Graduation 2015 – Sturgis West

Harborview West Class of 2015

West Class of 2015 Graduation Rehearsal at Hyannis Harbor – May 29, 2015

May 30, 2015 was the perfect day for the 2nd graduation of Sturgis West and the 14th graduation of Sturgis East. Both graduation ceremonies were held at Aselton Park overlooking Hyannis Harbor. The day of festivities began with Sturgis East graduation at 10:00 AM followed by Sturgis West graduation at 2:30 PM. This article includes full text of graduation speeches along with links to videos of each speech 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 2015 Sturgis West Graduation.

Congratulations Sturgis West Class of 2015: Dylan Ackerman, Adele Ackert, Austin Baacke, Amanda Bagnardi, Joelle Bartley, Tyler Baylis, Logan Bergeron, Madeleine Bishop, Olivia Blomdahl. Sara Booth, Mary Burke, Sand J Butter, Conor Cameron, Amanda Carreiro, Alexandra Cassell, Jacob Chagnon, James Chiappini, Sarah Correia, Monique Crowley, Stephanie Crowley, Allegra Davis, Abigail Dimmick, Liam Doherty, Norway Dolan, Samantha Donoghue, Stefanie Dorfman, Hannah Durette, Maura Eldridge, Madalyn Faust, Anapurl Feldman, Luiza Froes, Dominic Fucile, Rachel Gardner, Alexandra Garston, Claire Gilliland, Sara Graff-Warner, Zoe Harris, Joshua Hassler, Anne Healy, Molly Heinlein, Jacob Hempel, Joel Hitchens, Katherine Johnson, Daniel Kamb, Brianna Kauranen, Dylan Krusz, Olivia LaBarge, Russell Labbe III, Emily Langdon, Jordan Lebedevitch, John LeRoy, Alexander Longinidis, Mary LoPiccolo, Criscello Luz Roque, Marysa MacKoul, Rosemarie Maggio, Elizabeth Mahoney, Abigail Mann, Julia Marquette, Nina Maruca, Mary McCormack, Ian McKenna, Amy McMahon, Brittany McNally, Ethan McPherson, Diana Milkey, Emma Miller, Michael Mondello, Andre Morris, Edward Nadolny Jr,  Jesse Newcombe, Ryley Newton, Joachim Noble-Smith, Michael Noonan, Daniel O’Connell, Madeleine O’Neil, Dillon Oldham, Nicholas Parsons, Aneri Patel, Tulsi Patel, Cameron Perkins, Carson Perkins, Jack Perry, Ethan Piers, Lindsay Proctor, Kristoffer Quinn, Christian Reynolds, Paul Rhude, Vanessa Rizzitano, Jonathan Robert, Courtney Robinson-Matthews, Rebecca Rowe, John Russell, Signe Sampou, Christopher Shiels, Olivia Swenson, Curoude Sylvestre, Abigail Theirrien, Claire Thomas, Patrick Thut, Wesley Todoroff, Janell Torrey, Mete Tunali, Rachel Walman, Rose Webster, Taylor White, Madison Williams, and Troy Wiper

Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

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


Signing the Ship’s Log

Jenn Kirk with Ships Log

Principal Jenn Kirk assists seniors with signing out of the Sturgis 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 Eric Hieser, Executive Director

Sturgis West Class of 2015, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends:

Eric speechWelcome to the second Graduation Ceremony for Sturgis Charter Public School—West Campus., but it is actually the first class to spend all four years at Sturgis  We are very happy to present to you this Class of 2015, the trailblazers who wanted something different, something more. They have challenged themselves and embraced the Sturgis Mission of “International Baccalaureate for All”.  They have brought their diverse personalities, their passion, and their enthusiasm to create a very special school culture of academic excellence and caring.  The founders of Sturgis envisioned a unique public school that would challenge all students with academic rigor and would have many students achieve the IB Diploma. We are confident that the Class of 2015 embodies the traits that the IB envisions students to acquire, such as inquiry, caring, risk-taking, principled, and knowledgeable.

This Class of 2015 has helped Sturgis once again gain recognition across the Cape, Massachusetts, the U.S. and around the world.  This class helped Sturgis to be ranked by U.S. News and World Report as the #1 public high school in Massachusetts.  This ranking demonstrates how Sturgis students have sought out academic rigor and have gained the best preparation available for success in university.  Of course, our students can gain a sense of affirmation from this achievement, yet we know that it was only through the collaboration and support of our students, parents, faculty, and Board of Trustees that they and Sturgis are 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 speeches was a tremendous admiration and respect for their teachers.  I now ask the Sturgis West faculty to stand to be recognized by the class and the audience.   (Faculty Stand)

The Class of 2015 has had a very successful year in college admission with many of these seniors receiving significant scholarships and grants.  Their success has increased student and parent interest in attending Sturgis as we now have a very large waiting list, including more than 600 students still seeking admission to one of the two Sturgis campuses.

