Graduation 2016 – Sturgis West

Banner - Tent

June 4, 2016 was the perfect day for the 3rd graduation of Sturgis West and the 15th 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. This article includes full text of most graduation speeches along with links to videos of several speeches and a selection of photographs by Jarvis Chen and Marion Weeks.  We hope the speeches, videos and photographs capture a bit of the spirit of the 2016 Sturgis West Graduation.

Procession Passes Barnstable Town Hall

Procession Passes Barnstable Town Hall

Congratulations Sturgis West Class of 2016: Julia C. Adams, Julianna L. Almonte, Thomas F Andre, Nicole A. Asquino, Travis R. Bagnardi, Ethan H. Bailey, Eric N. Barroso, Kailey A. Barrows, Mary M. Blackwell, Austin J. Boucher, William H. Britton, Lydia M. Brox, Daniel C. Burke, Kenneth M. Byron, Audrey I. Calianos, Christopher S. Calle-Maldonado, Kelly E. Cameron, Kaitlyn R. Campbell, Shane F. Canty, Cody J. Carter, Caitlyn R. Chiappini, Cameron D. Christopher, Alison E. Cifello, David M. Clark, Emily Raye G. Cormier, Vail E. Cote, Shannon M. Crowley, Matthew T. Cubetus, Elizabeth M. Dellamorte, Andrew R. Depin, John G. Doherty Jr, Sarah J. Dutra, Harper C. Edwards, Andrew C. Flaherty, Jayme E. Fox, Seth J. Franco, Stuart B. Friedrich, Liam G. Furey, Ada L. Garcia, Marissa A. Genduso, Samar N. Ghai, Shannon M. Glover, Sean T. Glynn, Molly R. Goldberg, Alexander R. Grant, Justin N. Harold, Alexis M. Hartnett, William H. Hicks, Tyler J. Hoffner, Isabella O. Howells, Samuel P. Joy, Katherine T. Kane, Rohan D. Kansagara, Elaine P. Kearney, Jessica W. Kimball, Madison R. Kooharian, Rachel M. Kossack, Sean P. Leary, Jennifer L. Leather, Brett M. LeGeyt, Nicholas A. LeRoy, Dylan Joseph R. Lovelace, Grayson B. MacKenzie, Ashley E. MacKinnon, Rory H. Malloy, Madeleine E. McDermott, Olivia P. McPherson, Samantha M. Mitrokostas, Balladine F. Morgan, Andrew W. Morris, Augustus A. Most, Stephen J. Murray, Christian J. Muxica, Greta P. Nelson, Catherine S. Palmer, Christopher J. Parkin, Brooke N. Paulding, William R. Perry, Jordan E. Plummer, Eric V. Procaccino, John P. Ryan, Shannon R. Saffle, Alexander V. Sheremet, Maxim V. Sheremet, Nina S. Silva, Karen J. Stewart, Sarah R. Swanson, Bryce E. Thomas, Charles H. Thomas, Madison N. Tichenor, John W. Travers, Althea J. Turley, Benjamin M. Waithe, Jacob A. Washburn, Taylor L. Waugaman, Carina H. Way, Hadley E. Weeks, and Cullen J. Yuska

Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

Arthur Pontes with Sturgis Ship's Bell at Hyannis Harbor

Arthur Pontes with Sturgis Ship’s Bell at Hyannis Harbor

Sturgis 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 and Paul Marble along with bagpiper Maura Coughlin, 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 ship’s bells and an occasional blast from a ferry’s horn.

Principal Jenn Kirk assists seniors signing Ship’s Log

Signing the Ship’s Log

After 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.


Welcoming Address by Paul Marble, Associate Director

Paul Marble welcomes friends and families

Paul Marble welcomes friends and families

Sturgis West Class of 2016, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends: today is a momentous day.

Ninety-eight Sturgis West seniors – soon to be graduates – sit behind me, expectantly.  They are nearing the end of one journey, about to embark on another, and for the last time each of these one hundred people will be an active part of this special group – the class of 2016.

We gather here near the edge of the ocean on a beautiful June day – the sky is blue, the grass is green and the air is pleasant – and listen to people who care deeply about Sturgis and each other. We see the looks on graduates’ faces when they are handed their well-earned diplomas. We bask in the pride, joy, and love on the faces of those who came here to celebrate. All of this feels quite momentous to me.

As our soon-to-be-graduates are IB students, they may have held that statement – today is a meaningful day – up to closer scrutiny: “But, Mr. Marble, how do you know it is a momentous day” for us?

I  assume so based on what many of you wrote in your graduation speeches. You see, parents and friends, we have a custom at Sturgis that every senior writes a graduation speech, and a committee of faculty chooses the two speeches that are most evocative of our Sturgis beliefs and values to be given at graduation; you will hear from Sam Joy and Johnny Travers, shortly. I have had the pleasure of reading all of the speeches, and I would like to continue our custom of sharing select passages from these speeches with you today.

