They thanked their parents and teachers, friends and mentors and said they were proud to be a part of the 16th graduating class of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School.

The graduates: from left, Astrid Tilton, Hannah Gonsalves, Cyrus Kennedy, Cassius Paquet-Huff, Zale Narkiewicz,, Gabrial Canham, Chris Cartier. — Ray Ewing

And standing on a small stage beneath a billowing tent at the West Tisbury school Sunday, seven graduating seniors wearing wreaths of flowers in their hair laughed and hugged and accepted gifts and praise from the school community and beyond.

Astrid Tilton, Cassius Paquet-Huff, Christopher Cartier, Cyrus Kennedy, Gabrial Canham, Hannah Gonsalves and Zale Narkiewicz all remembered different things about their years at the school, which began as an experiment 20 years ago.

“I learned that I’m a photographer, environmentalist and activist and that I really like being self directed,” Astrid Tilton said.

Cassius Pauqet-Huff thanked his teachers and parents for believing in him and pushing him in his writing.

“Faculty, family, friends — these are the three F-words Sarah [Smith] would let me say in her class,” he said to laughter.

Cyrus Kennedy also expressed gratitude to the school community.

“You have done more to shape me into who I am than anybody else,” he said.

More hugs for graduate Astrid Tilton. — Ray Ewing

Zale Narkiewicz recounted difficulties he had faced in school and thanked the friends and mentors that helped him.

“Now I know when I start something new I should expect to not be good at it because I never have done it before,” he said. “I won’t get discouraged because I have a hard time riding a bicycle or because I have difficulty keeping up with my peers in the dance studio. I owe it all to you.”

Director Robert Moore praised the class for its environmental activism and self-direction.

“You have led the way in putting our school on the map for profound improvement of the schools’ environmental footprint,” he said. “You have shown us your ability to be passionate and to serve as change agents.”

Scholarships were awarded to all the students, totalling over $35,000. Following long tradition, each class from the school presented one graduate with a specialized gift; the gifts ranged from teddy bears to plum trees.

Cassius Paquet-Huff shows off his tee. — Ray Ewing

Awards designed for each student were bestowed by high school teacher Sarah Smith. Zale Narkiewicz received the Isaac Newton Invented Calculus in an Afternoon award for his love of math, Cyrus Kennedy received the Madeleine Albright Diplomacy Award for his calm analytical presence and Gabriel Canham received the Pietro Ferrero Nutella Innovation Award for his innovation around snacks.

In another tradition, the graduates presented the school with a tea table made of Island wood for the high school common room, before commencement speaker and science teacher Louis Hall took the stage. He compared high school to primordial slime.

“Today is your punctuated equilibrium,” he told the graduates. “Today is a day when you will evolve into something else.”

He also said: “You are artists, writers, farmers, mathematicians, ballers, inventors, photographers, gamers and most importantly dreamers. Although things will be different . . . There is one thing that will never change for you, and that is the fact that people at this school will miss you dearly.”

Before releasing the graduates out into the world, Mr. Hall had a few suggestions ranging from unplugging from technology to being kind. But overall he encouraged the seven young adults to embrace change.

“Change is always happening so if you’re scared, close your eyes and take a step,” he said.

See more photos of charter school graduation day.