Graduation 2014 – Sturgis East

Sturgis East Class of 2014Congratulations Class of 2014! May 31, 2014 was the perfect day for the first graduation of Sturgis West and the 13th graduation of Sturgis East. Both graduation ceremonies were held at Aselton Park overlooking Hyannis Harbor. The day of festivities began with Sturgis West graduation at 10:00 AM followed by Sturgis East graduation at 2:30 PM.

Our Nautical Traditions

Walking down Main StreetSturgis graduations are a wonderful celebration of the achievements of our students. The ceremony incorporates several nautical traditions that reflect our maritime setting and connection to Captain William Sturgis (1782-1863) for whom our school is named. Decked out in the finery of robes and led by Eric Hieser along with bagpipers, Sturgis grads  march with faculty down Main Street and through the Village Green to Hyannis Harbor where they enter a shining white tent filled with people who love them and have traveled far to be present at their commencement. No graduation is ever complete without sounds of the harbor in the background – including an occasional blast from a ferry’s horn!

 Signing the Ship’s Log

Paul Marble Assists with Ship's LogAfter receiving their diploma, each graduate proceeds to a table displaying a ship’s log. When students first begin their journey at Sturgis, they sign the log.  Just as William Sturgis signed on board for his first voyage, students “sign on for a term of duty,” signifying their request to begin the voyage.  At the end of graduation, students “sign out” next to their original signature, signifying completion of the voyage.  The lucky last student in each class   (alphabetically speaking!) is given the honor of ringing the ship’s bell.

Below you will find the full text of graduation speeches along with a selection of photographs by Jarvis Chen and Marion Weeks.  We hope the speeches and photographs capture a bit of the spirit of the event.


Happy Group ShotSturgis East Class of 2014: Caroline Adams, JadeAnderton, Connor Antonellis, SkylarBeauregard, Adam Bennani, Owen Bescherer, John Bondarek, Lara Bone, Anna Braley, Molly Brennan, Ian Brothers, Benjamin Brown, Lucas Brown, Jonathan Bruce, Amelia Buckner, Sean Carroll, Luke Chevalier, Monica Chilcot, Conor Clifford, Jake Conley, Quinn Coughlin, Amy Darbyshire, Augusta Davis, Elizabeth Davis, Matthew Delvecchio, Sean Dillon, Catherine Etienne, Joseph Falcey, Kaleigh Fallon, Patrick Farley, Robert Fogarty, Christian Freddura, Brittany Gayton, Jack Goldstein, Alison Gomes, Jonathon Gomes, Jonah Greenberg, Mackenzie Greene, Jonathan Greve, Julia Harmon, Lily Haselton, Zachary Hesse, Charles Hibbert, Andrius Hickey, Bridgette Isaacs, Gregory James-Herrmann, Stephanie Johnson, Grace Jose, HannahJoseph, Kristen Kaczmarczyk, Geronimo Kelley, William Kelley, Cassandra Langtry, Courtney Laperriere, Monique Legault, Rebecca Lieberwirth, Nicholas Lyne, Makaila Lyons, Alyssa MacDonald, Victoria Maxwell, Alasdair McEwen, Hannah Mclaughlin, Erin, McPherson, Haley Meaden, Kylie Michaels, Olivia Milsted, Stefanos Mitrokostas, Alexander Moorehead, AlexandriaMoran, Kylie Moses, Samuel Most, Connor Naples, Sabina Parker, Audrey Petersen, James Petersen, Charles Powicki, Sara Prygocki, William Putman, Lillian Randall, Austin Rindfuss, Matthew Rodricks, Abigail Sanders, April Schaefer, Samuel Schlesinger, Czarina Alexandra Shartle, Cadance Simmons, Kameko Simpson, Johanna Slevin, Alexander Smith, Jennifer Smith, Elliot Spagnuolo, Mitchell Starr, Dylan Steven, Meredith Sullivan, Jennifer Suslo, Austin Taubert, Hannah Taylor, Delton Toney, Robert Treichel, Gwendolyn Walsh, Liam Walsh, Gregory Watts, Teresa Willander and Angela Young

Welcoming Address by Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Sturgis East Class of 2014, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends:

Eric HieserWelcome to the Graduation Ceremony for Sturgis Charter Public School—East Campus.  We are very happy to present to you this Class of 2014, a class full of students who wanted something different, something more, and, in my view, the best preparation for university available anywhere in the world! They have challenged themselves and embraced the Sturgis Mission of “International Baccalaureate for All”.  They have brought their diverse personalities, their passion, and their enthusiasm to create a very special school culture of rigor and caring.  The founders of Sturgis envisioned a unique public school that would challenge all students with academic rigor and would have many students achieve the IB Diploma. We are confident that the Class of 2014 embodies the traits that the IB envisions for students, such as inquiry, caring, risk-taking, and international-mindedness.

