2017 Seniors Reflect on Sturgis

Each year before graduation, all seniors prepare a graduation speech.  The speeches are reviewed by a faculty committee that invites two students at each campus to give their speeches at Graduation. The full text of all speeches delivered at graduation are included in Graduation 2017 -Sturgis East and Graduation 2017 – Sturgis West.

The Class of 2017 submitted excellent graduation speeches.  It is always interesting to read student reflections about their journeys at Sturgis. We hope you enjoy reading the following excerpts from their speeches.

Rose Blackwell and Paul Marble

Rose Blackwell, class of 2017 – West

Through our time in the International Baccalaureate program, as painful as it may have been, we have all developed skills that I believe have made us not only prepared for the future, but prepared to excel in whatever path we choose to follow. One of the most important lessons I have learned from my time at Sturgis is that yes, grades are important, but they do not compare to the quality of character we each possess. The skills we have learned in communicating spreading kindness, and helping others by far outweigh the information we learned in our classes. Whether it was through research in Theory of Knowledge or class debates in HL History, we all learned to hear and understand other’s thoughts and appreciate differences. This, to me, is one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned through my time at Sturgis. Knowing that the future doctors, artists, politicians, and scientists that sit behind me have all acquired these skills reassures me that our futures will be bright.

Bridget Bressette and Paul Marble

Bridget Bressette, class of 2017 – East

I want to thank all of the wonderful teachers, staff, and friends that have helped me to make wonderful memories over the past 4 years. From my scared, awkward freshman self I have grown into someone who is strong, confident, and questions everything (sorry mom and dad). Sturgis has taught me to think for myself, take risks, and be a leader. Something that I am incredibly grateful for. Next year, I will be going to Spain for my first year of college. Taking this adventure and this type of risk is something that I can wholeheartedly attribute to Sturgis. They taught me that if something isn’t challenging you, go find something that will.”

Seamus Devine & Paul Marble

Seamus Devine, class of 2017 – East

The Sturgis community accepted me right away. Freshman year I was a dorky little kid with crippling shyness and a huge chip on my shoulder. I wanted to prove to myself and my family that I could succeed here. I was determined to do it on my own, to stand on this stage and hold my diploma with pride saying that I did this. But today I share my diploma with all of you, because it wasn’t the school that made me come out of my shell, it wasn’t the the growling challenge of the IB, it was the people in this class that got me here and I will never forget that.”

Sarah Fein

Sarah Fein, class of 2017 – West

If you take a moment to stand in the atrium during lunch or break, or even passing time, and simply watch the people that walk by, you will notice what it is about Sturgis that makes it so great. Our individuality is physical. It’s powerful, and it’s evident. “Cliques” walk with other “cliques” to class. The “fashionista” is friends with the “nerd”, the “theatre kid” friends with the “jock”. We find things to talk about. Walking into a class with none of your immediate friends in it isn’t a problem here. Someone will talk to you- someone will ask you about the homework last night, or if you saw the news, or simply how you’re doing. Regardless of our interests, our style or our quirks, Sturgis students truly do accept one another. We don’t even have to like one another- it’s rooted into our character to respect and appreciate.

Becca Gutman and Paul Marble

Rebecca Gutman, class of 2017 – East “When my mom told me over the phone that day that I had gotten into Sturgis, I cried. A lot. To be honest, I don’t know why I cried because all I knew about Sturgis were the facts posted on the U.S. news site, and also that Sturgis allows students to leave school during lunch. I remember bragging to all my friends that I was going to the best high-school in Massachusetts. Looking back now I might not have had bragging rights back then, but I definitely have them now. We all do.”

Benjamin Judelson, class of 2017 – West

Ben Judelson

Sturgis is named after William Sturgis, a merchant sailor who dedicated his life to the sea and education. Four years ago, in the vein of our namesake, the class of 2017 set sail on a great voyage. A voyage that would leave us in a new chapter of our lives. A transformative voyage which was rumored to be plagued with challenges such as tests, pop quizzes, six hours of homework a night, and cruel teachers to make our lives unnecessarily miserable. However, my experience at Sturgis was far from the rumors.