I would like to digress a bit now so that I can recognize one person will be retiring this year but who has meant so much to what Sturgis and Sturgis West have become.  He is someone who has been a mentor and guiding colleague to all of us, using his judgment, commitment, and interpersonal connection to ensure that Sturgis West became a vibrant, challenging, and welcoming IB for All experience for students and faculty.  Please stand and be recognized for your outstanding service, our thought leader and guiding compass, Arthur Pontes.

As I noted before, many of the Class of 2015 submitted excellent graduation speeches, but we were only able to choose two to be given today.  As our students live the Sturgis experience every day, a few years ago I started a graduation tradition of sharing with the audience some of the ideas and perspectives from speeches that are not being delivered today.

Seniors—please stand when I call your name:


Claire Gilliland

From Claire Gilliland:  There is a plaque hanging on the wall of my room that reads “some succeed because they are destined to; most succeed because they are determined to.”  This plaque perfectly embodies our graduating class.  Four years ago, we each determined to face the challenge which coming here entails.  One could go on about the challenges we took upon ourselves, but what is more important is the incredible bond we have created over the past four years.  I am always amazed at how far out of their way my classmates will go in order to help each other.  We have grown together and discovered who we are and what truly makes us happy.  I love to see people light up when they talk about what they love.  Remember what Will Smith once said, “if you’re not making someone else’s life better, then you are wasting your time.  Your life will become better by making other lives better.”

John Leroy

John Leroy

From John LeRoy:  When I shadowed at Sturgis East, I was completely overwhelmed.  I then quickly became encaptured with aspects I was noticing.  I was confused by the fact that the students seemed to actually LIKE their teachers.  I was dazed by how the students in Latin class actually seemed to enjoy what they were doing.  I was blindsided by the fact that the students seemed to care for each other.  What an insane concept!!  When I stepped into Sturgis West for the first time as a freshman, the same sense of awe filled me.  Making the transition from the old furniture store to the next Sturgis West building for our sophomore year was bittersweet for all of us.  Yes, we were enthralled with the abundant windows and the atrium, but there were some things that we were going to miss.  The biggest change was that we were no longer physically close.  The sense of intimacy was something that many of us had grown fond of, and it was bizarre all of a sudden having all of the space.  Knowing that our teachers cared for our well-being helped us feel comfortable not only with them, but also with being a part of the school as a whole.  Our classmates were our guide to the rigorous IB program as well as we learned to trust each other.  Getting to learn and get inspired by the phenomenal faculty has been life-changing.  Perhaps most importantly, high school and Sturgis has inspired me to make the best of what I have and the people around me.

Anapuri Feldman

From Anapuri Feldman:  At Sturgis, the biggest thing we don’t do is orthodoxy.  We don’t do uniformity—you can tell that by the color of our walls, which are both avant-garde and incredibly difficult to accept for their ratio of 3 yellow walls to one blue in every classroom.  We don’t do basic multiple choice.  We don’t accept just any kind of footwear.  But we are all about individuality—which is why we are required to take the IB, uniting our individuality.  We are not about weakness for our curriculum is full of buzzwords like rigor, pizz-azz, and IB Learner Profile.  The IB is truly a success in that it shows off your strengths, testing your existence until the thing left behind is the morsel of yourself that was too darn effervescent to die in the fight.  We go to school every day and try, even on the rainy days, to be a good person and to expand our minds.

Daniel Kamb

From Daniel Kamb:  At my old school, people just kept to themselves and heaven forbid if they said one word to a person that they did not know.  But everything was different at Sturgis.  Not only has this school exposed me to a community that I never thought would be possible, it also taught me things that I would not have learned if I had gone elsewhere.  Sturgis has taught me about me.  If I wasn’t pushed to my limits and beyond, I do not think that I would be standing here today as the confident and sure individual that I am today.  I learned things about myself that I never knew, things like commitment, passion, insanity, diligence, perseverance.  After four years of Sturgis, I am not afraid to fail.  I am not afraid to stand up for myself.  I know exactly who I am and I know just how far and when to push myself.

Stephanie Crowley

From Stephanie Crowley:  The goal, ultimately, at least for the teachers I have encountered at Sturgis, is to have their students view the school not as a workplace, or a bore, but as an institution of something so valuable as the knowledge they have passed on, through war, and disease, and censorship.  A place where you come to be enriched because you want to learn, though stressful at times, though tedious at times, but in the end to have students appreciate the journey—and the reward.  We are standing here as the graduating class appreciating both the journey and the reward.  Some things that I have learned:  Failing does not mean failure; Hard work pays off; There will always be a teacher that changes your view of life.  Personally, all of the teachers have impacted my view of life in one way or another.  Though it has been tough, I can finally say it has been worth it.