When I call your name, please stand while I read your words aloud:

Tommy Andre

Tommy Andre

From Tommy Andre: “I would like to begin by talking about a question that really intrigued me early this year. To most people this question seems ordinary and a child’s question, but I know from my studies in ToK that this question was so much more. The question read, “So really, where is Waldo?”

I believe that Waldo is the person who sticks out in a crowd. He is different from everyone else. He wears his red and white striped clothing with a grin on his face. No one else looks or acts quite like him.

I believe the Waldo in me, as for many of us, finally shined at Sturgis. Sturgis has allowed each of us to become who we really are, to stand out in a crowd and be unique. Everyone of us is different, and it is the many aspects of Sturgis that has allowed us to show these differences, that we aren’t the same, and excel individually and grow as a community because of them. At a different high school, we would have our athletic kids hanging out in one group and our artists in another. But Sturgis isn’t like that, to quote our teachers, “we don’t do that here.” Not only do we all hang out together, artists with athletes and so on, I don’t think you can even define any of us under one category like that. Some HL Math survivors paint pictures like Van Gogh. Athletes perform in plays as well as Jazz band. There is no one niche to define anyone of us. We shine best working together.”

Sarah Swanson

Sarah Swanson in background

From Sarah Swanson: “An heirloom tomato is a crop that has not been affected by modern agriculture. Heirloom tomatoes are authentic, genuine and highly sought after. Since they are so sought after, it would be expected that there would be more heirlooms than conventionals, but there aren’t. Heirlooms are hard to grow. You need very specific conditions to grow them. Over the winter you need to plant a nitrogen fixing cover crop to strengthen the soil, spread phosphorus, potash filled compost and control the ph of the soil. They can also be easily affected by other crops: an avocado from California or a pepper from Louisiana can carry their local diseases that move through the air as spores and hurt the tomato plant if it isn’t strong enough. When that tomato is grown with effort then the plant will be strong and bear the best fruit.

Sturgis has the perfect soil for growing heirloom thinkers. Sturgis provides students with a supportive and nurturing environment like a fertile soil. The students grow and become stronger due to their strong relationships with their hardworking teachers. The students are not changed by the IB disease spores moving in the air because they have strong roots. Being an heirloom is worth all the trouble it takes to figure out all of the acronyms, write multiple IAs and three weeks of IB exams. These heirloom students will grow up to be authentic, genuine and highly sought after.”

Grayson MacKenzie

From Grayson MacKenzie: “When it comes to birthdays and anniversaries, it is common for friends and family members to ask us, “Do you feel different?”, or “How does it feel being so-and-so years old?” Sometimes we might might respond with, “Uhm, yeah! I feel older, I guess!”, or, if one year we feel like being more honest than others, we might say, “No, not really, I feel pretty much the same.” And it’s true: we don’t grow a year older over the course of a day, but over the course of a year. The time that passes as we revolve around the big, fiery, spicy meatball in the sky might make us older, but it is what we do with that time that makes us mature.

And so when the time comes to reflect on your time at Sturgis, don’t ask yourself, “How have I changed today, the day of graduation?”, but rather “How have I changed in the past four years?” ‘Because while today makes us graduates, our time at Sturgis has made us adults. And while today we become scholars, in our time at Sturgis we became intellectuals. And while today awards us a Diploma, our time at Sturgis has awarded us experience. Don’t be proud of your cap and gown, be proud of what you did to earn them.”

Karen Stewart

From Karen Stewart: “As many of you know, I am not a particularly loud, outgoing person. To this day, I’m still not sure Mr. Scott knows what my voice sounds like. This doesn’t mean that I don’t pay attention, or that I haven’t learned. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t grown since freshman year, when I wore the same horrific sweater each day and never raised my hand. What it means is that I chose the right high school. Sturgis knew how to teach me, exactly as I am. I never felt like I had to be an outgoing student to be a valued student. What Sturgis taught me is that it’s okay that it took me four years to be comfortable in a socratic seminar, because I got there eventually. Sturgis made it possible for a shy kid like me to be friends with Johnny Travers, who quite literally never stops shouting, because it never pressured us to be like one another.”

Jen Leather

From Jen Leather: “If this school has taught me one thing, it would be that success is based off determination. Before I enrolled in Sturgis,“No” and “can’t” were two words too familiar to me. Sometimes I wish that my middle school teachers could see me now. I wonder what they would be thinking. Knowing me from 5 years ago, they would have never thought that I would be up here presenting a speech I wrote, to an audience of people. They would have never thought that  I would be going into a field involving literature and writing when I didn’t know how to even read until the age of 10. They especially wouldn’t have ever thought I would be graduating from one of the most rigorous high schools in Massachusetts. My middle school teachers would look at me now and probably be asking someone to pinch them, convinced this was all a dream. They wouldn’t believe this. And I’m sure of it.

For us at Sturgis seeing isn’t believing anymore. We no longer need to see or experience a moment in order to have faith in the fact that it’s gonna happen.”