Don’t get me wrong, we had several challenges along the way. The IB tested us with EE’s, IOP’s, IOC’s, IA’s, WA’s, CAS, and many many papers. Our yellow and green walled vessel even sprang a leak and we had to abandon ship! I think our winter vacation to the conference center last December in classrooms between curtains and without whiteboards, embodies what Sturgis is about. The teachers care about teaching, and the students, despite however academically inclined you might think you are, care about learning. Sturgis Southwest exemplified our commitment to learning and our ability to make do and persevere no matter what obstacle stands in our path.

Mary Kane signs out of the Ship’s Log

Mary Kane, class of 2017 – West

As I stand before you today and glance over the faces of my fellow graduates, it is hard not to smile. To finally be able to consider myself and my peers “graduates of the Sturgis Charter Public School Class of 2017” is beyond gratifying. These past four years were by no means easy, and there were multiple times when I thought I would not reach this finish line with numerous IAs, IOPs, IOCs, Paper 1s, Paper 2s, incomprehensible markschemes, chocolate filled all nighters, and mornings where we felt we had to drag ourselves out of bed in effort to get dressed and ready for school. And on top of that we must not forget the Group 4 project. But those struggles have only made this moment sweeter for all of us.

Rachel Kilduff

Rachel Kilduff, class of 2017 – West

Along with all the academic knowledge I’ve gained here, there are some other very important things I’ve learned and I may have a piece of advice or two. Most importantly, always have respect for those around you. I learned this through being around all of these amazing teachers who are the reason we are all here and made it through the IB and even high school in general, which can be daunting on its own. You all deserve a thank you. Despite times where we may have seemed unappreciative of things you have done for us (especially Mrs. Kelley’s impeccable ability of always tracking kids down), there is not one kid up here that has not appreciated everything you have done to see us grow. So my piece of advice today is to always respect those that are doing everything they can just to see you succeed, because they have truly helped shape who I am today and I can never be more thankful. I never thought I could develop such good relationships with my teachers, but again, here I am. These teachers have been motivators when I needed the little extra push (which was probably more often than not), friends when I needed them, comedians when I needed a laugh (Mr. Wooton that one’s for you), but most importantly my teachers for not only academics, but life lessons.  I never thought I would end up loving all the little things about a school and this class, but here I am. And boy did Sturgis grow on me.

Cat Mahoney, class 0f 2017 – West

Catherine Mahoney

I have witnessed the compassion, the acceptance, the curious nature of every member of this class, and I know that those traits were instilled in us by the amazing teachers, peers, and atmosphere of this school.  These traits have helped us build the relationships with each other that we have today, and will continue to help us build relationships in the future. Although we often mock the mantra “we don’t do that here,” it actually embodies the spirit of tolerance that our class has continued to grow at Sturgis. Sure, we use it to make fun of our oh so excellent athletic facilities, (“locker rooms? Nah, we don’t do that here”). However, at its core, that silly little phrase has helped create the kind of acceptance in our community that makes Sturgis such a safe place to grow. I never once feared being myself among this group of wonderful individuals because I knew that each of them would support me in all of my endeavors. That phrase ironically embodies open-mindedness. We don’t do that here, we don’t create judgement or hate in this community. The class of 2017 has been incredibly influential in establishing this culture at Sturgis. Thanks to my peers, I am more at home to be truly myself than I have ever been. “We don’t do that here” so that you may do your best out there.

Rebecca Mann, class of 2017 – West

Rebecca Mann

I had the opportunity to attend one of the best high schools in Massachusetts just by luck. I don’t always see that event as lucky. Especially after four years of the IB with IAs, IOCs, IOPs, OPVLs, RPs, EEs and any other acronym you can think of. But everything is done, checked, stamped and mailed off to Zimbabwe and Timbuktu and we are done. Looking back on the day where I got into Sturgis, where I sat in the room where they picked the lottery, I did not recognize any of the names they were saying. I would have never guessed that those people would impact my life in such a way that all the strife and tears and sleepless nights and countless hours of homework and writing essays and studying, would all be worth it. It was a stroke of luck getting into Sturgis, for all of us, but it’s the hard work, determination, strength and bravery that led us to this point, where we can say that we are officially finished with the IB and we finished strong.

