Sturgis Graduation 2012 (Summer 2012)

Eric Hieser leads Sturgis Faculty and Class of 2012 to Graduation
Alasdair McEwen, Bagpipes, Maret Gable, Snare

Class of 2012: Madeline Maud Arnault, Adrian Verkade Baird, Omar Bennani, Corey Tyler Bracken, Hannah Elizabeth Bradshaw, Lydia Jessica Brejcha, Maya Rachel Bridgewater, Jacob Raymond Clatanoff Brown, Samantha Claire Bruce, Josef Alec Brunco, Taylor Renee Buchanan, Cameron Peter Farrow Caldwell, Elizabeth Margaret Cameron, Krystal Renee Cappola, Peter Gabriel Carlson, Gabrielle Louise Cataldo, Kathryn Rose Cohan, Richard Dennis Covell, Kyra Elizabeth Dauwalder, Fallin Sellers Dennen, Alec Joseph Dixon, Kaitlin Anne Doherty, Hannah Mae Driscoll, Alexander John Dufault, Nathan Andrew Dyer, Jonathan Taylor Earle, John Frederick Enos, Hazel Anne Fargher, Zachary Andrew Fayne, Brianne Therese Garner, Heather Margaret Glenny, Anne Mercedes Goodman, Thomas John Greve, Zachary Alan Grosslein, Cleo Lillian Hampton, Veronica Lavigne Henger, Jacob Robert Howe, Allison Mary Hufnagle, Rachel Eileen Jenner, Sarah May Jones, Brianna Taylor Juaire, Brendon Connor Keefe, William Leonard Kinsey, Christopher Robert Knapp, Sarah Elizabeth Knittle, Jacob Henry Koczwara, Matthew Thomas Kolton, Emilee Charlotte Kreitzer, Anna Tova Lieberman, Erika Elin Lind, Lizabeth Christine Lozada, John Allen MacLellan III, William Francis Manning, Tyler Danielle Marston, Andrew John McCann, Sarah Jane McEwen, Joelle Kathryn McKenna, Marley Hogg McSweeney, Aaron Albert Meister, Sarah Mary Moller, Emily Donna Morin, Carly Emilia Morris, Danielle Nicole Newcombe, Rachael Dicapua O’Connor, Kali Ann Palmer, Justin Alexander Pannell, Mykolas Cole Parker, Vani Gunvant Patel, Jessica Michelle Pearson, Nadine Lenora Perry, Lucas Welch Peterson, Connor John Read, Maxwell Thomas Reifsteck, Sebastian Simon Bitsikas Rowell, Rebecca Ann Saling, Alia Carmela Sanfilippo, Jean-Marie Potter Saudade, Bailey Shannon Smith, Daniel Jordan Snyder, Clarise Antonietta Spagnuolo, Jake Anthony Spagone, Nancy Katherine Starr, Bryan Aleksandr Stearns, Julie Marie Steven, Joseph Charles Tagliaferri, Julia Elizabeth Tarr, Helen Rose Titcomb, Brittany Jean Trottier, Shannon Kelley Walsh, Aryana Lynn Weathers, Adam William Winters and Daniel Aaron Zeoli.

Our Nautical Traditions by Marion Weeks

Seniors Sign Ship’s Log

Sturgis graduations are a wonderful celebration of the achievements of our students. The ceremony incorporates several nautical traditions that reflect our maritime setting and the history of Captain William Sturgis (1782-1863) for whom our school is named.

Decked out in the finery of robes and led by bagpipes and snare drum, 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.  After receiving their diploma, each graduate proceeds to a table displaying a ship’s log. When Sturgis students begin their journey at Sturgis, they sign the

Dan Zeoli Rings Ship Bell
Photo by Vincent DeWitt for the Barnstable Patriot

log.  On the day they complete their journey with us, they sign out beside their original signature. 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 that hopefully capture a bit of the spirit of the event. Vince Dewitt did a fine job of describing the Sturgis graduation in his article “Sturgis Graduation: Behind every ending is a perilous journey:”

Welcoming Address by Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Eric Hieser Welcomes Parents and Guests

Class of 2012, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends:

Welcome the Graduation Ceremony for Sturgis Charter Public School.  We are very happy to present to you this Class of 2012 as they have challenged themselves and embraced the Sturgis Mission of “International Baccalaureate for All”, while bringing their unique personalities, passion, and enthusiasm to create a very vibrant and caring school culture.  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. The founders of Sturgis hoped to develop students who think deeply, embrace challenges as opportunities, and commit to having a positive impact on our world.