This Class of 2014 has helped Sturgis once again gain recognition across the Cape, Massachusetts, the U.S. and around the world.  This class helped Sturgis to be ranked once again this year by the Washington Post as the #1 high school in Massachusetts.  This ranking demonstrates how Sturgis students have sought out academic rigor and have been successful due to their work ethic and passion for learning.  Of course, our students can gain a sense of affirmation from this achievement, yet we know that it was only through the collaboration and support of our students, parents, faculty, and Board of Trustees that Sturgis is able to realize such a high standard of excellence.  In reviewing the graduation speeches submitted by the members of this class, one theme mentioned throughout virtually all was their tremendous admiration and respect for their teachers.  I now ask the faculty of Sturgis East to stand to be recognized by the class and the audience for their outstanding work.

Crowd 1The Class of 2014 has had a very successful year in college admission with many of these seniors receiving significant scholarships and grants.  Their success has increased student and parent interest in attending Sturgis as we now have our largest waiting list ever, including more than 650 students still seeking admission to Sturgis despite the opening of our of the Sturgis West campus.

I would like to digress a bit now so that I can recognize three people will be leaving us this year.  While we have a few faculty who will be heading off to distant corners of the world, it is always difficult to say good-bye to those who have helped guide young people and the school as it has evolved.  The first two decided to join us nine years ago despite having offers to join some prestigious international schools.  They believed in the vision that we have for our students as they felt that they were a good match for the Sturgis IB for All mission.  I want to recognize and thank them for their outstanding work with our students over the years: Dawn Cope and Randy Carspecken please stand.

Kathy Mullin arrived at Sturgis when we were a very different school, in fact she probably has many interesting stories that she could share about “the early years”.  She helped create our school culture and has guided so many students in their journeys through science and math.  For her dedicated service and commitment to the Sturgis mission, please recognize Kathy Mullin!

As I noted before, many of the Class of 2014 submitted excellent graduation speeches, but we were only able to choose two to be given today.  As our students live the Sturgis experience every day, a few years ago I started a graduation tradition of sharing with the audience some of the ideas and perspectives from speeches that are not being delivered today.

Standing Ovation for Joe FalceyFrom Lara Bone:  There are so many intelligent kids at Sturgis and it’s very easy to feel like a competition with your peers.  One thing that Sturgis has showed me is that you’re always going to be around people who are smarter than you or better than you at sports or other endeavors.  It’s part of life.  So remember as a lesson, not only in high school and college, but also in life; don’t compete with anyone or compare yourself to someone else, it’s not worth your time; because you are who you are and you should never make changes about yourself based on other people.  Be the best person you can be and always be kind.  Being kind is a great legacy to leave behind!

From Zach Hesse:   (When describing his classmates, he wrote) The point is, we’re all characters!  We are not just your average teenagers with IB Diplomas.  We may get up to the same kind of shenanigans as our non-Sturgian counterparts, but at least we do those stupid things, intelligently!!

From Hannah McLaughlin:   Teachers are always willing to help you go the extra mile.  I am thankful for the help that I have gotten from my teachers whether it was helping me understand what I did wrong on an essay or test, or encouraging me that I can do this.  Teachers are understanding and open-minded to any new thought or idea.  Here at Sturgis, teachers are running along with you.  They are cheering you on to help you finish the race.

Hannah TaylorFrom Hannah Taylor:  I’d be lying if I said that high school was easy, but I think that’s the point.  High school is one of the many things one must get through to arrive at who you are.  Sturgis has given me the tools to thrive as my current self until, the one who used to be my future self, takes hold.  This chapter is over and done with, but without it I’d never have the confidence to speak in front of a crowd or the skills to write an analytical essay.  I’d never have discovered, largely due to the CAS program, my love of volunteerism and just how easy, and fun, it is to get involved.  I’d certainly never have even thought of myself as capable of packing my life into a suitcase and moving halfway across the world at the age of 18!

From Eric McPherson:  I think Sturgis has a way of preparing us for the real world—just like my mother taught me how to act with responsibility and maturity when the first time she dropped me off at the beach one day with my friends.  After all of this time, Sturgis has done for us what my mom tried to do when I was younger.   It has shown us the way and allowed us to make our own mistakes and learn from them.  But the time has come for us to be let out on our own.  We have the skills, we’re responsible, and we know how to use them.  But it’s time to go.  The seas haven’t always been smooth at Sturgis.  The seas won’t always be calm in the future either, but we know how to swim.

audience 2From Quinn Coughlin:  Perhaps I should quote a credible source in my speech—Theodore Roosevelt said that “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, or difficulty.”  This, in a nutshell, has been the IB and Sturgis.  It’s been difficult the entire way to where we stand now—at the finish line—but it hasn’t been in vain.  We struggled to make friends as freshmen, we struggled to be leaders as juniors, and we struggled to succeed as seniors.  But all the way, we have learned more about ourselves and our world than any other school could have taught us.