I’m going to miss this school so much. I’m going to miss talking about books and poetry, I’m going to miss playing historically accurate Mafia in History. I’m going to miss the winter concert and arts fest, the musicals, playing ships and sailors, spirit week and the small moments in between. I’m going to miss these yellow walls, the constant smell of pizza and popcorn, but most of all I’m going to miss all of you, my classmates and the teachers that have been so formative in my life. But I’m going to bring all this with me and keep it for the rest of my life because it’s the small moments that make life worthwhile. Thank you all for giving me these small moments to hold onto but inspiring me to go make a new adventure. Thank you.

Carlie Maruca, class of 2017 – West

Carlie Maruca

I feel like there were many academic things that I have learned through my time here, and well I probably retained some of it. But the things I remember most weren’t on the curriculum. So here is a bunch of stuff that was taught in class really.

I have learned that Mr. Rich’s stories tend to start with “I wasn’t proud of this but”, and they are always fun stories about bad life choices. It’s life lessons from Mr. Rich.  I have learned that the Lees are fun to travel with, that Mrs Lee’s sister isn’t like her at all, and Mr Lee and I both take pictures and make things with wood and play basketball.  Pags is an interesting man who may be short but can jump really high in the air if the refs aren’t paying attention to him.  The timeline of Mr. McDowell’s life confuses me at times; so many places and stories and schools that he attended.  Mr. Wooton lunges and points at people when he calls on them. Due to his class, I can make a poster about anything.

Ashlynne McNally

Ashlynne McNally, class of 2017 – West

Because of our time at Sturgis, we are now more comfortable around other people. We are more willing to ask for help when needed. I am unable to think of a single time in which I was turned away when I asked for help from a student. As a result of the difficult curriculum that we all experienced simultaneously, we were aware of when we needed help, and when it was time to pass that help along to someone else. As a class, we felt comfortable enough around one another to be more open to working together on projects, homework, and helping each other in life outside of school, whenever possible.

Grace Muir, class of 2017 – East

Grace Muir

When the time came for me to transition from eighth to ninth grade, Sturgis was amongst some of my last resorts for a high school. Not because I thought that I would hate it, but because I wanted to stay with my friends in my town’s district and graduate amongst those I had been learning with since kindergarten. Plus, InStyle magazine said that I should never wear navy blue (it drains me)! But here I am, and I have two people to thank for that: my mom and dad. Putting my name into the lottery at Sturgis is one of the best decisions that I did not make.”

Livia Murray and Emma Mulkern

Livia Murray, class of 2017 – East

The way that I think, talk, learn and perceive the world around me has completely changed as I have matured from the shy girl I was four years ago. Sturgis has allowed me to have my own thoughts and opinions and I flourished in this environment. I have had the opportunity to find my interests and form my own opinions but also be excited to seek and hear from other perspectives… What I think makes Sturgis so special is how much everyone cares and wants you to succeed. Moments of true benevolence are the memories that stand out over the long nights of studying and worrying about IA‟s, the EE and IB exams.

Emma Perry

Emma Perry, class of 2017 – East

A skill that Sturgis has taught us to practice is reflection. This skill, like many others Sturgis has dedicated to instilling within us, cultivates a distinct understanding of our studies academically, pushing us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. I have recently learned that by practicing reflection in order to enhance my academic performance at Sturgis, I have also developed an ability to analyze my own actions perceptively, forging a sense of individuality and confidence, for which I am truly grateful. I assume that we all have had very little time to process our current transition away from Sturgis, so as we reflect upon our experiences, many of us will be surprised by how much we have grown. This ceremony represents the culmination of our achievements throughout high school, and everyone here should celebrate their dedication and commitment to ourselves and each other as we move on to the next stage of our lives.