Ada Garcia

Ada Garcia

From Ada Garcia: “I would like to thank Mr. Hieser. For bringing the IB to us, and for fighting to keep Sturgis running. As much as we complain about it, we know that it has taught us skills which have changed the way we perceive things. While we’re sad to see you go, we are also glad we had the chance to get to know you. Thank you for Sturgis, the IB, for pushing us to be the best we can be, and most importantly, for understanding that sometimes we’re a tiny bit late to class because we just had to stop for our morning coffee.”

Althea Turley

Althea Turley

And, finally, from Althea Turley: “We challenged the expectations of our building. Sturgis West came out of a box. My dad drove me to the Sturgis lot in June before Freshman year. He told me to get out of the car and touch one of those boxes with my fingertips so I could stand here today and say that I was the first Sturgis student to come into contact with the new building. (He has amazing foresight.) This new building had no cafeteria, gym, auditorium, theatre, or athletic fields. Cynics wondered first if the building would be constructed in time and secondly how, without the expected facilities the students could learn not just how to differentiate logarithms but how to grow and achieve their full potential. Yet the school slowly evolved and became a colorful, open, beautiful, and vibrant place. Mr. Hieser was right; it truly is the people who make the school and not the building.”

To my initial claim: today is a momentous day, I now add the rationale: because today is a culmination of the past four years where we have all chosen to live, think, and gather with great intentionality, care, and reflection. Students, faculty and family have made our collective Sturgis experience meaningful, and today is a day to celebrate in that accomplishment.

Just as all of our seniors are graduating, so, too, are many of our faculty about to embrace their own new opportunities. I would like for the following faculty to please stand so that we can show our appreciation for their commitment to our mission and our students:

Nick Conti, Eric Hillebrand, Matt Hodge, Mary Kulhowvick, Nhung Truong, and Ilan Vaisman, please stand.

Sturgis West class of 2016, congratulations, and thank you for choosing to see the best in each other and for making the most of yourselves. I hope that you always carry Sturgis in your hearts.

Greetings from the Board of Trustees – Fred Work, Trustee

Fred Work

Fred Work

Graduates, faculty, administrators, board members, family and friends of the class of 2016, welcome to this ceremony. I am honored to be chosen to represent our board. Actually, I volunteered …

I would like to take the spotlight off our graduates for a few minutes to honor a man without whom we would not be here today or without whom Sturgis would not be #1 in the Commonwealth and top 50 in the nation. He is our retiring—humble and retiring—executive director, Eric Hieser. I’ll get to the humble part later.

Since Sturgis Board of Trustees is so little known, give me a second or two to tell you who I am: My name is Fred Work.  I’m the longest-standing board member—got on the board in 2000 or 2001—so long ago, can’t remember exactly when! We have term limits. Ask me about them after graduation!

Well, they call me the institutional memory—never been sure how to take that … I’d like to take you back to a time when Sturgis was this close to returning our charter to the Commonwealth and closing our doors. I really want all of you to see the documentary coming out of the Sturgis History project. By now, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to say something about Eric. Well, you’ll see how it all comes together in about a minute.

Charter schools are supervised and regulated. We are inspected and have to apply to be re-chartered every 5 years. The board is required to be present at one or more of the examiners’ meetings. One such meeting has stayed in my memory for a very long time. Two examiners, Professors from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, came into a meeting and sat down next to me. They were saying: “O my gosh! There’s something really strange here: Sturgis kids are HAPPY!  This is a happy place, a happy school!” And then, “How is this done?” I immediately jumped in and said, “Easy! You hire a director who sets four parameters:

he or she hires teachers who love kids

he or she hires teachers who love their subject and love seeing students learning and growing

he or she hires teachers who are collegial, respect each other,and work as a team

and, as director, he or she maintains that collegiality and coöperation

Now, finally, you have heard about Eric Hieser. This is who he is.

I love it; Sturgis is my dream school. Here’s where I cite Eric’s humility: Over and over, I and many others have said, “Eric, you’ve done this! You’ve made this school what it is!” Eric’s response has always been to say, “No no! It’s the faculty and staff and students who have made Sturgis what it is today!” Team player is another way to describe Eric. If he sees that you have a better shot at scoring, this is the man who will get the ball to you.

I picked up a cute story from Paul Marble this morning. He and his wife were watching the rushes of the Sturgis History Project, the video I want all of you to see. He noted that whenever asked during an interview being filmed for this project, “What have you contributed to the success of Sturgis?” the interviewees consistently pointed and gave credit to everyone except themselves. Of course, I gave credit to Paul for making this observation. However, after an earlier delivery of this speech, Paul leaned over and told me that his wife had made the observation, not he!