And finally, from Meredith Sullivan:  Sturgis showed me kindness.  All of you showed me kindness.  And that is invaluable, as I think that general attitude of kindness has given us all confidence and enabled us all to grow as learners and people.  This was what first impressed me about Sturgis, the culture and sense of community.  Sturgis is also fun—it really is.  The relaxed learning environment and caring teachers are what enable our students to succeed.  The ease that I have with my classmates is unparalleled; think about how comfortable you are with speaking your mind in class and sharing an opinion.  That is unique.  That sense of acceptance and tolerance is Sturgis.  That is what enables students to succeed here, as they do not feel inhibited in the classroom and are able to vocalize their opinions.  You do not feel afraid to make a mistake or mess up.  It happens to all of us, and the respect among your fellow students enables you to take risks academically and to not fear failure.  Sturgis succeeds academically because of its amazing community—that is the variable that is what sets it apart from other schools.

Words of wisdom from the Class of 2014!

Diverse TrioAt graduation, I like to take a minute or two to reflect on some of the individuals that I will remember from this class.  I do so, knowing that I surely won’t be able to mention everyone who deserves recognition.  I will always remember:

  • The tremendous creativity and artistic talent of Lily Haselton;
  • The calm exterior, intellectual drive, and of course the shrieks of joy as she ran down the hall when Hannah Taylor learned of her acceptance to NYU-Abu Dhabi;
  • The transformation from boyish energy and impulsiveness to an accomplished sense of academic empowerment of Rob Fogarty;
  • The self-less caring for and commitment to others of Catherine Etienne;
  • The zany personality and the daily greetings of “I like your tie” from Kristen Kazmarczyk;
  • The amazing intellectual talent and motivation in the STEM subjects but also in the humanities of Molly Brennan;
  • The depth of insight, writing talents, and enthusiasm for life of Quinn Coughlin;
  • And finally, the strong commitment to service and community and the humble nature and spirit of John Bondarek;

John Bondarek Is HonoredClass of 2014, we gave you wings—wings to soar, to question, to contribute, and to care about one another and making the world a better place.  Giving you wings to ensure your success was our goal, and we know that a piece of whatever you do, will come from your Sturgis roots.

I will end my words with my favorite quote about The Essence of Success:

“Successful is the person who has lived well, laughed often and loved much; who has gained the respect of children, who leaves the world better than one found it, who has never lacked appreciation for the earth’s beauty, who never fails to look for the best in others, or give the best of oneself.”

Congratulations to the Class of 2014!  Sturgis is proud of the wings that we have given you and– what you have become.  We hope that you cherish your roots in Sturgis.  Thank you.

The next speaker on the program is a representative of the Sturgis Board of Trustees, Greg Ryan.

Gregory Ryan, Sturgis Board of Trustees

Good Afternoon:

Greg RyanMy name is Gregory Ryan.  I am a member of your Board of Trustees and the Finance Committee. Each year a member of the board is given the opportunity to speak at graduation, to provide you with both insights into the work we do for your education and more importantly to congratulate each of you on your achievements.

My involvement with Sturgis spans a decade. It began simply with my youngest daughter’s enrollment in 2004 – two parents pushing their daughter off the beaten path of a public educational system that had in our opinion, failed our two oldest children.

The Sturgis, that you know today, is different from the one I was introduced to ten years ago. But Sturgis is and always will be about providing the very best educational experience possible.  Eric once told me some 9 years ago after I so politely poked fun of the school’s appearance.  He said that the look of the building did not matter.  Our original campus today is not far more much esthetically pleasing than when we began.

Eric went on to argue that, what did mattered was providing an excellent education and that we didn’t need to look like a conventional school to accomplish this goal. Well, he was certainly correct.  It’s not a wonderful build that makes a great school.  It’s the people.

It is teachers who are eager to teach.  Students who desire to learn.  And parents who can support those two premises. That is the bases of a great school.  That’s Sturgis!

audienceOur Board is comprised of 17 individuals.  There, from the Administration, one teacher and 13 are elected members.  We are without a doubt the true leaders of the school and yet for the most part we remain relatively unknown to the very people that we serve, namely you. You are our constituents.  So, if you don’t know us and what we do.  Then we, like the school must be doing a top notch job.  Right?  And so we persevere and continue on serving and do it gladly.

The responsibilities of the Board are quite simple.  We set the policies, create the standards and provide the goals for the school.  Then we monitor the schools progress quite closely.  We are continually updated of any hard data, such as standardize testing and where we rank by campus.  We pay close attention to our coveted national rankings of the various lists of who’s who in American High Schools.  We help push the school forward. But this is where our responsibilities end.

We do not interfere with the actual management of the school.  That is responsibility of Eric and his staff.  How they implement our directives and manage the daily operation of the school is their business.  The amazing part is they do a phenomenally great job on a recurrent basis.  They have never let us down. They hire incredibly skilled and gifted teachers.  Then they help build those teachers up, so they in turn can build you, our students, up.