Peter Prygocki, class of 2017 – East

Peter Prygocki

So, when you reminisce about our time together, look back with joy. Again, we made it! Remember the leaky roof, the times that you stayed up all night completing your assignments, the times you froze on the parking lot in the winter while waiting for the fire drill to end, the times that we walked down to the water together during Wellness, the excitement of dressing up for Prom, and the taste of victory as we became the first Sturgis class to win Spirit Week two years in a row! Look back on wrapping our favorite teachers with duct tape and on bickering with Isabelle. I’ll always remember my friends teaching me how to perform “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic and “All-Star” by Smashmouth in The Pit with an ocarina, playing Smash Brothers together in Room 212, making tiny swords in Dr. Pete’s chemistry class with Cam Barry, acting out Hamlet in Ms. Williams’s class, and playing Dungeons and Dragons on The Green with “The Pit Crew” when we really should’ve been studying for our IB exams… Don’t be sad that our time as a class is over. Look to the future with glee. After all, every meeting has a parting and every story, its end. Whether your story has a happy ending or a tragic one, whether this “goodbye” is forever or simply for a little while… That is up to us. So, from the bottom of my heart: thank you all, and goodbye.”

Emily Rodricks

Emily Rodricks, class of 2017 – East

Today, as I look out at the Sturgis East Class of 2017, I see collective awesomeness. What does this mean? I see a concert pianist who is also a runner; an artist who is also a libero; an environmentalist is who is a yogi; an inventor who is a musician; and a linguist who is also a dancer. We are more than just one title. We are athletes, students, debaters, singers, journalists, actors, teachers, volunteers, and most importantly, we are all thinkers. We may not share the same beliefs or passions but we share a mutual respect for each other. And I truly believe we have Sturgis to thank for that.”

Taylor Rooney

Taylor Rooney, class of 2017 – East

“This change for me was beyond huge. Perhaps one of the biggest changes that Sturgis could have ever given me. I actually had friends. I had some confidence. Not much mind you, but slowly learning how to fake it until I felt it. Perhaps I would have been able to find that change in another high school. I would have likely found friends there, made my way. But I am not so sure it would have been the same anywhere. Sturgis has taught me to be confident in myself. I’m not the smartest of people, and I don’t make straight A’s like many of my friends now. I am not perfect. But at Sturgis I found that my imperfections were not only welcomed, but cherished. I found my strengths and my weaknesses. I don’t think I would have found that closeness without my classmates that I now have. I don’t think I would be the same me I am today. I found that I’m not the best at everything, but I can at least try my best at everything. I found disappointment, but disappointment in myself not because I didn’t try, but rather because I realized that I wouldn’t be as good as everyone in that particular subject. I also found out that this was OK.”

Emma Schneider

Emma Schneider, class of 2017 – West 

Now for the life changing inspiration that’s an integral part of any graduation speech. Molly Blackwell said something at the Sturgis alumni day this year, which is an especially important lesson for a school full of overachievers. She said that you have to remember that there will always be someone better than you. At first it sounds harsh and demoralizing, but it’s true, there will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, faster, funnier, nicer etc. Take Mr Lee for example. He can play 57,000 instruments and even sing, he’s extremely smart, not just in history, he’s pretty funny, good at public speaking, and most important of all, he’s amazing teacher. But, he wears glasses. So even though he might be better than us at almost everything, someone who does not wear glasses can see better than Mr Lee.

Sam Smith, class of 2017 – East

Sam Smith

The word that comes to mind in describing our class is unity. We came together in Spirit Week when we made Sturgis history and beat the Seniors our Junior year, and then won Spirit week a second time this year! The comradery we have toward each other is something that people notice. We are a unique group, my friends. We have always had a strong sense of identity as a class. Maybe it is because we have so many similarities among us: we have three Emmas and two Emilies, three Jillians, two Cams, two Sams, two Marks, two Katies, a Lyvia and an Olivia, three sets of siblings, two sets of twins, two Jakes but also two Johns, two Graces, two Taylors, two Beccas, two Nicks, a Caroline and a Carolyn, an Annie and an Anna, a Mikayla and a Michaelanne. But it must be more than that. I believe that our class has become a family because we have learned to coexist in our totally different lifestyles and passions. We know how to accept and understand other people’s points of view and work together to accomplish a common goal. That is what Sturgis is all about, right? Creating a community of learners who can understand and accept differences between people. As a class, we have epitomized that important aspect of this school. And I know this lesson is something that we can all use later on to help improve the society we are growing up in.”