This shows the humility factor here at Sturgis and it comes down from the top, from Eric Hieser himself. I call it trickle-down humility. Allow me to state one more inarguable point: Eric, you turned this school around. You took Sturgis from deep dysfunctionality to the highest levels of teaching and instruction any kid or parent could ask for. I was there. I saw it happen. I am witness to the evolution of Sturgis under your leadership. You did it, and thousands of people whose lives have been touched or changed by your policies—thousands of us are profoundly grateful for all you have done.

To be fair Eric, yes, you did not do this alone. However you have been the leader of the team which makes Sturgis what it is today. You leave Sturgis in a state of excellence and in good hands. You retire Summa Cum Laude.

Thank you, Eric Hieser

Farewell Address by Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Eric Hieser

Eric Hieser

Sturgis West Class of 2016, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends:

Class of 2016, it seems that we have something in common!  We are all coming to the end of our time at Sturgis this year.  I am sure that you are quite excited to move on to the next stages of your lives, but I would also not be surprised to hear that some of you are feeling some nostalgia about your time at Sturgis.  Although over the past weeks and months, I guess I have been repressing the thought of confronting the reality of June 30 as the last day of my joy of working with students and faculty over the past 45 years.  When people ask me if I am really looking forward to the next steps of my life, I tell them that I have not taken much time to think about it—probably because when one truly enjoys what one does in life (and is lucky to get paid for it!), it is difficult to think about life without students.  I actually think that it finally hit me when I first looked at the graduation program and it noted “Farewell Address” next to my name.  Some of you graduates may also be having some uneasy feelings about what life beyond Sturgis will bring, but the fear of the unknown is only natural.  I suggest that you should feel confident to take on any challenge with your IB education and your well-developed Learner Profile traits!

West 2013 Freshmen Orientation at Hyannis Harbor

West 2013 Freshmen Orientation at Hyannis Harbor

Some of you graduates may be reflecting on fond memories from our time at Sturgis, starting with when you began your journey at Camp Burgess, and learned about the life of William Sturgis and its parallels with Sturgis students, and you signed the log book signifying the start of your IB voyage.  I am sure that you will remember many of the traditions and high points of the Sturgis experience, almost as they were yesterday—experiences such as international trips, Model UN, homecoming games and dances, prom, awards ceremonies, IA’s, mocks, the EE, and IB exams, and–many other memories that only you know about—and it is probably best left that way!

Eric speaks to grads at Alumni Reunion 2011

Eric speaks to grads at Alumni Reunion 2011

You know, we have learned a great deal from our students and faculty over the past 12 years of my time at Sturgis.  Some people may have thought that the Sturgis of today came from some grand design that we have worked toward since 2004, but to the contrary, we are only now able to put labels and descriptors on what has evolved from the outstanding collaborative work of students and faculty with a vision of what might be.  We have also learned a great deal from the many visitors who have spent one or several days observing Sturgis over the past 12 years.  One of the key takeaways that we gained from Dr, Jal Mehta and his team from the Harvard Graduate School of Education after their 10-day visit was his observation that “School Culture Can Have a Significant Impact on Deeper Learning.”

So, I firmly believe you, the Class of 2016, have had an outstanding faculty, an IB for All experience, and a vibrant, inclusive school culture that are the key parts of Sturgis that have changed your lives, and these are actually reflections that many of you have articulated over the past several weeks. The culture that we have aspired to create is multi-faceted, but quite intentional, and includes:

  •  Helping each student strive to maximize his/her potential—it is not achieve compared to what the student sitting next to you achieves but what you achieve compared to your own potential;

    IB Exams

    IB Exams

  • An IB for All program builds a sense of camaraderie among students—although some of you may have described it as camaraderie through misery;
  • An unswerving focus on Student Learning is Why We Are Here—as the driver for all decisions;
  • Developing a mindset of “if you try to maintain, you lose”–you always want to be enhancing and tweaking what you do to make it better for learning;
  • Building trust and mutual respect among students, faculty, and school leaders—a culture of We–rather than Us & Them;
  • Emphasizing that it is not what you know—but it is what you do with what you know that makes you successful;
  • Helping students understand that it is not the end result each year–or at the end of high school that is important—but the most important thing is the journey in developing the habits of mind to be successful in university and in life that is most important.
  • Realizing that the most impactful thing that we as school leaders do is to hire great people—and then to stay out of their way for the most part. (Recognize Faculty)
  • I pause to recognize some of the key people that have helped Sturgis to evolve and grow over the past 12 years: 1st IB Coordinator Arthur Pontes, Principal Chris Andre, IB Coordinator and first Sturgis West Principal Peter Steedman, current IB Coordinators Cindy Gallo and Julie Carman, & Principal and incoming Executive Director Paul Marble.  Their leadership contributed significantly to the Sturgis of today.

I will end my words with my favorite quote about:

Eric Hieser Conducts First Assembly at West – August 29, 2012

Eric Hieser Conducts First Assembly at West – August 29, 2012

“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.”

So, Sturgis faculty—I challenge you to:  Be All That You Can Be—by continuing to enhance your impact on transforming public education across the U.S. and around the world.