Jesse Newcombe

From Jesse Newcombe:  Now, I can tell by looking out at some of the parents here today that this is obviously a very emotional day full of a strange mix of sadness, rejoice, and most importantly pride—Mom, please stop crying!  Even though we were in the IB, we do deserve a break, right Mr. Lee—I swear that I’ve got that dictator project in my car right now!!  Can I still get credit?       We started our junior year, and then it happened that we hit the proverbial wall, the IB.  We became hesitant, wondering if we should turn around and leave, but something inside us told us to stay.  It was the promise of the view from the top—today–when you know you can do anything and become anything.  We endured Mama Kelly’s constant learning logs and Mr. Newcombe’s stupid jokes—sorry Dad!!  At times, we were exhausted and full of self-doubt, but we did it.  None of us did this alone.  Ultimately, we achieved something incredibly difficult together.  We should all take pride in our role in establishing something amazing—Sturgis West!!

John Russell

John Russell

From John Russell:  Ambitious, driven, and inventive.  Quirky, creative, and eclectic.  Students with diverse talents, interests, and beliefs.  The group of young adults in front of you are different from the thousands of other graduates worldwide by nature of our unity through diversity.  The lessons we learned outside the classroom from the hours of work done on projects and assignments, and the somewhat unhealthy amounts of stress in the form of acronyms, such as EE, TOK, IOCs, PPPs and many more that I have blocked from memory, are truly a blessing in disguise.  These experiences pushed us past where we thought our limits were.  I am convinced that, due to our experiences at Sturgis, we will have the determination, no matter the challenge, to surprise even outselves with our own ability.

Olivia Blomdahl

Olivia Blomdahl

And finally, from Livvy Blomdahl:  You know as much as we love to complain about Sturgis, the lack of microwaves, all the homework—deep down we really do love this school and are thankful for everything it has done for us.  They gave us a chance at one of the hardest programs in the world.  Each of us, even those of us on IEPs.  Do you know how rare that is?  Most schools only pick their best and brightest students for IB or AP.  You know, the kids who have been getting A’s since middle school because they think that those are the only students who can succeed in the IB program.  Students like me would be given other classes with teachers that have just given up.  That doesn’t happen at Sturgis.  You’re placed in a class where the teacher actually cares about you.  They want you to succeed.  The only time that they get mad at you is if they felt like you weren’t living up to your full potential.  So thank you Sturgis for everything that you have done for me.  For turning me into a better person, for letting me have opportunities that I may not have had at other schools.

Word of wisdom and reflection from the Class of 2015!

Jacob Chagnon

Jacob Chagnon

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 leadership, commitment to the good of others, and the embrace of a global perspective of Jacob Chagnon;
  • The amazing grace, academic drive, musical talent, and humility of Claire Gilliland;
  • The courage of Austin Baacke in writing a rebuttal in the Cape Cod Times to set the record straight about Sturgis and charter schools;
  • The courage and international-mindedness of Sara Booth in choosing to attend New York University—Abu Dhabi campus;
  • The willing volunteerism throughout the school and leadership by example of John Russell;
  • Reminding far too many of these seniors who were tardy to school that it actually is OK to be early!!
  • Allegra Davis

    Allegra Davis

    The intellectual depth of thought and the writing capability of Allegra Davis;

  • The audacity of Jesse Newcombe in critiquing his father’s jokes in his graduation speech;
  • And finally, the excitement, enthusiasm, pure joy, and also the screaming up and down the hall upon receiving her college acceptance of Livvy Blomdahl.

Class of 2015, 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 2015!  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.


Greetings from the Board of Trustees – Mattie White, Trustee

Mattie White

On behalf of the Board of Trustee’s , good afternoon and welcome teachers, administrators, members of the board, family, friends and graduating class of 2015.

My name is Mattie White and I am proud to be a member of the Board of Trustees for Sturgis Charter Public School. I have served for the past three years and have witnessed exponential growth at Sturgis. It has been a joy to see the expansion of Sturgis grow from one campus to two, to accommodate more students to take advantage of the IB curriculum and I am truly honored to be standing here before you and speaking to this group of fine young men and women.

Today is a celebration of accomplishments that you have completed such a vigorous IB program. You have demonstrated dependability, conscientiousness, honesty, integrity and perseverance, where through your hard work and dedication has finally paid off and has prepared you for what will be a very challenging and competitive workforce.

All of this would not be possible without the support of your teachers who have made it possible for you to reach out to them for help and guidance and your family and friends who have sacrificed and made those long journeys twice a day from as far away as Plymouth to ensure that you received an A+ education. They are here to share in your moment.

As you transition into higher education, don’t be afraid of failure, because failure is only momentary. Consider Elon Musk, the CEO of the Tesla electric automobile and the hardships that he endured over his career.

If I may leave you with one thing today, the word would be THINK:

Timing is essential to all things.