Sturgis has changed tremendously in the years since I first became acquainted with it.  When my daughter began going to school, the building still resembled the furniture store it once was, most of the staff were brand new and the class listings were much more limited. The IB program was just being whispered about.  In the time that has passed, we have updated the original building in every way possible and we have added a second campus, increased the admission rates, and cultivated a superbly skilled and dedicated staff.

Crowd 2Most importantly of all we have adopted an “I.B.program that is unique.

We are simply “IB for All” and we are the only school in the world offering this program.  There are many schools which are     “IB for Some”, as well as many others that are “IB for the Well To Do”.  But when we say we are “IB for All”, we truly mean it.  Right down to paying the administrative costs of the IB Exams that you all just took, ($160,000).

All of our students receive the same education regardless of whether they taking on the IB diploma program or not.  They all lean on one another.  Sometime they carry one another, to push through the rigors of the IB working as a community.  Our students are not short changed!  They are supported, they are challenged and they always rise to meet that challenge!

I want you to know, that the members of your broad of trustees are a group of gifted, caring and dedicated individuals of good caliber.  Like you, each one brings their own unique qualities to the Board.  Each member has repeatedly fought for the students benefit.  A board meeting usually lasts 2 to 3 hours.  One night debated an additional hour, discussing whether or not to raise the athletic fees by $25 per sport.  In the end I believe the motion was defeated.  We did not want to disenfranchise even child from participating in sports.

The Board has two guiding principles which lead us and guide us:  We must to stay true to our charter, for we are a charter school.  And whatever else we may decide, the yard stick we use is:  will it be good for our kids?  Notice how possessive we are.

As I stand before you today, I have no doubt that the families and students before me, chose Sturgis, much like we, the board have chosen Sturgis.  You chose to be challenged and you chose to take your future into your own hands –sometimes that can be a very difficult decision to make, even uncomfortable, yet here you are at the end of your journey and most of you are smiling.

I hope that each of you sitting here today is proud of how much you have accomplished. To receive a diploma today is a true measure of success. And we know,-because we have worked so hard bring it to fruition, that you are beyond “prepared” for your life paths following this commencement. Once again, congratulations and we wish you luck and good fortune with your next life adventure.

Sturgis Faculty – Will Mathews, Latin

Will MathewsGood afternoon members of the Sturgis Board of Trustees, Sturgis Faculty, Mr. Marble and Mr. Hieser, parents, family members, friends, and last but not least, the class of 2014.  I am humbled and moved to have been chosen by you to give an address here today—thank you for this honor.

Today is an important day for you—congratulations! It is a day to commemorate your accomplishments and wish you luck in the future.  It is an exciting day and it is a special day, a unique day in your lives.

I’m guessing that you are both excited and proud today, but also that for many of you the experience feels bitter sweet.  I’m guessing that you are eager about your future after Sturgis but nervous about starting over in a new environment.  I’m guessing that you’re more than ready to leave high school behind in many ways and less than ready in some ways.

But I’m not really guessing at all.  I know these things not simply because I know you well, or because I asked you recently, or because I stalked your twitter accounts.  I know them because we have now had the shared experience of finishing high school.

At my own graduation I remember being so excited and ready to move on.  I couldn’t wait to start fresh and meet new people, move away from home and live on my own, finally go to those college translation parties that every young Latinist dreams about.

But there was an underlying anxiety; the school I was going to wasn’t my first choice.  It wasn’t my second, third or even my fourth.  Those schools hadn’t accepted me, or they didn’t make sense financially.

SelfieIt was hard because it seemed like all of my peers were doing exactly what they wanted.  When I first got to college, it seemed like everyone knew they would love it, and as the first few weeks went by it seemed like everyone did.   I liked it alright, but I didn’t love it—wasn’t I supposed to love it?  Anxiety crept back in that I had made the wrong decision, that I wasn’t in the right place for me.

But as I connected with more people I realized I wasn’t unique in how I felt despite feeling like I was.  And while that might seem obvious and clichéd, at the time, in feelings of anxiety, it never does.  It took the comfort of knowing that I wasn’t alone in how I felt to remind me that even the best of new phases take getting used to…because they’re new.  The pressure lifted, the anxiety left and I was free to get to know my school and love it.  and I did.

So as for your own anxieties about your time after Sturgis, whatever they are:   they’ll work out.   How do I know this?

I know it because I know the answer to Charlie Powicki’s senior quote and the Killers’ cryptic question.  “Are we human, or are we dancer?”  We’re human.  And we all have the impressive capacity to work through our successes and stresses with help from others who have had or are having experiences like ours.

So set aside your worries about the future or at least take comfort in the fact that since you are not ever unique in your feelings you are not ever alone in them.

I’ve taken some time to tell you that you are not unique in the emotions you feel but you are incredibly unique to me.

Teachers, like parents, aren’t supposed to have “favorites”.  I had a high school guidance counselor who completely ignored this fact; she would take her children aside and tell them each individually “don’t tell your siblings, but mommy loves you best”.  And it struck me as odd…until I became a teacher.   and tried the tactic out for myself with my classes…

Meredith and BagpiperBut students talk (as I imagine guidance counselors’ children do) and when they inevitably hold my feet to the fire and demand to know whether they truly are my favorites, I am forced to come clean that I don’t have favorite classes, that I value them equally, that each has their own strengths and weaknesses, good days and difficult days.