Class of 2016—I challenge you to:  Be All That You Can Be—by reaching your potential—every day—every year—and sharing your influence with others so that you can lift everyone up.

Thanks to all of you for an amazing end to a career. I would not have wanted it any other way!!!

Sturgis West A Capella Seniors

“God Only Knows”  The Beach Boys, Arranged by Clay Hines 

Sturgis Class of 2016 – Sam Joy

Sam Joy

Sam Joy

The day I found out that I was accepted to Sturgis was on a stereotypically unlucky day. On Friday the 13th in January 2012, my parents told me that my name was picked within the 200 accepted students. Even though that should have been a bad omen, I can safely say that attending Sturgis was one of the most fortunate events in my life. The statement often echoed about the IB Diploma and about Sturgis overall is that “it’s hard, but it’s worth it”. The Programme, the exams, the rigorous coursework, the ridiculous amount of homework, and many more factors make this school arguably one of the hardest and best in the state. However, we survived. We have slain the IB Dragon once and for all, valiantly conquered after two years of preparation and a month of exams. Was it hard? Of course. As Mr. Pace would put it, the Physics exam was a “spicy meatball”, and many hours of sleep were lost in the studying process, but it was indeed worth it. Beyond the academic challenge, though, Sturgis has also challenged us to grow as individuals, and fostered among every student a desire to learn and grow.

When I walked through the doors of Sturgis for the first time, I felt welcome. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was somewhere that I belonged. Every day I came to school, there was always some familiar face to greet with a smile, Johnny’s famous voice already echoing halfway across the school bright and early in the morning. During my time at Sturgis, I met many people similar to myself, people who were very passionate about what they loved and who were not afraid to come across as a bit nerdy because of that. The word “nerd” is usually thrown around in a negative light, but here at Sturgis we are all nerdy in our own regard, and that is a wonderful thing. Whether it be in-depth discussions of baseball statistics with Mr. DiBrita and some of my friends, making awful music puns in IB Music (“if it ain’t Baroque don’t fix it” has been beaten to death by this point), or calculating the average flight speed of an unladen African swallow in Physics, my nerdiness knew no bounds, but that was perfectly normal. Beyond embracing my nerdiness, I am definitely vastly different from who I was in freshman year. Every day brought something new, and inspired change within my life as I shed away my awkwardness, replaced with a sense of confidence and ambition shaped by the world around me.

When I left the school I had attended for eight years to attend Sturgis, I was eager to begin anew, excited to leave everything behind and truly be myself. As I stand here now, ready to take the next great step and attend university, I am eager as well, but not for a fresh start. I now have a clearer picture of myself than I did on the first day of high school. Thanks to those around me, the connections and relationships I have made during my four years here at Sturgis with all my peers has helped me to define who I am as a person, and give me the foundation upon which to build my life as I look forward.

Sam Joy

Sam Joy

The sheer devotion and passion which I have been surrounded by at school is truly inspiring, and has left a lasting impression which I hope to bring with me wherever I may go. Not enough thanks can be given to the faculty of Sturgis and the families of the students, who constantly help to guide us all toward our dreams. We are all here thanks to the persistent, unwavering dedication of those around us in our lives, which is something to truly be thankful for. As I look out into the audience and among my classmates, I see more than a few recognizable faces. I see friendships made to last, bright futures just about to begin, and some of the most passionate individuals one could ever meet. Just to name a few highlights of the Class of 2016 – a music producer signed to a record label at the age of seventeen, a figure skater who competes internationally, an up-and-coming film critic, a politician who ran a write-in campaign and won, a semi-professional soccer player, amazing actors, virtuosic musicians, talented athletes, writers, brilliant minds, leaders, and more. This is a group of people who I will always remember, and who I can only graciously thank for the fond memories over my entire high school career.

Everyone here today is likely familiar with John F. Kennedy and his famous quote, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” In the vein of his words, I ask the Sturgis West graduating class of 2016, ask not what the world can do to help you along your way, for it has already provided you so much. Instead, ask yourself what you can do for the world. Challenge the status quo, and bring your inspiring ambitions and passions wherever your journey leads. You have nothing to lose if you follow your dreams. You have a world to change.

William H. Burke Award –  Jennifer Kirk, Sturgis West Principal

Jenn Kirk

Jenn Kirk

This year’s recipient has been described as a “kind, considerate and polite young man who has earned the affection of our school community because of his sincerity, modesty and talent.

He has been an enthusiastic drummer for our jazz band and jazz combo for the past four years. He is regarded by his teachers as a powerful, prepared public speaker, a reflective writer, and a risk taker in class as well as in theatre productions.

Last year he attempted to fund and install a batting cage for the use of Barnstable little league and the Sturgis West team.

Despite his efforts, his service project did not come to fruition. Many students would have given up and moved on. But not this student.

This year he contacted the Town of Barnstable, a hundred local businesses and set up a go fund me account and hit his goal out of the park raising $2000 to build the batting cage and earning his Eagle Scout Badge.