Honesty is the glue for a lasting relationship.

Imagination is a major factor in developing a factor.

Necessity, should we even bother with this? Is it needed or wanted?

Kindness will conquer all.

Always remember to take care of the small things in order to prepare for truly important projects in life. And above all remain resourceful.



Sturgis Faculty – Matthew Lee, History

Matthew Lee

Good afternoon and greetings to Mr. Hieser, Ms. Kirk, members of our Board of Trustees, fellow faculty, friends, family, and of course the Sturgis West Class of 2015.  A special congratulations to our graduating seniors, the first graduating class to have completed four years at Sturgis West, as well as the last class to remember our humble roots in the basement of an old furniture store.

Over the past four years, I’ve grown very fond of this particular class.  One of my favorite memories comes from your first year here.  Many of you may recall the day I had to wear an eyepatch for a corneal abrasion, allegedly because I got into a fight with a bear.  I was in a lot of pain and knew the only way I’d make it through the day was if you all were on your very best behavior.  So, I came up with a little white lie.  I told you I was going blind.  Okay, so in retrospect, it wasn’t such a little lie.  I still feel bad about the sympathy emails I received from your parents when they heard the awful news.  But you were so well-behaved that day, no one speaking out of turn, everyone volunteering answers to questions I asked.  To be honest, I was this close to bursting out laughing several times that day at your solemnity.

West Grad RehearsalI’m not sure if it’s some cruel prank being played on me by the graduating class, but it is an interesting juxtaposition that they would select one of the oldest, most experienced, and most distinguished faculty members alongside one of the youngest and least, but Arthur, it’s been a privilege teaching alongside you for the past three years and an honor to speak before you this afternoon. Usually, age comes before beauty, but since these two coincide so gracefully in you, good sir, they couldn’t help but put me before both age and beauty today.  I’ve learned so much from you just in passing conversation. I can only imagine how much more these kids have learned sitting at your feet.

As one of two faculty speakers for Sturgis West’s second commencement ceremony, I share in the unique privilege of carrying forward and permanently fixing graduation traditions inaugurated by last year’s speakers, traditions which all proceeding graduation speakers would be obliged to honor.  I could, for instance, continue the tradition of sharing the story behind my first kiss.  Alas, some traditions are not meant to be.  That was gross, John.  Instead, if there’s one thing I’d like you to take away from me this afternoon, it’s this: Relationships are more important than résumés.

You’re about to enter (and in a sense have already begun to experience) a world in which you will feel pressured to measure your worth by your standardized test scores, GPAs, and the selectivity of your summer internships.  Yet, what I’ve learned is that résumés make for flimsy shields and sandy foundations.

Let me illustrate with an example from history of a man named George.  George was a weak and sickly child, and yet he showed determination and perseverance in wanting to become a strong man, often resorting to dangerous and unorthodox methods of strengthening his body.  He would strap himself to trees during thunderstorms, touch exposed electrical wires, eat rats.  He even worked at a poultry farm decapitating chickens to accustom himself to killing.

By the time he graduated from high school, he said that he was “virile, vigorous, and potent.”  His life became a string of successes.  He graduated from university, then law school, served in the Korean War, passed the bar exam, worked as an FBI agent, earned multiple commendations from J. Edgar Hoover himself, became the youngest Bureau supervisor at 29, and went on to work for the U.S. Treasury.

He claimed in his autobiography that he “became what he wanted to be.”  When asked if he were a man of faith, he answered, “I am a man of great faith, but my faith is in myself.  I have found within myself all I need and all I shall ever need.  I have never failed me.”

Then, in 1974, George Gordon Battle Liddy was found guilty of his role in the Watergate Scandal and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  I wonder if his résumé were any comfort to him at that moment.

If you measure yourself by your successes, there will always be someone who scored more marks than you, who was accepted into the school you wish you had been, who got the job or promotion you wanted.  The question is, when you come to the end of yourself, will you remember who you are?

One of my favorite movies is The Patriot.  Yes, I’m still a sucker for romantic interpretations of American history.  Yes, somewhere Howard Zinn is probably rolling around in his grave.  There’s one scene that sticks out in my mind.  Benjamin Martin is about to ride off to war, leaving five of his children behind.  His youngest daughter Susan is just learning how to speak.  Before he leaves, Benjamin begs Susan for a word of goodbye, which she refuses him, but as he rides off, these words escape her lips, “Daddy, don’t leave.  I’ll say anything you want.  Just tell me what you want me to say.”  No words she said could make her his daughter any more than she already was.  No words refused could make her any less.

Like Benjamin, you are about to embark on a new adventure.  Many of you will begin your college years this fall.  Some of you are taking a gap year or getting involved in other things.  I hope you’ll remember the ones gathered here to celebrate this day with you, those who will be there for you no matter how gloriously you conquer or embarrassingly you fall short of your hopes and dreams.