The students remain unconvinced.  But it’s true; or rather, as I’ve come to realize recently, it’s a version of the truth, because while I don’t keep “favorites”, there are some classes over the years that stick out in my mind as having an especially special connection.  Several of those classes happened during my first year at Sturgis with the students who sit behind me.

There is a bond that a teacher feels with a grade when it defines their first year at a school.  Class of 2014, you are that grade for me.   Two years ago when I started at Sturgis I taught half of you in Latin II and corralled the other half of you in sophomore study.  You were more or less the only students that I knew, and you became the lens through which I viewed Sturgis and my guides as to how to navigate it.   You taught me what was expected of a teacher in a way that students never had before.

I’m sure there will be mention today about the mark that the school and its faculty have left on you but the inextricable counterpoint is the mark that you have left on your teachers and the mark that  you left on me.

I can already anticipate the sadness I will feel next year when I won’t see you in the hallways on the first day of school, can’t rally behind your cheering section at the East & West soccer games, don’t bump into you at 7/11 or mi pueblo, can’t explore Latin or larger life questions with you.  It will be hard.

Because over the past three years you have defined my Sturgis experience; you saw me through my first year at a new school, you were with me when I tackled IB teaching for the first time.  Some of you were there to help me trek 30 miles at 12,000 feet in Ecuador, and all of you were there to improve my days with well timed smiles and conversations in the hallways.  You are an influential group for me as you will always be the faces of my early years of teaching.   And that is powerful.

Because every single time, from now until I cease to remember, when I reflect on my time at Sturgis you will be featured in my thoughts, and when I inevitably tell stories to students down the road, there you’ll be too.  The class that interrupted a Latin II grammar lesson to ponder in earnestness whether the Romans had cheese (for the record: they did), the class so concerned with whether my socks matched (they never did), the class that introduced me to temple run and study hall “parkour” walks, the class that begged me to watch the honey badger video and plotted to get one direction songs stuck in my head, the class that truly challenged me as a teacher for the first time and helped solidify my choice to be one.  Members of the class of 2014, I hope that you take pride in the fact that you will remain immortalized in the joyous memories, stories, and significant life experience of another. After all, what else can anyone reasonably hope for?

I feel lucky to know you and to have taught you—I am proud of you and I will miss you.  Congratulations on this accomplishment and best of luck in your new phases—I can’t wait to hear about your experiences there.  Thank you.

Caroline Adams, Class of 2014

Caroline AdamsThe hardest thing about coming to Sturgis was realizing I am not always the smartest person in the room. That seems like it should have been obvious, but I was one of those kids that was told from a very young age that they were “special.” That I could go to any college I wanted, be anything I wanted. The four out of six colleges that rejected me would likely disagree, but that’s beside the point.

The first class I ever got a C in was US History II with Mr. Scott. I thought my parents were going to kill me. I thought it must have been a mistake. I was going on and on about how it couldn’t be right, I wasn’t a C student, I was smart–when one of my friends shrugged and said “it’s Sturgis. Everyone gets Cs sometimes, it doesn’t mean that you’re not smart, it’s Sturgis.” That shut me up. Because I realized she was right. It’s Sturgis. I reminded myself that I came here for more challenging classes. I guess I didn’t realize just how challenging they would be until I was actually here.

In stripping me of my straight-A status, Sturgis forced me to think of myself as a person, not just a student. It forced me to see my classmates as people, not just competitors, because a lot of the time I couldn’t compete. I wasn’t going to be the best at everything, so I had to figure out what I really cared about. Luckily, Sturgis is a great place for that. If you want, you can do a little bit of everything here. In fact, the IB forces you to dabble in everything. Creativity, action, service, the whole nine yards. On top of all your academics.

That makes it sound overwhelming. Which it can be. No, it is. Most of us have struggled, and I for one can’t help but be suspicious of anyone who hasn’t, if that person does exist.

Receiving Diploma2I think that’s where the sense of community at Sturgis comes from. Everyone talks about how accepting we are here, but really we’re all just too stressed to care about superficial differences.

Or maybe it’s the international bit of IB that makes Sturgis so accepting. We’re forced to look at everything from a global perspective. In fact, global value is a CAS requirement. I’m still not sure I know what that means to be honest. In my time at Sturgis I’ve been forced to become a useful member of society. At least I’d like to think I’m useful. I also like to think I’m always right, but that may not be the case. Like I said, I’m not as smart as I think I am. But that’s okay.

That’s what I’ve learned from Sturgis–it’s okay. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to feel dumb. Everyone does! The entirety of the class of 2014, despite our four (or three) years here and all the IB courses and all we’ve learned, all the work we’ve done, all of us feel very, very dumb. Every single one of us, myself included.