Nick LeRoy (r)

Nick LeRoy (r)

Whether he’s building a batting cage for our Baseball teams, or running an enthusiastic bake sale for Prom Committee ticket sales, he spends countless hours analyzing the most effective way to raise funds for his latest project.

He’s incredibly persistent, meticulous and is spirited in his every effort not the least of which was his passionate plea in song to save the snow leopard.

He has demonstrated an ability to persevere through adversity, and his strength as a student and life-long learner should serve as an example to us all.

This year’s William H Burke Award goes to Nick LeRoy.

Sturgis Faculty – Dennis Pace, Physics

Dennis Pace

Dennis Pace

Good morning Mr. Hieser and Mr. Marble, Ms. Kirk, Fellow faculty ,Members of the Sturgis Board of Trustees , Parents , dignified friends ,and to the graduates of the class of 2016 ……Congratulations!

I know you are excited today….so do not go to sleep on me! I get dizzy looking at all the directions you were pulled in this year…! You have successfully completed the IB program…. CAS hours, extended essay, IAs.,Group 4 project, TOK. , the exams…not to mention all the club activities you participated in…the sports… SATs…and college applications…and my physics classes …my God…look what we did to you! It’s time for a victory lap….

Recent polls have ranked Sturgis as the top school in Massachusetts…You have received an IB education that compares to some of the finest schools around the world … We do not have to do a physics IA to come up with the conclusion… You really started off life hitting the lottery.

You are the first graduating class from West to have spent your entire four years at this campus… I knew some of you as scared anxious freshman in my algebra class. I remember then telling you to live up to your dreams……one girl took me seriously and slept through a couple of classes…..In 10th grade, most of us were together for physics….we learned about thermodynamics….I recall a lecture on “absolute zero”….I asked a boy what absolute zero was…..he replied…”that’s exactly what I’m going to get on the next test”…And from there you became sophisticated IB students and learned how to use our hi tech sensors. I recall asking one class what they thought the greatest invention in technology was during MY lifetime…expecting a response like the Smart Phone … a student shouted out “ the wheel”.

OK… Time goes by quickly…I used to part my hair…now it’s departed. As I get older the only thing that speeds up on me is time….

Quite a few years ago, when I was sitting where you are now….I REALLY had no idea what I wanted to do in life…in fact my yearbook quote was “Youth is No Companion to worry”….I probably would have been voted least likely to give a commencement address…If anyone had told me that I would actually live on every continent teaching physics in International Schools I would have told them they were absolutely INSANE…I thought learning a foreign language was a waste of my time…Now that I understand the importance of speaking another language, I wish I had paid more attention .I just wanted to be an accountant…because that’s what my mother told me…

I do not recall my commencement speaker when I graduated … I probably wasn’t listening… so…I’m not going to bore you with a long story …I can easily do it with a short one …You can’t go anywhere until I’m finished…so listen up!

When I graduated from high school the world was a different place:

  1. Mainframe computers at IBM took up a whole room and couldn’t do what the I phone does today.
  2. High School graduates could get a good job working 40 hours a week, receiving excellent benefits; including a pension after 20+ years. Now…in order to compete for decent jobs with these benefits

you will need at least a bachelor’s degree….

  1. College tuition including room and board was less than $3,000 a year……My friends and I got summer jobs on the cape waiting tables to save enough to pay for tuition at UMass……..the point is

Change is part of life…you have seen many already… And you will be part of future changes …Lockheed Martin has a mission to get humans to Mars by 2028… …there will be incredible advances in medicine and biotechnology…you may have a job that does not even exist today….

One of the biggest changes in your life is about to happen RIGHT NOW!….perhaps the biggest….

Dennis Pace Group Shot with students - JC

Dennis Pace with students prior to graduation

This is the first time you are not ascending to the next grade level…there is no grade 13…You now have to make your own choices…You will need to manage your own time…you are expected to make your own decisions… which will have rewards and consequences. ……It’s very difficult to be both young…and wise…

BUT…Something you should realize now is that you have nothing to lose…time is on your side…some of you are here thinking… what will I do now…what should I major in? ….You’ll be off to college next year with students from many different states …and in some cases… many different countries!

You’ll be away from your family; maybe for the first time…some of you will get homesick…some of you will thrive… You’ll find new friends, new professors, and new ideas. ….

Learn as much as you can …About as much as you can!…I myself found new friends that are still among my closest friends in the world……however I do wish I had learned more Spanish …it would have come in handy when I taught in Ecuador…! THERE IS NO SCRIPT FOR LIFE!!!

You’ll discover things about yourself that you never thought were possible. I was a disc jockey…You’ll be amazed at how many distractions you’ll have… all leading to new experiences …Before setting off…My father knew I could get myself in trouble..…”Be careful, son”…I said “thanks Dad”…and I was off to college. With my father in mind…I have a couple of suggestions:

Make sure that what you do is MEANINGFUL..