If what we’ve built together were a résumé and not a relationship, let’s think for a moment about what that would mean.  Not a single one of you merited participation in IB coursework.  This is, after all, an IB for all school.  And we won’t even know how you will have done for several more weeks.  Furthermore, you only got to attend this school because of one of the two least meritorious means of personal advancement: either you won the lottery or you had a family connection.  But it was never contingent on the résumé of A papers or IB diplomas you could put together.  It has always been about the relationships we’ve grown and nurtured in our time together.  And now, after having spent four years with you, I can’t help but feel as though I’m the one who has a family connection with this class.  You mean so much to me, and I am proud of you.  I know I don’t say it often or well, but perhaps once, here at the end of all things and from the bottom of my heart, will have to do.  And how could you not?  Unless we plant a Sturgis Sandwich campus, I will never again have the rare privilege of learning together with my students what Sturgis and the IB are all about.  I’ve been able to teach many of you, and I’ve even taught six of you for each of the past four years.  It’s a wonder you learned anything at all.  We’ve built some amazing memories together, both in and out of the classroom, here, in New York, and in Nicaragua. And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way about you.

Here at last, on the shores of the sea, comes the end of our fellowship.  Our relationship to you as your teachers and yours to us as our students will dissolve when you walk across that stage and ring that bell.  It will leave us free, perhaps to forge something better and more permanent.  And wherever you go, I wish you all the very best.


Sturgis Class of 2015 – Sara Booth

Sara Booth

I would like to start by welcoming family, friends, faculty, staff, and my fellow peers of the class of 2015. I’m going to ask the graduating class to close your eyes and think about yourself, around 2011, the end of 8th grade. Think about your middle school experience. Who did spend your time with? Who was your best friend? What did you look like and how did you dress? Think about what you thought was cool back then, and realize it probably wasn’t. Think about your favorite bands, favorite books, and favorite things to do on the weekends. What was important to you back then and what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you even know? Now open your eyes and look around, look at your fellow classmates, and look at yourself. You’re probably taller, your style has (hopefully) changed, you’ve made new friends, and maybe now you know exactly what you want to be when you “grow up.”  And, then again, maybe you’re still figuring it all out. Although it’s difficult, try to grasp and understand the formative experience we have all gone through together at Sturgis. Back in 8th grade I knew only two people who were going to Sturgis with me. Attending a kindergarten-8th grade school, I had grown very comfortable surrounded by the same people, in the same building for nine years.

The decision to come to Sturgis, and leave nearly all of my friends behind, was my first real move as an IB risktaker. Looking back, I realize it was the most significant and meaningful decision I have made thus far. I imagine many, if not all of you feel the same. As you graduate from Sturgis, it’s important you realize you are all very, very smart. We are a great deal more intelligent than we think. I promise. Sturgis has given us so much knowledge these past four years and it’s important that we keep learning and continue to grow. We have all been given the capacity to explore, stretch beyond our comfort zones, and to expand our knowledge. Sturgis has provided us with a momentum, and we have to keep that going. Whether it be by attending college,  joining the military, being active in our community, or travelling, this momentum is valuable and must not be stopped. Sturgis has developed in us a global mindset and has challenged us academically, socially, and emotionally. It has given us the tools that we need to face our fears, overcome obstacles, and deal with frustrations with new found self-confidence. We leave here with a drive to make our own decisions and to develop our own skills.

When I reflect on my high school expectations as an 8th grader, I never imagined that I would be captain of field hockey and cheer, two sports I had never before played. I never envisioned myself building an Ostrich hut in the middle of February in Battle Creek, Michigan. I did not know I would be staying up until ungodly hours of the night doing bio IA’s, history projects, and writing this very graduation speech. I also did not know I would learn to play the guitar, ballroom dance, or travel halfway around the world on my own to visit a college in the Middle East, let alone trek three volcanos in Nicaragua with Mr. Lee. Most importantly, I didn’t imagine I would find a new home, and a new family; like I believe so many of you, have also found at Sturgis, even though it started in the basement of a furniture store. A certain type of people choose to come to and teach at this school. These people are open minded, accepting of others, and have a true passion for learning. Four years ago we won the lottery. Our education endeavors were left up to chance, and we are all quite lucky to have been picked.

We are the select few who made a choice, who took a risk, who challenged ourselves to be better students, to work harder, to study harder, to be better people. I think we can all agree that the Sturgis experience was challenging, however it was also an opportunity to create something really special. I have never felt more at home anywhere else, than I have here at Sturgis West, and I have all of you to thank for that. What has made this experience so incredible, has been the people around me. I am really going to miss this class of 2015, and I know you will all find, no you will make, your place in this world.