This Class of 2012 has helped Sturgis gain recognition across the Cape, Massachusetts, and the U.S.  As with previous classes, this class helped Sturgis to be ranked by the U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, and the Washington Post as the #1 or #2 school in MA and in the top 75  in the U.S. out of more than 22,000 high schools.  This ranking demonstrates how Sturgis students have sought out academic rigor and have gained the best preparation available for success in university.  The Class of 2012 took an average of 6 IB exams per senior, which is the maximum number of exams that an IB student is expected to take.  Of course, we are very proud of these achievements, yet we know that it was only through the collective efforts of our students, parents, faculty, and Board 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 to stand to be recognized by the class and the audience.

There are other Sturgis milestones this year:  ranking #1 in English, #5 in Math, and #11 in Biology out of 287 MA school districts on the MCAS, a very successful year in college admission with many of these seniors receiving significant scholarships and grants, and a waiting list of more than 300 for admission to Sturgis despite the opening of our second campus, Sturgis West, and allowing double the number of students and families to access the Sturgis IB experience.  The efforts of many in this class, as mentors to the new Sturgis West students, have had a significant impact on developing the warm and engaging culture of the new Sturgis campus.  We thank the Class 2012 for their good counsel.

As I noted before, many of the Class of 2012 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 you some of the ideas and perspectives from speeches that are not being delivered today.

From Jonathan Earle:  When we were little, we thought everything parents, teachers, or other authority figures said was the ABSOLUTE TRUTH!  In high school, we tested our limits a little bit—on second thought A LOT!  We questioned authority, rebelled against what we were told and what society expected of us.  Sturgis expects students to examine what we believe.  We were forced to defend our opinions and not just blindly follow what we are told like sheep.  The IB encourages critical thinking, and examining what we believe to be true.  After all, Sturgis wants its students to be thinkers, not sheep!

From Danielle Newcombe:  When I came to this school, I never could have imagined that I would have the guts to do half of what I have been able to accomplish.  I never would have believed in myself to start a club, to get up on stage and sign to people, to go away for two weeks with a group of people in Costa Rica, or to chaperone a freshman science field trip.  These things may not seem like much to you, but to me they are unbelievable and sometimes still unthinkable that I could have done them without being nervous.  But that is what Sturgis has done for me.  It has allowed me the freedom and security I needed to grow and to become happy with the person I have become.

From Heather Glenny:  We learned how to assess the values and limitations (with reference to the origin and purpose) of anything you put in front of us, and also how to wash our hands to avoid Swine Flu!  Sturgis has taught us to never give up.  We have come to dream about the day when we could watch Harry Potter just for the explosions and magic and not for analyzing the mythical allusions, foreshadowing, and pellucid symbolism.  I think that it is safe to say that How to Read Literature Like a Professor irreversibly changed our lives!!!  We can now relax, we can be proud of what we’ve done.  But I don’t believe that any one of us will be considering taking the back seat as we embark on our lives.

From Kyra Dauwalder:  Sturgis has changed me in a way I thought nothing could.  I have become more confident, more willing to take risks.  I have become a leader, more willing to raise my hand and take charge.  I have become a teammate, understanding more how to trust others and work with our different strengths.  And I have become more aware of the world and different cultures within.  I tried to figure out what makes Sturgis tick the way it does.  Is it the amazing support from faculty and administration?  Maybe it’s the small class size and how it forces students to participate.  No one can hide here.  Or is it the acceptance of the students, the availability of clubs, freedom and trust teachers give their students?  Or is it the IB program?  All of these things make Sturgis what it is, but there is something more that is difficult to explain.  There’s a culture here that has changed and shaped us.  I really love Sturgis—the people, the classes, the BUILDING, the culture, but I am also ready to leave.  I am ready to become who I want to be.

From Omar Bennani:  When we first embarked on our voyage on the S.S. Sturgis, I know that many of us were hesitant.  Over the years, we have learned much about our world, ranging from the rise of Communism in Russia, to how to find the mysterious surface area of a cube.  From the inner processes of the body, to how to draw countless pairs of scissors.  Our journey has been hard at times, encountering the sea monster that is the IB.  Many of us almost turned back as we encountered the feared beast called TOK—The Theory of Knowledge, asking us, much as the great sphinx of yore, a puzzling riddle that would likely make grown men cry tears of confusion regarding “How do we know what we know?”  A question that would likely keep many of you up at night!  But somehow we made it.  Because of IB, we are now citizens of the world, ready for an exciting future wherever it may take us.

