On Tuesday morning, 68 seniors of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduating class hopped on a school bus and headed off-Island for the day.
“A lot of kids can talk the talk and nothing actually happens,” said school adjustment counselor Amy Lilavois on Monday morning. “But sure enough, they got a list of kids going, sold tickets during lunch, and tomorrow we are taking two buses to Six Flags.”
This collective, spirited attitude is what defines the class of 2012, who will be graduating this Sunday at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs at 1:30 p.m.
Principal Stephen Nixon said in previous years seniors have made plans that may or may not have materialized as the end of the year rolled in.
“They’ve been accepted to college, they’ve been accepted to jobs, but these kids still are wanting to do things together as a class,” he said of this year’s 156 graduates. “They are draining every opportunity out of this school.”
However, the class did not just pull it together at the end of their senior year.
Last year, for the junior prom, the class had more than enough students volunteering at the football game concession stands to raise money. This winter they were able to donate about 50 gifts to the Red Stocking Fund. And for the first time this year they put together a Senior Cup, which was a day for home rooms to compete against each other in team-based games, relay races and even a wing eating competition.
“They were able to come together as a class to achieve what they wanted to achieve,” Ms. Lilavois said. “They learned that anything is possible as long as you are motivated.”
They have excelled not only as a class but also as individuals.
“I think we are very diverse,” said class valedictorian William Stewart. “We have excellent athletes, musicians, and others who are into theater and drama. We have every part of the spectrum covered.”
The Island community has embraced the class too, granting 594 scholarships amounting to more than $850,000 that will be handed out tonight at the Tabernacle at 6:30 p.m. for the annual Class Night.
Students have also been active in mentorships and work studies at the hospital, at the elementary schools and with organizations like the Island Grown Initiative and the Peer Outreach Program at the high school.
Michael McCarthy, guidance director at the school, said this year’s 46 seniors chosen for the Peer Outreach Program is a particularly strong group.
“When you get all of them in the room together, it’s easy to see it’s an extraordinary group of kids,” he said.
In the Peer Outreach Program, the seniors run high school orientations with eighth graders and perform service work with younger grades.
“If a fellow student is having a problem, they will look at how to facilitate that kid and get some help,” Mr. McCarthy said. “They provide leadership for the lower classes.”
Leaving behind a message for the younger students to unite as a class, each senior will now hash out their own path as they move on from the high school.
Mr. McCarthy said on average 75 to 80 per cent of the students will advance to some type of post-secondary training, whether that be a four-year college, two-year college, technical school or specialty school.
“Some kids are just emerging so they may decide to go to a community college to test the waters,” he said. “Other kids may have done a work-study program or were involved in vocational training and are very talented in their area and will go into immediate employment.”
Some students will even be joining family businesses on the Island. But for those heading off to college, training or a new job, leaving the Vineyard will be an adjustment.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous, but I’m excited to start something new,” said Mr. Stewart, who will be attending Harvard University in the fall. “With technology today it’s pretty easy to stay connected with everyone from the Island.”
Trips, work studies and internships have allowed the students to spend time off-Island and get a feel for what to expect, Mr. McCarthy said.
“I think the biggest thing for them is going from a small, close-knit community where they know almost everybody, to a whole new environment where they have to start fresh with relationships,” the guidance director added. “I think they are ready to do that, but that will be their biggest challenge.”
Ms. Lilavois is confident that the seniors will succeed in whatever they choose next.
“They are turning a page, and I would like to believe that it will be a great next chapter,” she said. “Whether it be school, service, travel or volunteer work. They are going to be great.”