So, my fellow graduates, I will not wish for you an easy road, one filled only with successes where all your dreams come true. To do that, would deprive you of the truest sense of validation and the pride that comes from hard work, struggles, frustration and fears. I want you to fail and face disappointments, and you will. It is only by doing so that you will realize your inner strength, the power of determination, and that achievement and success come only with setting the bar high and pushing past your own limitations. We will come to realize that sometimes we all need a little help. I implore you to remember that and ask for it.

Sturgis, the beloved IB learner traits, the faculty and staff, our courses and projects, our mentors and friends, our coaches and our opponents, our parents and our community have provided us with tools; the tools to be open-minded, to take risks, to maintain a global mindset, to communicate, to question authority, to ask why. These are tools with which we can build our future. We, the graduates of the class of 2015 have the obligation to go out into the world, with the tools we have been given, and try to make a difference.

Something I have come to realize, over these past few weeks, is that it’s not over. It does not end here, our journey has only just begun. So, my fellow graduates, I leave you with this: Take what you have learned, be kind, make mistakes and learn from them, take the conversations you’ve had here at Sturgis and continue them, carry them with you around the world. Above all, just do the things that make you happy. I would like to point out that we are the first full graduating class of Sturgis West, having completed all four years here and I am proud to have been a part of it. Thank you, and I wish you all the best of luck.



William H. Burke Award   – Pamela Burke, Guidance Counselor

Janell Torrey and Pamela Burke

The William H. Burke scholarship is given in honor of my father-in-law.  He passed away 3 years ago of ALS.  Bill was a veteran of the United States Army, graduated from Notre Dame University, and went on to join and grow his family’s business, Burke Distributing in Randolph, MA.  He was known for his generosity and philanthropic endeavors that touched the lives of many.

The William H. Burke scholarship is given to one Sturgis West graduating senior who exhibits an entrepreneurial spirit, contributes positively to the community, is concerned with the wellbeing of others, and whose determination and tenacity helped them overcome obstacles.  Although there are many deserving individuals, the scholarship committee had to pick one who best embodies the spirit of this award.

Before coming to Sturgis, this student found school to be stressful because her peers didn’t seem to understand her strong interest in academics and education. When she arrived at Sturgis West, she slowly found her place and connected with friends who valued education the same way she did.  She became an integral part of the school community participating in field hockey, Accapella, Stage, and the surfing club.  Outside of school, she volunteered at Cape Cod Hospital, helped make blankets for the women’s shelter, volunteered with meals on wheels and was part of the National Leadership Forum in medicine.

Significant challenges caused this individual to miss a great deal of school her junior year.  After much discussion and deliberation, she decided to repeat the year in order to reap the benefits of the International Baccalaureate program.  It was hard for her to watch her friends go on to graduate, but she knew in the long run that her decision was the right one for HER future.

Having high expectations for herself, she continually strived to maximize her potential.  She is concerned for others and often brought students to my office when she thought they needed support beyond what a friend could offer.  She has a unique ability to look on the bright side regardless of the challenges she has faced.  It is with great pleasure to present the William H. Burke Scholarship to Janell Torrey.


Sturgis Class of 2015 – Monique Crowley

Monique Crowley

Wow, look at all you proud parents, relieved graduates, exhausted teachers, and bored siblings. I’ll start by saying congrats and well done, we made it!

Typical Sturgis: in the middle of studying for exams and decorating my graduation cap, I have to focus on writing an original, meaningful, yet humorous speech for commencement?! In true Sturgis fashion, I turned to the most valuable resources, my mother, and Google. I’m supposed to make some inspiring observations about overcoming obstacles, individual classmates and making a difference in the world. Should be a piece of cake after writing a 4,000 word extended essay on educational philosophies, right? HairAlthough commencement speeches should deal with the great questions of life at a crossroads, the only questions I can think of are: Have I closed out all of my CAS activities? How long can I procrastinate studying for my Environmental Science exam? And how the heck is Joel going to fit all his hair under a graduation cap?

Classmates, we’re going to foreign countries, to college and university, and perhaps on to the workplace or armed services. In the whirlwind of buying twin XL sheets, finding a job, and registering to vote, it’s important to reflect on our roots at Sturgis West.

I’m nervous at the prospect of entering a completely different setting. My comfort zone has been shaped around my family at Sturgis. It is for this reason that we have to move on, to another place which will push us to grow into who we were meant to be. I feel like it was only yesterday when Tyler was a whole lot shorter and Becca was still taller than all of us. Never for a second did we think of the monumental impact which Sturgis would have on our lives, inside and outside of the classroom.

I thought I had it all figured out when I entered high school, laser focused on schoolwork and softball. Believe it or not, I had even less of a social life than I’ve had throughout the IB! At Sturgis I’ve learned to redefine the labels under which I had always sought refuge and identification. Through clubs and activities which formed close friendships, I’ve learned the freedom of being a diverse person. I love analyzing Catullus poems, climbing mountains, playing softball, jamming on the guitar and goofing around with friends. Embrace your inner weirdo and be a risk taker! Life is short, sing in the shower at college-it worked for Beca in “Pitch Perfect”.