From Nancy Starr:  I am so thankful for those who helped and supported me.  Mr. Hyer for pushing so hard to write a good research paper; Ms. Kirk, Mr. O’Kane, and Ms. Briggs for my ability to speak Spanish to the locals in Nicaragua, and Mr. Pontes for helping me see my potential and to have confidence in myself, not just as a student but also as a person.  I know that every teacher has done something, no matter how big or small, that has changed me for the better, and I know that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

From Zach Fayne:  I am here today, not simply a part of a class, but a part of a family.  We grew to accept each other for who we are and to overlook one another’s faults.  Closed minds became open to various thoughts and ideas, demanding each and every one of us to find it in ourselves to think about how we want to take this journey.  George Bernard Shaw once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself.  Life is about creating yourself.”  I have come to think that life is about realizing you are and what your purpose in life is, and Sturgis has done just that for all of us over the past four years.  Although we may be happy to go, we are all certainly sad to leave, but the passion we go forth with is immeasurable!  It is time to show what we have learned, and what we have to give.

Happy Graduates
Photo by Vincent DeWitt for the Barnstable Patriot

At 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 remember:

  •  The strength and courage that Ricky Covell found within himself to become all that he can be;
  • The leadership, caring, and commitment of Fallin Dennen to help any and all in need;
  • The infectious good humor and the zany personality of Emily Morin;
  • The amazing musical talent of Max Reifsteck and my thinking that if he did a little more homework, he would be dangerous;
  • The outstanding literary and theatrical gifts that Anna Lieberman shared with us;
  • The perseverance and dedication that Krystal Cappola demonstrated in her academic work and her rowing;
  • The quiet resolve and the exemplary academic work of Hazel Fargher all the while that she was so giving to others;
  • The delightful and high quality images that Hanna Driscoll created with her photography;
  • The personal growth, leadership, and dedication to serving others of Zach Fayne;
  • And finally, the exuberance, passion, and enthusiasm of Chris Knapp—and also his black Converse All-Stars with PINK shoelaces!

Class of 2012, 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 2012!  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.

“Go Gently into the Morning” Sturgis Singers

Composer: D. Wagner, Accompanist: David Faulkenberry,

Soloists: Rachel Jenner and Connor Read

Address by Sturgis Faculty Member – James Barrasso

Jim Barrasso Addresses Class of 2012

Good afternoon. Before we start, I just have to take care of some business with my Period E History Class. I have a question to ask…..
“Who are we?!”
I’m sorry, I can’t hear you very well…
“What do we do?”
Period E….You complete Me!

I’m an old hockey coach, and I’d like to thank my students for allowing me to speak to them like a coach. You know, if the teams I coached earlier in my career were as talented, hard-working, and dynamic as this entire Sturgis Class of 2012, I’d probably be coaching in the NHL right now. But let’s get one thing straight, there is no place in the world, where I would rather be, at this very moment, than here with you.

So thank you for asking me to be with you here today. While this is a great honor, the greatest one of my professional career, it’s no easy task to try to share in 5-7 minutes all the thoughts, and memories and feelings I have of our past four years together. I needed some advice and guidance for this challenge.

I figured I would consult the person who all agree is the most accomplished, gifted, charming public speaker in the Sturgis Community. I asked Zach Fayne what he thought…. He said, “Mr. Barrasso, we chose you to speak to us because we felt you knew us so well. He said, just tell a couple stories you remember about us.”

That meant a lot to me. And it was some great advice. So that’s what I’m gonna do here today, and the stories I tell will touch upon a couple of themes. One: challenging assumptions Two: defining moments

The assumption in a commencement address is that I, as the speaker, have some real-world knowledge, maybe even some inspiration, that will serve you as you begin your journey into the real world. But just like we taught you in history class, sometimes you need to challenge assumptions. And this is a very easy one to challenge. Because the TRUTH is, in getting to know you all over the past four years, and remembering all the great things, and the defining moments I have seen.  I have come away inspired, and motivated, and hopeful for my future by being part of your experience.

Jim Barrasso Plays Golf During Graduation

At the request of my students, I wanted to make sure I got a little golf in the speech. So here’s a line about defining moments from a golf movie called  Tin Cup, came out in 1996.

One thing we ALL have in common, is that defining moments will come. Some, we can SEE coming, and we can prepare for them. Others are thrust upon us…with no warning. Now this is important. No matter what the circumstances, ONLY two things can happen when a defining moment comes along.

