall. For Ms. Briggs, it's a bittersweet moment.

Thanking their Island home was a theme of the day's speeches. Marguerite Cogliano, student council president, said, "We are not only leaving our friends, but our foundation."

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She talked about a trip she took to Ireland last year that would not have been possible without fundraising by the community. Miss Cogliano said the Island is a unique community that wants to know the opinions of its students and encourages them to speak out.

Samantha Rabin, class valedictorian and winner of the superintendent's outstanding student award, agreed, saying that the Island fosters independence and diversity.

"The Vineyard is so accepting, it's rumored there are Republicans living in West Tisbury," Ms. Rabin joked.

After growing up in an environment that promotes active citizenship and public discourse, class essayist Ruby Hoy said, "We are joining the community of the world. I hope we can add a little bit of peace and light to it."

Many of the speeches included instructions for life beyond high school, applicable to the graduating class, but also everyone else in the crowd.

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Dr. Margaret Harris, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, told the students to vote, ask questions, travel and infuse everything they do with passion.

Class salutorian Alida Dean gave more practical advice. "Wear sunscreen, eat vegetables, floss, reread books, especially Harry Potter, play with your dog, be kind and don't try to answer all of life's questions," she said.

Keeping these words in mind, she said she still feels like "a little sailboat, aimlessly tacking and trying to stay afloat."

The student speakers relied on the words of luminaries from the fields of science, literature, business and politics to inspire their classmates. They included quotes from Nelson Mandella, Kurt Vonnegut, Khalil Gibran, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Margaret Atwood and Carl Sagan.

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After the speeches, a performance by the chorus and a presentation of awards, the roll call of names began and each graduate took to the stage to accept their diploma. With each name, the audience erupted with applause and cheers of congratulations.

The Tabernacle stage, decorated with purple and white balloons, flowers and banners, was a beautiful setting for the day's festivities. The stained-glass window glowed gold above the stage.

Parents tried to get as close as possible to capture the momentous day on film.

When the last graduate and master of ceremonies, Tiffany Smalley, had her diploma in hand, principal Margaret (Peg) Regan presented the class of 2007, asking them to flip their tassels. The purple and white caps went flying up into the air while the crowd cheered and cheered. The Beatles tune and the senior class's song, When I'm 64, pumped out of the loudspeakers while the new alumni exited.

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Marguerite Cogliano had reminded her classmates, before they left to begin their summers and lives beyond, that "our Island home will be waiting for us."