Focus on the important things in your life… Don’t eliminate worries…but worry about the right things! Don’t rush into things…You are no longer going to

be told what to do… Make good choices! Don’t let the distractions and stress in the world alter your priorities. Don’t give into temptation…stay focused..

Don’t be someone who falls for everything and stands for nothing! Find something you love and define yourself by this. Remember  Newton’s First Law…

There is a world starving for new ideas…in these troubled times we need people with International understanding…people like you…graduates of

the International Bac. Program…people who are able to nurture dialogue…not name calling. There is good reason to feel confident if you set out to find something you love… finding inspiration in the world

around you is harder than complaining about it… So have a high tolerance for frustration …you have experienced high frustration already…you all sat thru my physics classes! It is especially important that your generation get it right…..

Choose a path to follow………..find a job you love and never work a day in your life”…You can be very happy if you figure this out early in life. Take chances…challenge yourself…

Try new things…Reach out to people that can give advice and will help you get  over the hurdles…Get to know your professors…they can lead you on the right paths…do not avoid something because you fear the consequences…too many people are afraid of  failure. so they take the easy way…the safest path doesn’t always get you the best view of life …don’t get talked out of trying something you love!

Work for eight hours and sleep for eight hours…just make sure they are not the same eight hours. Nobody has ever died saying they remember having a good night’s sleep!

My grandmother spoke little English…she had a number of plaques on her wall… most were in Italian…there was one plaque in English that read  “You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust the sails”. Lead yourself in the right direction…Lots of detours will probably get in the way…You are not going to agree with everyone you meet…don’t alienate people when you might disagree with their opinion. Try to learn from others…respect their ideas…BUT… always have integrity and respect your own beliefs.

One of Albert Einstein’s most famous quotes is: “Insanity is making the same mistake over and over and expecting different results.” Try things out…if they don’t work then approach things differently the next time… Your mistakes are a blip . Learn from them…and move on.

My last and most important suggestion……Get over the bridge! … Remember what you learned in TOK! TOK told you to nurture international mindness. 

THE IB mission is “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect..And encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate, and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.”

It is a big world out there…Broaden your   horizons…open your mind to new ideas…gain experiences and learn about the world around you. Example:  John Russell and Jacob Chagnon came by to visit… …Jacob is studying at the Dubai campus of NYU…. and John is off to Thailand this summer to work on an elephant farm!

I found what I loved when I went to teach in Australia quite a few years ago…It was a turning point in my life…I left a tenured teaching position in Springfield. I asked myself…do I really want to leave a safe job and family to go to the other side of the world? Risktaker? I took this opportunity and it changed my life…it was a start of my overseas career..I was lucky…sometimes luck determines your fate…right place right time! 

If you have a chance to go overseas…grab it!…You will learn that whether you are from Massachusetts or Mozambique ..people have the same basic needs…love, family, respect, communication, understanding, health, and a sense of humor…we are all part of this thing called life…your values…your beliefs…are not necessarily any better than someone who grew up in a different part of the world and approaches life a bit differently. Do you remember The Golden Rule? It’s amazing how much that simple concept has helped me in life…it almost always works…kindness trumps knowledge… People will respect you if you respect them. The effect you have on others is what you will be remembered by… Stand for something…something good…EXAMPLE:  Sturgis stands for “IB for ALL.”

I want to conclude by telling you about something that is very important to me…Maintaining a sense of humor…it helps you to learn, adapt, grow, and survive. Don’t take yourself too seriously…find opportunities to laugh…focus as much energy on what is funny or positive in your life as you do on the problems. Don’t talk about yourself too much …others will do that for you after you are gone.! You might find that you get more work done when you take yourself a little less seriously…Laughter is one of the great healers…life is much easier to deal with if you can see the lighter side. Don’t blow things out of proportion…after all…you will never get out alive.

You are about to enter the best time of your life…. please keep in touch….you will never have more energy, and enthusiasm……or hair… than you have today … remember Newton’s First Law….and “be careful”… Good luck…and thank you for including me.

Sturgis Class of 2016 – John Travers

Johnny Travers – 2016 Graduation Speech

Johnny Travers

Johnny Travers

You’re in the front seat of the car. Your legs are shaking, your hands are sweating. You’ve got about a billion and a half thoughts running through your head. “What if I don’t make any friends?”, “What if my phone dies and I don’t have anyone to call for a ride home?”, “What if I applied too much hair gel today?”, and even “What if I don’t belong here?” Then you walk inside, and are greeted by some of the most welcoming and positive faculty members you’ve ever met, each with a smile on their face that reads the words “Welcome to Sturgis!” This is where you’ll be spending the next four years of your life.