1. The moment will define you…. or…. 2. You will step up… and YOU will define the moment.

And when I remember the class of 2012, I will remember a class that, much more often than not, tended to step up and define the moment. And in doing so, you defined who we are as a school.  So let’s start with a defining moment we ALL have in common. Everyone here, students and teachers and families, had a moment in your lives, when you decided that you were going to take a risk, and come to Sturgis.  Most of you had a defining moment four years ago, right here on this very spot, when you signed that ships log…and your Sturgis journey began. THAT, was a defining moment…

And just as William Sturgis sailed out of this harbor over 200 years ago, into that vast, deep blue ocean, starting his adventure, you started yours. Except, you went that way, banged a left on South St., and walked back to a school made out of an old furniture store . Other than that, it was pretty much, BASICALLY the same!

Some, like Julie, didn’t sign the log, you were on the waiting list. But when your number came up, you were ready, and you defined that moment.  You defined what your educational experience was going to be. And I KNOW, there were times you questioned whether it was worth it. But Julie, I’m here to tell you how proud I am to have made that journey with you. I’m proud to have been your Athletic Director, your teacher, your CAS Coordinator, and now your friend. When I look at my sons Michael and Evan, I hope that they will grow up to have the drive and determination that you have.

Now let’s go to December of 2009.  For the first time in Sturgis Athletics history, we were going to cut kids. And Cam Caldwell, you were going to be granted the honor, by virtue of alphabetical order, of being the first Sturgis athlete ever cut from a team.  And you’re a smart kid, and you KNEW you were on the bubble. So after the last tryout, before the coach could post the list. You took action. This is the story coach Porter told me:

He said: “After the last tryout, this Caldwell kid comes up to me and he says, ‘Coach, if you were thinking about cutting me, I just wanted to let you know, that if my name’s on that list tomorrow, I’m just going to come back next year. So..I think you should save yourself the trouble and put me on the team.’  Coach Porter was so impressed, that he did just that. He put you on the team.  And after that, we kinda learned that we’re the kind of school that can’t afford to NOT have quality people like you on our teams. If you want to work hard, and you love the game, and be part of a team, we’re going to find a place for you. That’s who we are. That’s what we do. And Cam, thank you for reminding me of that.

And speaking of hard-working athletes, Ricky, I LOVE the personal stamp you have put on the golf and baseball teams here at Sturgis. It gives me great comfort and inspiration that, if my son Michael grows up to play golf and baseball at Sturgis a few years from now, he will become part of that fun, hard-working, close-knit team environment that you have done so much to build these past four years.  And more than that. When you Ricky, and all your teammates travel out to West Bridgewater tomorrow, and each one of you plays the best game of your lives. And get back on that bus, and you take with you the first-ever state tournament game win in Sturgis History, THAT, will be an even bigger defining moment…

And speaking of athletes, I have to mention Zach Fayne. You had such a great experience travelling to Costa Rica last summer, and getting involved in Community Service there, that you were inspired to do more…. So this Fall, you took it one step further.  You travelled to Haiti, where you spent over a week volunteering at an orphanage. That was a HUGE defining moment for who we aspire to be as a school.  However, there was something Zach did this year that I had a little ethical issue with. There was a time, I think, where he stepped over the line a little bit. And Zach, I think you know what I’m talking about, here. But I do think it’s important that I share this story as well, because it’s an ethical issue, one very personal to me.  Now Zach….I was very, very disappointed when I arrived home from work on Valentines Day this year, and I discovered that Mrs. Barrasso, MY WIFE, was one of the people who received a Valentine’s Day gift from you. That was TOTALLY uncalled for…NOT appropriate. You REALLY made me look bad, and that better not happen again!

My last story is one from the classroom, and it’s a selfish one…

This fall, I assigned an alternative assessment at the end of our Mussolini Unit. The assignment was to do something creative that represents something important you have learned about Mussolini. And as usual, I got a nice array of creative posters and poems about Mussolini.  But one stood out. Anna Lieberman wrote an original folk song about Mussolini’s rise. Not only that, but she performed it live in class, playing her guitar. It sounded so pure, so beautiful….and the lyrics were so historically accurate that I cried! The economic, social and political causes of Mussolini’s rise/blended with the methods he used!  Now Anna, I don’t know if that was a defining moment for you; but for me, that moment represented all I ever dreamed of, and all I ever hoped for, when I decided to become a teacher 15 years ago…and I just wanted to thank you, in front of all of our friends here today, for THAT defining moment in my teaching career.

So, as a history teacher, I think it’s appropriate to end by paraphrasing perhaps our greatest American, Abraham Lincoln. People will little note, nor long remember what I have SAID here today; but the Sturgis Community – and the people that you have touched around the world through your service –  will NEVER forget what you have DONE here the past four years.