Travis Sroczenski, class of 2017 – West

Travis Sroczenski

Though my nickname of “waterboy” and first impression on everyone slowly faded away, I found myself. In that fateful class, I met my girlfriend of 2 years, and decided I liked it here. I liked how tight knit we all are, I liked how approachable my counselors were, I liked how I could talk to Mrs. Kirk as if she was my equal, I liked how my teachers were my coaches, and my coaches were my teachers, I liked how the smell of burnt popcorn in the atrium or the constant yelling of Ms. Weimar’s “get to class!” felt like home, and I really liked how Sturgis allowed me to be me, to be “Travis”.

Moving on, I also will be ever grateful for the opportunities Sturgis has given me. Although I do admit that it’s cliche to bring up the amount of clubs and sports I did, I could not bring myself to leave the experiences I’ve had out of this speech. Through Sturgis, I played 3 different spring sports, including Tennis with Mr. Lee. I’ve traveled across Europe with some of my closest friends (and Mr. Lee), I went to New York and participated in a United Nations conference representing Saudi Arabia (with Mr. Lee), and even attended school in a hotel (and yes, Mr. Lee was also there). Its no secret that Mr. Lee has made an impact on my life.

Jordana Townsend

Jordana Townsend, class of 2017 – West

But as I grew and went through my years at Sturgis, I fell in love with the class sizes, became closer to the faculty, and was educated for the sake of knowledge rather than memorization. I can walk away from taking IB courses reminiscing about the overwhelming strain I was sometimes put through but also with the belief that they have made me more of a “worldly” and open-minded thinker.

Soleil Vowel, class of 2017 – West

Soleil Vowel

When I first came to Sturgis I was told I had Integrated Math with Ms.King. Now, I did not end up [that first morning] in Integrated Math 9 with Ms. King. Instead, I found myself in a classroom of seniors, and I remember looking at all the posters on the wall and thinking to myself “Hey that’s not math. That’s not even English”. I know now that I had gone to high level Spanish, but at the time I had no idea where I was and I was too terrified to say anything. I don’t know if it was the fact that my name wasn’t called at attendance, the fact that they were speaking a language that I didn’t understand, or the moment when three seniors were collectively whispering to me “you’re in the wrong place” but I did somehow manage to figure out I was in the wrong room. Now maybe I had been too scared to communicate at that moment, but the seniors who helped me find my math class weren’t. Because by the time we get through four years at Sturgis we become leaders.

Grace Weinberg

Grace Weinberg, class of 2017 – East

I do not have any personal anecdotes or quotes that I think would be of use to you for the coming future. I rather find it more important to consider how Sturgis has prepared us for it. The Latin declensions or historical dates may be of little use to us in the coming years, as it is not necessarily the content which is practical, but the way in which we engaged with it. Here we have been taught to constantly challenge, argue, justify, to question what is in front of us, and rethink preconceived notions. This isn’t to say that we have been taught that our beliefs or thoughts are invalid. It is rather that we should reevaluate and probe the claims made before us. While many leave high school being unable to utilize or likely forget the majority of the knowledge they acquire, Sturgis has provided us with an invaluable skill. It manifests itself in the way we conduct ourselves in interactions with others, or our ability to be easily persuaded. It shows up every single time we regard unjustified evidence as truth. Will we be altered by political agendas? Will we challenge ideas even if they are commonly accepted, or if authority regards them as truth? Will we allow the media to affect our lives and the choices we make, or the way we see ourselves and others? It is not disposable knowledge that will be useful to us in the future, but rather our ability to be well-informed, caring, and active global citizens.”




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