We all feel stupid. But you know what that means? There’s room for us to learn. I know, you all thought we were done learning now. The last two years have been more than enough learning. But life is a learning experience. In that way, we’ll never leave Sturgis. We will all always be inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced, and reflective. I know we’re all sick of the IB learner profile and honestly, most of us don’t know it. I’m one of those people. I had to look it up to write this speech. But that doesn’t mean we don’t each embody these traits in our own unique way. Kurt Vonnegut said that “True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” I feel lucky to say that thought isn’t terrifying to me. We all have a long way to go, but I truly believe that the class of 2014 is made up of smart, capable, and good-hearted people. Of course we still have so growing up to do. If I woke up tomorrow morning to find this group of people in charge, I’d be a little concerned. Looking forward to the future, however, I think we’re all going to do great things. That may mean shaping the world we live in as artists, politicians, engineers.. For others it may mean being a parent or a teacher, making a difference on a smaller, but no less important scale. The Talmud says that “whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” By that logic, to change one life, in even the smallest way, is to change the world.

DiplomaIf I’ve learned anything from Sturgis, it’s that even the smallest detail is significant. One wrong number can throw off an entire math problem, one misplaced accent mark can change the meaning of a word, one vaguely remembered date can boost your history grade. It’s true that every little bit counts, not only in the classroom but beyond as well. The smallest act of kindness can change the mood of an entire day just as a single adjective in the right place can change the tone of an entire body of literature. So I urge you to remember the little things. Remember the person who smiled at you every time you passed them in the hallway and the one who always let you borrow a pencil. Remember the people that took the time out of their day, even if it was just a second, to make yours better. And remember to be that person. It’s easy to feel like a failure at Sturgis, where you’re surrounded by brilliant people. I think the world is like that. There will always be someone better than you. But, you’ll always be better at something else. Life is a balance. We all have skills and no matter the area, they are all equally important. So remember: no one is beneath you. No one is dumb because we’re all dumb. No one is insignificant because we all are. So make mistakes. Revel in your own stupidity. Grow. Learn. Make yourself better so you can make the world better, little by little. Because every little bit counts.

Ryan King Award – Robert Albis, Latin

Robert AlbisRyan King is an alumna of Sturgis who surmounted serious physical injuries during her time here and graduated in 2002; she is now a teacher in Massachusetts. The Ryan King award therefore honors those traits she embodies and is given to the graduating senior who most exhibits perseverance, determination, resolve and a positive attitude in his or her academic pursuits. The Ryan King Award winner receives a college scholarship given by the Sturgis Parents Association.

This year’s winner made a very quiet entrance into Sturgis. In fact, right before the first Latin class I was to have with him, his guidance counselor told me that he probably would not speak a word.  This turned out not to be an exaggeration.  I could tell he was following the proceedings of the class with keen interest, but his shyness prevented him from taking much part in them.  It was not until I started collecting written work that I realized that this reticent young man had an extraordinary gift for language. Many of his other teachers have commented on this: perhaps his history teacher, James Fetzer, sums up best the exalted level of this student’s written work; he says he, “doesn’t write essays, he writes literature.”  I know that I and all his other teachers during his first years at Sturgis wanted to see him become more confident about sharing his gift of language not only with his pen, but also with his voice.

Today, in the student’s own words, he has grown from a “soft-spoken boy . . . into a hard-working young man, who has a real voice.”  He gives much credit to Sturgis for this transformation. It is certainly true that he benefitted from the encouragement given by his teachers, including the time he spent with Mark Blake simply practicing to project his voice, and especially from the kindness of the other students.  But it was mainly due to his own perseverance, the way he took on challenges that he knew would be difficult for him, but would make him more confident – most notably, his brave decision to participate in the World Challenge trip to Ecuador.  It is because of his own resolve and willingness to take risks that today, this young man has a real voice, and the world is richer for hearing it. It is the voice of Joseph Falcey.

Sturgis Faculty – Randy Carspecken, Mathematics

Randy CarspeckenThank you: Class of 2014 for giving us this moment, parents and family for giving us the Class of 2014, Mr. Heiser, the board of directors, faculty and staff for the Sturgis we know today.

First, since I have taken one or two ideas from a yet-unpublished Great American Novel written by an author I have personally known for 60 years, I have given my speech the same title. My speech is called The Medicine Line.

And second, I want to apologize at the very start for my last lines which will keep all of you awake tonight staring at the stars wondering. I am sorry for my final lines and the mystery of this beautiful universe that will seize your imagination until daylight. (By the way, sunrise is 5:09 tomorrow morning.)