THANK YOU, for allowing me to learn from your experience, strength and hope, as it has been the greatest honor of my professional life…

Address by Brianna Juaire, Sturgis Class of 2012

Brianna Juaire Addresses Class of 2012

As a visualization tool, I like to imagine my life as a Wikipedia article. Consistent and neatly formatted- when I can see the sum of my life before me in inconspicuous black type, organized into general subheadings like “early life” and “career” and “personal” it all seems a little less daunting. And at this point, most of that early life segment has been completed.

Brianna Juaire was born in Falmouth Massachusetts on October 16, 1993. She moved through the Falmouth public school system before attending Sturgis Charter Public School in Hyannis MA, graduating  in 2012.

When I think of it this way, life is digestible enough. It isn’t anything that cannot be compressed into a paragraph or so. And maybe that’s a good thing, because it allows me to look back at the progression of my life, objective and distant, and make a judgment about the decisions and small fateful happenings that have lead me to where I am today. I am a high school graduate, I have gone through the International Baccalaureate program. These accomplishments add another layer to my identity.

I find a lot of comfort  in knowing where I have been, what I have done. But the article doesn’t end there. And although this might seem like an obvious metaphor for the uncertain future, I’m less afraid of the looming blank space after the article and more and more afraid of the inevitable black type that will complete it, quietly dividing and summarizing my life into a reader friendly format.

The inconspicuous black type. An insurmountable obstacle. Because something needs to happen, right? Life shows no signs of slowing down.

When I came to Sturgis, I took for granted the fact that I would graduate and that I would earn an IB diploma. The sentence was written, and only the waiting remained.

Sturgis Faculty

I’m standing up here now, and yes I’m excited, bursting with energy, ready to attack the near future and launch my dreams into infinity and beyond. But I’m also very very tired and a little worse for wear. Why? Because it was more than waiting for an inevitable end. I worked and I tried, I cried and well- no, the IB didn’t kill me. In fact, what exhausted me the most was the whole process of living; being a person and going through all the ugly evolution that comes with the territory.

My biggest misconception upon entering high school was that my student career would simply take on a life of its own, grow without water or sunlight, without blood sweat and tears. I was under the impression that time, the unstoppable force that it is, would take care of the rest, and I could sit back and watch myself grow up.

But now as I turn towards the blueprint for the rest of my life, I know that it is not segregated into inevitable phases but rather is arranged as a very large and shadowy obstacle course, with lots of makeshift hula-hoop tunnels and tiny dark spaces for me to fight my way through.

I think sometimes, especially in high school, we take the presence of others in our lives for granted. Because we’re focusing on ourselves, our own trajectories into adulthood and we forget that our surroundings, the people who sculpt, mold, fracture and enhance us are people at all. We reduce them to vague text, slanted in a vague direction in a vague article in a nameless magazine that we will never read. And then we go back to our own biographies and we make footnotes of them. They are as unreal as anything else in the future.

But in spite of this, we will all share a sentence in our various “early life” segments that represents what happens here today and the permanent intersection it has created between our lives. Then, having been affected by each other,  we will all return home and we won’t completely be aware or certain of what all the others are doing.

And that is the plight of the individual. Because it is so so hard. Because we’re thrust together in this tiny building on Main Street Hyannis and there’s an expectation that we all must surround each other on our multiple journeys to self discovery. It’s paradoxical really; on the one hand these are the years to find yourself and on the other, these are the years you form the bonds, extend the searching fibers that will latch onto other souls and shape you from the inside out.

Justin Pannell Happily
Accepts his Diploma
Photo by Vincent DeWitt for the Barnstable Patriot

As of today we have all added that new layer to our identities. We are high school graduates and we have gone through the International Baccalaureate program and we have gone through Sturgis together. And in the big world, with big people from every corner of the universe, we must find some solace knowing there is at least some small fraction of humanity that we belong to.

We’ll go forth, we’ll conquer, we’ll trip and stumble through the obstacle course and we’ll anxiously wait for the next sentence to appear. And we’ll join new clans and we’ll make new friends and we’ll find new families, and we’ll belong more and more in the world.

But for now, we stand in our iconic caps and gowns waiting to carry home the diplomas that we may some day take for granted, dismiss as bullet points on the list of life.

Truthfully, it is the people and the experiences which transform our lives from monotonous lines of print to colorful histories, which burst and bleed wisdom and spirit and experience.
If there is anything admirable about Sturgis, it is the school’s ability to be transformed by the living, breathing people inside of it. Like a grand contraption the people here are the hard working cogs, a delicate balance of pulleys and levers- they are buttons and switches and gizmos and gears, responsible for both the success and failures, the ups and downs, the rights and the far lefts. And when they’re fit together in an order both harmonious and bizarre, the result is another graduating class.