As we graduate, I find that I’m now facing an identity crisis. I’m no longer a high schooler, but I’m not ready to call myself a college freshman yet. As we stride out of this tent and into the unknown, it’s okay to feel afraid. Trust me, I’ve dreamt of every situation including having an antisocial roommate obsessed with screamo music and Frozen.

The future is scary, even for students who have everything planned out. Some want to be an Irish-Step dancing helicopter rescue pilot, some a high school history teacher. Regardless, be open to new experiences. I’m an adherent to the phrase “everything happens for a reason”, cliche as it may be. Life is going to take you through ups and downs that will test your persistence and resolve. Remember that the challenges define us as much as the successes. Without setbacks we would have never arrived as Seniors, prepared for the future. I take these next steps with the confidence which Sturgis has provided for me, knowing that I have a family and network of connections who will support me through any adversity.

No matter where the future takes us, we can always come home to teachers and family and friends who have seen us succeed and struggle; after all, there are still two visitor spaces in the West parking lot. We’ve survived more than a freshman year in the musty, windowless basement. We’ve spent nights working on IAs, fueled by caffeine, and somehow have managed to submit it to Managebac by 11:59. Although our high school experience has been far from normal, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Class of 2015, soon to be Class of 2019, congratulations again on being the first full graduating class of Sturgis West. In the following months, remember this piece of advice: As with every adversity in life, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball”.

Sturgis Faculty – Arthur Pontes, English

Arthur Pontes shares a few private words with Class of 2015

Parents and friends of the graduates, Colleagues, members of the administration and of the board of directors, my sister Mary, casual bystanders, and most importantly, members of the class of 2015:

How nice to see you all.   I am honored and I pretend to be appropriately humbled by your choosing me as one of your speakers on such a commemorative day.  I intend, for once, not to run over the ten to twelve minute limit for this speech.   No one will need to shout out bing bong as my students used to do to remind me that there were three minutes left in class and that it was time for me to stop talking.

Today, I will mention Topkapi palace- the residence of the Ottoman sultans for over 400 years, a Roman god, the New England Patriots, the poet Sapho, lions, and for good measure a Jinn. I will mention Hawaii and Crest toothpaste.  I will end by quoting Iago, the antagonist in Shakespeare’s Othello.   Several easily connected and appropriate subjects for a graduation speech as you can hear.  You may wish to keep track.

Today I will reveal the secret dedication on the part of your Latin teachers that was the inspiration for this speech.

Arthur Pontes 2015 Graduation SpeechAs you students may or may not be aware, the most important academic subject studied at Sturgis is Latin. My poll of the faculty confirms this.  I, like all good pollsters, chose to manipulate my sample to reflect what I wanted the result to be.      My not so random selection of teachers confirmed to me that Latin is most important.  Two teachers from East and, Ms. Robinson, Mr. Houpert, Ms. Albis, and only in partial agreement, Mrs. Lee from West agreed on the importance of Latin.  We use Crest toothpaste because five out of six dentists recommend it – so clearly if five out of six teachers recommend a daily brushing with Latin then it must be good for the brightness of one’s intellectual smile.

Bye the way, US News listed both Sturgis and Boston Latin as the top two schools in Massachusetts and not by coincidence both require the study of Latin.

You should be able to see, then, see why I turned to the Latin department for ideas for this speech.

My inspiration emerged directly from some strange doings  by the Latin staff on the first and last days  of each marking term, and the first and last days of school of every year.  What were they doing?   I thought, at first that they were memorizing a newly unearthed poem of Catullus or better yet another fragment of Sappho.

On a less literary note, perhaps they were discussing how Gillette Stadium could be better served by having real lions rather than the Detroit lions come to play football against the Patriots.  Certainly more in the traditions of Rome.

It turns out that  I was wrong on both counts.   I could not prove it at first but I now can since I have fabricated the evidence. They were dedicating the beginnings and endings of days, marking terms, and years to the Roman God Janus.

Arthur and Janus


You may know about him from your Latin classes.  Janus is the God with two faces, one looking back to the past and the other looking forward to the future.  He was the god of beginnings and endings.

He could see what had passed and what was to come.

The start of the day was very much Janus’ time.  He was also the god of transitions with special functions around the time of births and journeys.

Janus is an apt symbol for what is happening to you today:  the end of one voyage and the start or birth of something new.

If Sturgis needed to be under the aegis of a roman god, Janus is the perfect one for a high school such as ours.  What a shame that we do not usually see the unity of these two concepts as the Hawaiians do with use of Aloha for both hello, a beginning, and Aloha for Good bye, an ending.