I begin with a true story that has fascinated me for decades. Since you all know the Atlantic running east from Cape Cod you can picture the Great Plains of the American West: a sea of grass stretching into the distance meeting the sky in that limit we call the horizon. Imagine the Blackfeet Indians galloping horses, the US Cavalry in close pursuit with buffalo, elk, grizzly bears scattering as they flee north. Suddenly in this ocean of bluestem and wheatgrass the soldiers behind them stop. As if hitting an invisible wall in the empty prairie, horses planting feet in a spray of dirt, they slide to a standstill and just sit and look, held behind some hidden barrier. The Blackfeet are perplexed; they study the vacant tableland but find no clues in the empty distance. Over time they discover this happens again and again, each time in the middle of that open grassland, each time along that same line that runs with the sun east to west, each time the soldiers yielding to this mysterious edge. Whatever this presence or spirit or unseen object might be the Blackfeet quickly learned to respect it, they knew it would save them, it defined those moments of their lives as they ran their horses towards this great force on the horizon.

Sara Prygocki and Joann JohnsonToday you are all about to cross a border. We will know, in our school’s maritime tradition, when the last of you rings the Ship’s Bell that you have all passed this line that has stood in the distance one, two, three, FOUR years of your lives. Every one of you has thought about getting to this other side; at times yearned to finally escape the demands of IB, escape your teachers chasing you across an ocean of work, escape a vast prairie of words and equations.

The Native Americans had a name for this power they abided on the skyline. And today they still use the same words. It is called the Medicine Line. They knew they had crossed over when their pursuers slowed and fell behind and reined in their horses and milled about like undecided currents in a slack tide.

Today your knowing of this line we call the IB has brought you to an edge with a world-class education. But in crossing with diploma in hand you may feel something curious on the other side like that slack tide lingering between two states. As it turns out we are all in this together. Your teacher’s know this in your empty desks; your families know this as you turn to your own horizons.

In 60 years of chasing my own dreams I have learned some things about both sides of these powerful borders. Here are three:

1)      Great happiness can come from pushing your limits. Bringing yourself to the task is often the hardest part but I know this: if you simply show up at that edge again and again, miracles will happen.

2)      Some of the very best edges are found in this glorious world surrounding us: day and night; winter/summer; water/ice; shoreline/summit.  You cannot go wrong shaping your life around this greatest of all possessions.

3)      Challenge existing borders but challenge them quietly and slowly and from the inside. My first university degree, with Highest Honors no less, was a writing degree (you might wonder about that after this speech J) but I began to feel my forceful criticisms were not so honorable. It is easy to be an outside critic and so I made a decision to take one of the biggest risks of my life stepping WAY out of my comfort zone and into one of those very institutions I had been so critical of: public education. I am so happy I did finding an infinite need and, I would never have guessed, an infinite outlet for creativity. And, of course, we found you guys! My wife and I, between the two of us, have had something like 5,000 kids over 3 decades and we both have grown proud whenever we are filling out forms to write teacher.

OK now for the final lines I warned you about. No sleep for you tonight. Tighten your seatbelts, here we go: when you are on your way drawn by the power of another horizon and you’ve learned to look for and trust those faint guiding outlines in the margins of your life, those margins by the way where you will likely find your greatest inspirations, the margins, by the way, more than the horizon defining them, you may come to see that one of the most powerful borders, perhaps the very greatest edge of them all, is the line separating you and me. And now comes the kicker that will leave you staring at the stars: one day over yet another skyline you will see how even parallel lines in the geometry of this universe converge and being kind to those you meet along the way is kindness to yourself. This is truly Good Medicine. This is power. This is strength. In greatest sincerity I promise I am not just feeding you a line. J

Molly Brennan, Class of 2014

Molly BrennanSturgis is full of surprises.

At convocation a few days before the start of our freshman year, Mr. Marble said that students feel like Sturgis is their second home. I might not have fully believed him. I might have even rolled my eyes. Sorry, Mr. Marble. It simply sounded impossible that I could love a school full of a bunch of strangers and a curriculum that was infamous for its difficulty.  I doubted that I would ever feel that comfortable and welcome in this high school.

But Sturgis is full of surprises.

That is the most important thing I have learned since coming to Sturgis.  I have been so fortunate to be in a community that continuously is surprising and inspiring me.

Our teachers are amazing.  Before coming to Sturgis, I never imagined that teachers would be so dedicated that they will wake up at 4AM to grade tests (not that I always want my tests graded at 4 o’clock in the morning), but our teachers are that dedicated. When our teachers ask us to email them with questions, they mean it and explain things again and again to help us understand.  They care about us.  Not only do our teachers encourage us to reach our full potential, but they also want to make sure that we are not too stressed.  Our teachers allow  and sometimes even participate in  our rants against the evil IB  before reminding us of the hard work we need to put in if we really want to defeat the IB.