Sometimes we take things for granted. We assume the next sentence and we reduce our supporting characters to slapdash caricatures. But in the moment, in this moment, that sentence teeters on an edge and those bleary personalities are bouncing all around.

Let’s say, for the sake of visualization, our lives are wikipedia articles. Consistent and neatly formatted, the sum of my life, of your life, of his life, of her life, can and will be reduced to a few thick paragraphs.
But that’s not the point.
The book is worth more than the summary.
My lesson, and the lesson I’m trying to articulate is to never, ever take an ending for granted, because behind every ending is a long, perilous journey.
We are high school graduates. Many of us thought we’d get here (eventually), but we could never predict the ineffable combinations of bumps and bruises, detours and back-roads, mountains and valleys and rivers, we would encounter along the way.
These people and this place, (for better or for worse) are now a part of the otherwise demure sentence that encapsulates four years of high school. The awesome cascade of ideas. The flashes of brilliance. The potent waves of happiness punctuating the long droughts of tedium. Some of these things will fade while some will become immortalized in the golden haze of memory. But today, we’re gathered and this space is filled with effervescent energy. And If I can’t find the words to describe that kind of potential properly, I’ll try and be laconic:
Congratulations Class of 2012.

Address by Sturgis Faculty Member – Arthur Pontes

Arthur Pontes Addresses Class of 2012

Parents and friends of the graduates, Colleagues, members of the administration and of the board of directors, and, most importantly, members of the class of 2012:

What I want to talk to the graduating students about is who really was responsible for Angela Vicario’s embarrassment in Chronicle of a Death Foretold.  I want to answer (the key question for understanding Shakespeare’s Hamlet): What was he majoring in when he attended college before coming home to his father’s funeral/mother’s wedding?  Could it have been Theory of Knowledge?  I also want to explain, as if in a French existentialist play we could call “one exit” – why it is that Mr. Marble’s office door is mostly open but sometimes closed.    Finally I want to answer the question, really, how old is Mr. Pontes?

However, we can’t always get to do what we want to do in life no matter how badly we may want to, so I won’t answer these, what must be burning concerns of yours… besides, the answers to any of these questions will do you little good in your life to come.

Instead I will say a few words about electronic media, scuba diving and a little about soap operas.   I will also mention three tigers, two mice, and one elephant which I hope the animal lovers here today will appreciate.  I have the freedom to speak about these things because they may be of interest only for the few moments that I speak and then will be forgotten.  After all, no one ever remembers a graduation speech especially one that must only last for seven to ten minutes.

Before I go further with some thoughts for the class of 2012, I want to say a word to the parents present.  I have been told that when young bull elephants reach a certain age, – very close to same age that your graduates are today – they are expected to leave the herd with which they have lived for many years and be on their own.  Many of these teen aged elephants do not want to leave the security of home so the parents must hide when they keep coming back.  There are few hiding places for elephants and I understand that it is common for a mother elephant to try to hide behind a tree to avoid being seen thus forcing the young elephant to go off on his own.  This image of a huge adult elephant trying to hide behind a small tree somehow sticks in my mind.

Today can be an emotional day for both the graduates and for you as parents.  In today’s job market statistics indicate that anywhere from 25-45% of 21-28 year olds return to their parents’ home to live for at least a while.  This should help you with the emotional stress of dealing with your children leaving. They may be back sooner than you think.  I encourage you not to hide behind the trees should they come back.

Now that I have relieved or in some cases frightened both you and your parents it is time for me, once again, to speak directly to you, the graduates.  Many of us are aware how ubiquitous the electronic media have become.  T.V. , Facebook, Twitter, cell phones, e-mail and the internet are common features of everyday life especially for young people – which for me, at my age, means nearly everyone else that I encounter.  As teachers, my teaching comrades and I have learned to keep an eye out for the student with one hand on the lap so that she can send a text-message/tweet to a friend about the brilliance of the teaching skill she is currently witnessing.  Of course, she just might, as an afterthought, be arranging a lunch meeting or tweeting about her latest emotional condition.  All this is done while maintaining a glazed look of eye contact with the teacher which is meant to ensure one’s innocence and to signal to the inattentive teacher a complete involvement in the lesson at hand.  The new media are wonderful in obvious ways that need no repetition here.  The problem is not of the media but of our attention to them.  So – a warning follows:

Samantha Bruce
Photo by Vincent DeWitt for the Barnstable Patriot

We think about life in a couple of ways.  There is the world outside of ourselves, a series of events that we perceive through our senses.  However, we experience or make sense of those events in our thoughts and feelings.  It is this internal version of the world that, when mishandled can become not a reflection but, instead, our own personal soap opera of which we are the main actor and all others fill supporting roles.