To help those of you who are visual learners I have here a Janus figure.  It is clearly not the way the Romans would have portrayed him but my Janus is appropriate for a graduation ceremony.

Getting ready to speak to you today, with the evil spirit of plagiarism tempting me over my shoulder, I read over a sample of graduation speeches already given this year.  I read a lot of advice in these speeches- be bold, work hard, be yourself, put down your cell phones, dream, and most strangely and  most potentially illuminating of all –  go build a fire.  Nearly all were telling you graduates to look to the future.  They all looked ahead. I would like to take a different approach and have us be like Janus and look back as well as look forward.

Let us be like one head of Janus and begin first by looking forward.  This is something that you have already been doing for all of your high school years and perhaps for all of your lives up to this point.   “I can’t wait to be out of Middle school”…, “I can’t wait to get my learner’s permit…”, “I can’t wait to be a senior….”    “I can’t wait for lunch break…”are thoughts that, I suspect, most of you have had.  As seniors your forward eyes have focused on getting into college, or thinking about a real job, or imagining life in the military.  The problem with Janus looking forward is that his vision is blurred and this view cannot go any further than a person’s imagination allows.  As an entering freshman you could not imagine what this graduation day would be like any more than you, now, can have a clear picture of what your life after Sturgis will be like. The forward look, the forward vision, is always like looking through a glass darkly with only a vague sense of what is to come.  None of you will have Cassandra’s gift (and curse) of being able to accurately foretell the future.

Let us, now, take the backward view of Janus.  Think about what you were like when you came to Sturgis as ninth graders.  Think about how much you have changed and grown.  Think about your favorite classes and teachers.  Think about the moments of fear, nervousness, frustration and struggle in class, on stage, in sports followed by success and a new appreciation of your own abilities.  Think about the times you laughed and were happy.  All this is part of your personal history.

We require you to study our collective history in a truthful, thoughtful reflective way by having you study four years of history in our curriculum.  You study our cultural and linguistic heritage by studying the Latin language, mindset, and culture for at least two years.   This is so that you think about and know where we come from as a civilization and a nation.  For at least the first two years one third of what you study at Sturgis – 2 of your 6 courses – has you focus your vision on the past.  The vision here is often much clearer than our view of the future because we can see the results of decisions and how they played out in the world.  We can see how differently people thought and even how they spoke in the past.

As for your personal histories, You have made some decisions and developed some habits of the mind and you know what most of the results were.  By looking back we get to see our strengths and weaknesses.  As a result we can change how we do things now and in the future based on our ability to reflect on what we have done in the past.  We also arrive at a better understanding of how others thought and lived which can help us in our efforts to think and live authentic and meaningful lives.

Looking back also allows for nostalgia.  Look back at your classmates.  Look at the students seated around you.  This is the very last time that you will sit together as a class.   They will not be there tomorrow nor will you ever again get to share panicked last minute notes for a history test or get one of your classmates to show you one last time how to solve that difficult equation.  No more getting into the wide open spaces of the senior locker area – an area which makes airline seat size seem generous in comparison.  This graduation ceremony marks a day on which something significant has ended.  No more high school.  You have finished the voyage on the good ship Sturgis from grade nine to today.  You began your voyage being closer to being a child and you enter port getting closer to being a full adult.

Look back at your teachers and school leaders.  Think about the encouragement and dedication that my teaching comrades gave to you.  As flawed as all human beings are, we never gave up on you nor did we ever lose faith in your ability to learn, struggle and succeed.


However – There is one twist to your new beginning that does not quite fit into the metaphor that Janus represents- it is the summer time.  This is a bit of a space, an interregnum between what has ended and what will begin in the fall for most of you.  This space is akin to a room in Topkapi palace that the Ottoman Sultans intentionally kept empty of all furnishings and decorations.   This room had a name –  it was called The Residence place of the Jinn (what we call genies).  It was a space inhabited by jinn, smoke, memories and mirrors.  A place of magic between otherwise mundane places.  You have been so busy especially during these last two years that there has been little time to sit back and be aware of life – to be thoughtful.  Treat this summer as a time for calm, for preparation, and for reflection.  Treat it as an empty room in the palace of your lives.  This coming summer is a magical summer between the last gasp of childhood and the first breaths of the real adult world.  Use the time well. (Bing Bong from the crowd)

I remind you again, then, of my advice.  Remember the god Janus and look back as well as ahead throughout your lives.   We can get lost looking ahead to what might happen but this will not occur as easily if you stay anchored in the lessons of the past.  You should also try to find other spaces between events – other Residence places of the Jinn in your lives which will become busier and busier with time.  You will need to look carefully to find these figurative rooms.

I believe that You will do just fine in the days ahead.  As Iago said – “By Janus, I think so.”   Relax.  Enjoy your summer and use this time of the Jinn well. On behalf of my fellow teachers, I wish you all Godspeed.


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