The second surprise was the IB.   When we were freshmen at Sturgis, we all knew that the IB stood for the International Baccalaureate, that it was supposed to be hard, and that, for upperclassmen, it was a source of complaints.  I suppose that all of this is true, but the IB still surprised me.  I expected the IB to teach me the answers, but it taught me the questions.  It taught all of us how to critically examine the subjects and facts we had accepted in the past as true, and we were fortunate to have teachers who would pose and answer the questions along with us.   The IB also surprised me because, even now, I do not completely despise it. Maybe that is easy to say now that exams are over and I no longer have to think about how I probably should be reflecting for CAS , but probably won’t.  Regardless, I am surprised that I can now say that I am happy that I had the opportunity to go through the IB.  For example, Latin class was more than just Catullus thinking he had really clever ideas about word order, but it was also a class where we discussed important issues, such as love and death.  I might not remember all the physics problems I ever worked on, but I remember the people who collaborated on them with me and patiently explained concepts to me.  I came into the IB thinking that the pieces of knowledge I would acquire would be the most important part and I would end up hating it, but the IB surprised me and taught me that it is possible to learn about ideas and to take on the IB together,  enjoyably.

Molly Brennan is HonoredThis surprising group tackled the IB Monster of Potential Doom and Despair together. “Surprising” might be the wrong word to describe how I feel about everyone in our class.  I had heard that Sturgis students are involved and hardworking, and you have all shown me what that looks like.  We are not a large high school  and most of us knew everyone in our grade by the end of freshman year.  For me, sometime during freshman year I believed that I truly knew everyone, and I then spent the rest of my time at Sturgis learning how little I knew.  People would mention casually how they volunteer at hospitals or spend practically every day of the week playing a sport.  Others bring in intricate history projects or create amazing works of art in their free time.  Do you realize how awesome that is? Everyone knows that Sturgis is hard and the work is time consuming, so I have always been surprised and inspired when I realize that so many people in our school are not just students, but people dedicated to and contributing to a wide variety of endeavors.  Catherine Etienne  put it best when she told me something to the effect of “at first I was upset because Sturgis was so small, but then I just learned to love everyone.”   It is easy to love this class and how inspiring everyone is, because we never stop surprising each other.

There is one really important surprise that Sturgis presented to us: ourselves.  I think we can all agree that we have changed since we left the eighth grade.  Sturgis has helped us all surprise ourselves.  Maybe you started here with a different feeling towards learning than you have now.  Maybe you leave here with experience in a sport you had never tried before coming here.  Maybe you started as someone who was terrified of speaking in front of others and have ended your senior year comfortable with who you are and what you want  to say . When I was beginning my freshman year, I doubted that I would be able to keep up in my classes or have the grades I wanted, but Sturgis surprised me. Sturgis taught me that grades are not what matter and that it is the learning that is important and why I was at Sturgis.

While we were surprising ourselves, life was also surprising us. Sometimes these were great surprises, but, because this is life, sometimes they were not welcome surprises.  Whether these surprises were the estuary not being as warm as we thought it would be, getting a sunburn instead of a tan on field day, or something more serious, Sturgis was here for us. We were here for each other.  We were here for ourselves.  Just as those who are sitting here now were here for us.

Looking back, I think my favorite surprise was that first one.  It was the one that started when we were around fourteen and scared and maybe a little anxious about starting high school. It was the one where I doubted that Sturgis could ever feel like home.  I was surprised to learn that it could.  I was surprised by you, my classmates, the dedicated teachers, and all of the support staff from whom I was fortunate enough to learn. Thank you and thank you to everyone here today.  Congratulations to the Class of 2014 and the families and friends of the Class of 2014.

Gretchen Buntschuh Literary Scholarship

Presented by Eric Hieser

Ben BrownGretchen Buntschuh was a colleague of ours who taught English at Sturgis and influenced students and colleagues with her grace, insight and command of language.  Sadly, Gretchen died of pancreatic cancer in 2010.

The Gretchen Buntschuh Literary Scholarship is awarded each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated a genuine interest in literature and love of language. Following thoughtful deliberation, the scholarship committee and English Department faculty feel the senior who best embodies the spirit of Ms. Buntschuh’s gift and passion for language is … Benjamin Brown.

Sturgis faculty provided the following description of Ben’s abilities:

Marca Daley, ToK:     “Ben is a discerning critical thinker and never settles for vague generalities or unsupported assertions.   In his writing this year, whether reflective journals or formal essays, he demonstrated his thoughtfulness in comprehensive yet concise prose.    Ben consistently explored different perspectives, evaluating their reasoning and various justifications, and at the same time acknowledges his own assumptions, as he works to assess the validity of his conclusions and considers their implications in a wider context.”

Brown bookRobert Albis, Latin:    “Ben’s command of Latin is such that he can read difficult Latin texts not only with understanding but also with a sensitivity to nuance. Along with his ability to be precise in his attention to individual words, Ben has a fine familiarity with the social context that produced these texts. Few students possess such a comprehensive competence to interpret Latin literature. What makes Ben even more remarkable is the humility and sense of humor with which he comports himself. Ben is quite simply one of the best students I have ever taught, and one of the finest young men I have ever known.”

In addition to this $500 scholarship, Talin Bookbindery in Yarmouthport has donated a beautifully hand-bound collection of Ben’s essays written during his four years at Sturgis.  Talin hopes to inspire fine young writers to continue writing and to develop an appreciation for the ancient craft of bookbinding.   Congratulations!

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