I sometimes worry about what is going on in the second of these.  To really experience life attention or awareness is required.  Someone needs to turn off the soap opera for at least a little while.  This might allow us to have time to think about things in an unhurried deeper way.  I also worry that students today may be so busy surfing the web, texting, and using their cell phones that they have no time to focus on the moment in which they are living.

As mentioned in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything – in a modern sense of this text— there is a time to think and a time to day-dream,  There is a time to scuba-dive into the power and meaning of  words as in a  a poem, there is also a time to water ski over the words of a text with little concern for deep meaning[1], — there is a time to talk and a time to listen, there is a time to multi-task and a time to focus on only one thing, there is a time to be busy and a time to be still.

Speaking of time, now seems the right time for a story:  The story that follows is a centuries old Zen tale that may be of interest to you.  It goes as follows:

There was a man walking across an open field, when suddenly a tiger appeared and began to give chase. The man began to run, but the tiger was closing in. As he approached a cliff at the edge of the field, the man grabbed a vine and jumped over the cliff. Holding on as tight as he could, he looked up and saw the angry tiger prowling out of range ten feet above him. He looked down. In the gully below, there were two tigers also angry and prowling. He had to wait it out. He looked up again and saw that two mice had come out of the bushes and had begun gnawing on the vine, his lifeline. As they chewed the vine thinner and thinner, he knew that it could break at anytime. Then, he saw a single strawberry growing just an arms length away. Holding the vine with one hand, he reached out, picked the strawberry, and put it in his mouth. He thought to himself – how delicious.

Like the man in the story, I ask you to focus with deep attention and enjoy the moment right now, here at graduation. Stop thinking about where you will be in September or who will attend tonight’s party, or where who is to meet whom later today. Instead take hold of the delicious strawberry in front of you.

Look out at the hundreds of people who are here today to celebrate your rite of passage into adulthood that we call graduation.  Notice the smiles and the way your parents walk with pride today.  Look at the classmates on either side of you.  These are the people together with whom you struggled, laughed and cried for the past four years. Look at those quixotic teachers in their funny medieval gowns, those sometimes kooky people, who never gave up on you and who tried their flawed best to help you learn and to help you know how to live more meaningful and fuller lives.  Take a good look. You most probably will never see them again – yet these are people who have helped you discover who you are.

Look at the beautiful setting for your graduation.  This tent reminds me of the sails of a ship returning home after a four year voyage – bleached white by the sun- it is also reminiscent of the clouds. It is if we are sitting in the sky.  Not everyone gets to graduate in such a beautiful setting.  Pay attention, too, when the bell rings to sign you out of your voyage at Sturgis at the end of this ceremony. This bell marks the end of your childhood.

Finally, I also ask you today, for just the three or four hours after graduation, to practice gaining control over your use of the media.  I ask you to turn off your phones and other devices for just this short time. Turn off your soap opera as well. There is plenty of time left in the day for you to be in touch with your 3,000 closest friends on Facebook—there is plenty of time for you to be busy, oh so busy, not to mention time to worry about being chased by tigers.   Like the man in the tiger story, I ask you to focus with deep attention and enjoy the moments you will spend with your parents, your friends and, perhaps, relatives this afternoon.  Talk to your aunt, sit next to your grandparent, listen to what thoughts your mother and father have about today and your place in their lives, listen to your uncle’s corny jokes, offer your neighbor a chair, offer your friend a drink.  Again, eat and taste the wonderful strawberry that, today, is right within your reach.

So I wish you all Godspeed in your voyage through life. — Remember: Carpe Diem  –  Seize the day.    Thank you.


1. This image is adapted from The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr, page 7.  Norton, 2011

Address by Anna Lieberman,  Sturgis Class of 2012

Anna Lieberman Addresses Class of 2012

I’d like to take a few minutes to talk to you about procrastination. It’s the bane of the high school experience – the thing that darkens the circles under our eyes, increases our stress levels, and makes us feel really, really silly because it’s technically completely under our control. We all put things off: IB assessments, simple homework assignments, college applications, even writing graduation speeches… We fill our time with little activities, telling ourselves that we’ll start that project right after this chapter, or this episode, or this last level. The majority of us will, eventually, get around to the assignment, but not without a whole lot groaning about how little time we have to do it… Of course we realize we could have started earlier, but what fun is homework if you can’t thoroughly complain about it?