Flashforward to today, where we all sit on the green, looking out at our friends and family members, wearing our cap and gowns and are aching to ring that bell and throw our hats in the air in celebration that we’ve made it. But before we go nuts, it’s time we let this thought sink into our heads: “We are adults now.” Granted, some of us may be a bit more ready for adulthood than others. But that’s okay. The term adult is defined as a person who is fully grown or developed into maturity. But honestly, I feel that the word “adult” is somewhat subjective. Since when are any of us done growing as people? Do we stop growing, learning, and developing at the age of eighteen? As soon as we head on out of the house to college or any other path we’ve chosen, we are in a whole new chapter of our lives, and yet, some of us might feel the exact same way we did coming to Sturgis for the first time. Legs shaking, hands sweating, asking ourselves if we truly belong on the path we’ve chosen for ourselves. Well, reaching adulthood doesn’t mean we stop growing altogether. We as humans experience new moments of understanding, confusion, and ways to improve everyday, regardless of what age we are. That’s also where Sturgis has done us justice. The skills we’ve developed, such as ‘balance’, ‘risk taking’, and ‘reflection’ through the IB curriculum will stay with us through any experiences that may seem intimidating to the everyday “ordinary citizen.”

‘Balance’ is an important IB learner trait. Any senior sitting out here today can tell you it; balancing work can be daunting. With balancing the workload of CAS, homework, Extended Essays, IA’s, EA’s, preparing for IOC’s and IOP’s, maintaining the status as a member of a certain club, sport, theatre production or any other activity, while at the same time having space to simply hang out with friends and, for a vast majority of us, sleep, a student could find some difficulty. However, the teachers here at Sturgis have supported our growth as individuals and have been willing to answer any desperately-needed questions we ask. The faculty showed support for those who were willing to push themselves to do the best they could do. But ultimately, it came down to us; how we pushed ourselves beyond what we expected of ourselves to balance this overwhelming amount of work. There were times of stress, there were times of tears, there were times where we questioned whether or not we forgot to do something the previous night, only to find out in class that that fear had become a reality. But when it comes down to it, we have come out on top, and we’ve learned to balance all the IA’s, all of the essays, and managed to be an active club member, sports-player, or theatre performer in the process. So we can pat ourselves on the back for that.

Johnny Travers

Johnny Travers

Another IB learner trait is ‘risk taking’. Most of us were taking a risk even coming to Sturgis! As soon as we stepped through those lobby doors into the building, each and everyone of us were taking a risk already. Then came the day of the club-fair, where we were all exposed to different clubs and activities that ranged from MUN to Longboarding Club. Some of us may have gone immediately over to the activities that we were already a part of before we came to Sturgis. The jocks may have gone over to the basketball table, the thespians may have gone over to the STAGE table. Yet, I’ve met so many students in this grade who tried clubs that tested their comfort level. I’ve known students who were bookworms that tried cross country, I’ve known cross-country runners who have tried out acting, I’ve known actors who tried out engineering! So many students in this grade have tried activities that were way beyond what most people, and even themselves, expected of them. Then came the dragon. The monster. The IB. Junior and senior year were quite  interesting years for all of us. But that’s not to say it was all bad. As a matter of fact, it was very similar to clubs and activities. Students tried doing classes they weren’t sure about or made them think, “eh, should I have done this or done something that I would’ve found easier.” For many of these fine high school graduates, that risk molded into a newfound love for a new course. Some students chose to do theater instead of a second science, some students chose to push their knowledge of foreign languages further and take High Level French or Spanish, some students decided to YOLO it and take High Level Math because, well, why not? Despite whether or not a student chose to do the Full Diploma or not, the risk taking I’ve seen in this class is astounding, and I know for a fact that these students will take those risk-taking skills all the way to college and beyond, trying new things and becoming stronger individuals as time goes on.

Finally, I would like to discuss ‘reflection’ as an important IB learner trait, and instead of me just talking, I would like to ask the successful class sitting behind me to reflect on the past four years. Reflect on who you were as a freshman coming into this school. Reflect on what fears you had or what thoughts you had of yourselves and your classmates starting out at school. Reflect on the goals you had, and what you wanted to achieve. Is any of that still the same as where you stand now? What goals did you set for yourself? Have you achieved those goals? If not, don’t worry. High school may be over for us, but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to become better versions of ourselves. Some of us may feel the same way we did coming in as a freshman;  legs are shaking, hands are sweating, wondering if the path you’ve chosen is the one you truly belong on. The good news is, we are ready, despite what nerves we may have. To quote one of my absolute favorite and awe-inspiring rap artists Kendrick Lamar, the good news is that “we gon’ be alright.” The skills we’ve learned from some of the most welcoming and impeccable teachers, such as balance, risk taking, and reflecting will guide us along the paths that will make us who we are and who we strive to be. Look around guys, you’re surrounded by the friends who started this journey with you, and are now closing the book with you, with integrity, passion, and the strength to do great things. Your teachers and family are proud of you and you should be too. Your memories from high school will be with you forever, and with that in mind, I wish all of you the best as you navigate the path and find who you truly want to be. Best of luck, JTravsfireball out. Thank you.

Receiving of Diplomas and Signing the Ship’s Log


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