I will admit to being a particularly spectacular procrastinator. I put off entire enormous projects until the last possible second – I actually put off this speech until literally the day that it was due. I’ve been doing this since my freshman year, and every time I told myself that I’d “get a handle on it”, I always figured that, well… I could always start tomorrow, right? The closer I got to the end of my high school career, though, the clearer it became that there were fewer and fewer “tomorrow’s” that I would get. I wasn’t just putting off schoolwork until the last minute, I was putting off something a lot bigger: the realization that one day, I would actually be leaving Sturgis.

When you’re a freshman, it feels like you have forever until your graduation. Four years might as well be an eternity, and turning 18 sounds like the end of a road you’ll never reach. People say that time flies when you’re having fun – but the truth is that time flies when you’re not paying attention. I can’t remember my first day of high school; I can’t remember what I wore, or what class I had first. There’s a lot I can’t remember, but by the same token, the tiny fragments of the past years have somehow knit themselves into one larger picture. I do remember the bigger things: my favorite teachers and what I learned from them, lunches spent enjoying the sunshine on the green with friends, the eclectic open mic nights and wonderful theatre productions and impromptu guitar playing in the middle of the hallway. That’s what Sturgis really is, when you break it down: it’s a beautifully odd conglomeration of hundreds of different personalities, opinions, voices and stories, all somehow working together and winding themselves into one community. If I were to put it into metaphorical terms, I would describe Sturgis as a pointillism painting: something amazing made up of many, many tiny little parts. When you step back and look at it as a whole, it’s incredible; when you look at each individual piece, it is no less impressive.

It took me until last week to actually realize this for myself. Even after I’d technically finished classes, I still didn’t believe that things were really going to be over; I wouldn’t have to say goodbye to anyone, I wouldn’t have to face the real world! I might have gotten into college, but that was still so far away – right? Clearly, this is not the case; this is very much our last day as Sturgis students, and bittersweet as that might be, it’s unavoidable. Standing here in a cap and gown, there’s really no way that I can deny it; I might be a darned good procrastinator, but even I can’t put this one off any longer.

In some ways, one could argue that high school is procrastination for life: we spend four years of our pre-adult years in the nice, all-inclusive bubble of our school, learning life lessons and self-sufficiency with the added benefit of a safety net. We pretend that 180 days of school per year is the longest span of time in the whole entire world, and we count down the days until graduation like it’s nothing but a number to reach. If high school is in itself a form of procrastination, though, it’s procrastination of the most beautiful sort: we are missing no deadlines, we are decreasing no grade; this is not avoidance, but preparation. I’ve never simultaneously felt so ready and so unprepared for the future – I’ve grown more than I thought possible over my years here, but who doesn’t always want just a little more time to practice? The funny part is, though, I’m entirely okay with feeling that kind of emotional dichotomy; if I was entirely ready to leave, I’d be afraid of not having made enough of a connection here, and if I was entirely terrified, well… I’d be entirely terrified.

See, if there’s one thing I’ve learned while at Sturgis, apart from more academia that I thought it was possible to shove into my head, it’s that no matter what you’re feeling at any given time, it’s generally a good thing to just take a deep breath and let yourself feel it. High school’s not just about learning, it’s about growing, and experiencing, and learning to embrace whatever life throws your way. High school is full of late nights and laughter and the occasional heartbreak, and what a waste it would be to forget about those! Yes, we’ve been putting off going into the real world – but we’ve been living in a very real world of our own. The cheesiest sentiment ever to be associated with high school is that these are the “best years of your life”; this is usually responded to with a chorus of groans and “I certainly hope not!”’s.

Sturgis Faculty

So yes, this sentiment is overused and not wholly truly, but do me a favor and bear with me for a second and take it with a few heavy grains of salt. Maybe these aren’t the best years of our lives, but maybe they’re not the worst, either; no matter how they rank in each individual case, the thing is that they are four years of our lives. We spent approximately 720 days wandering the poster and mural covered walls of Sturgis, and we all took something different from it. Some of us spent most of our time on the playing field, some of us in the art building; some of us hated every second of every math class, and some of us loved nothing more. Overall, though, we all made it – we all made it through to be here today, and even though that, too, is incredibly cheesy, it’s also incredibly true. We’re here. We did it. We made it.

So do me one more favor, if you will, and take a deep breath right now. Breathe in the air around you, because this is the only time it will be quite this exquisite in this exact way – breathe in and think about what you’re feeling. And whatever it is? Just… feel it.

Congratulations, Sturgis Charter Public School Class of 2012. More than anything else, you have earned this. Embrace it, appreciate it – and maybe, just this time, try not to put that off.


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