Graduation 2017 – Sturgis East

Bagpiper Robert Ferguson leads the procession of Sturgis East faculty and seniors through Hyannis Village Green to Hyannis Harbor for the 2017 graduation ceremony on June 3.

June 3, 2017 was a great day for the 16th graduation of Sturgis East and the 4th graduation of Sturgis West. 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 speeches and a selection of photographs by Jarvis Chen, and Will Mathews.  We hope the speeches, videos and photographs capture a bit of the spirit of the 2017 Sturgis East Graduation.

Congratulations Sturgis East Class of 2017

Margaret E. Adams, Mark J. Agostinelli, Aidan M. Andrews, Cameron P. Barry, Tsuf I. Baumflek, Kaitlyn R. Blake, Lauren A. Bourgeois, Alexandra N. Bowse, Bridget C. Bressette, Julia K. Buckner, Vincent R. Collucci, Ashley T. DaCruz, Seamus H. Devine, Alan B. Dominatto, Jillian A. Felton, Michaelann E. Ferro, Olivia C. Furner, Sawyer M. Gibbons, Harrison S. Goldman, Graham A. Gottsche, Rebecca H. Gutman, Alden D. Hackler, Anna W. Hanesian, Carolyn R. Hanrahan, Cian G. Hanrahan, Lindsy N. Hardy, Cassandra L. Harkins, Jessica T. Harnais, Brian G. Hasson, Nicholas B. Hayward, Siobhan M. Hemeon-McMahon, Cameron C. Henchy, Sophia E. Henderson-Page, Nathaniel J. Henson, Connor S. Holmes, Ariana L. Jackson, Katrina A. Jackson, Emma R. Jacobson, Jakob C. Kreitzer, John F. LaMotte, Annie H. Lawrence, Kailey E. LeBlanc, Rebecca C. Leduc, Vivian S. Levine, Taylor I. Linebaugh, Janna M. Linhares, Zachariah M. Longinidis, Jasmine M. MacDonald, Daniel R. Maguire, Juan David A. Marquez-White, Nellie E. Marshall-Torres, Taylor M. Martin-Graham, Brendan T. McPherson, Ian H. Morris, Grace M. Muir, Emma K. Mulkern, Livia A. Murray, Jeremy D. Nadler, Molly K. Nemes, Kyle W. Nickerson, Eric C. Palchanis, Allison L. Palmer, James E. Pappas, Maja R. Parker, Romas A. Parker, Shreya M. Patel, Mark W. Payne, Emma V. Perry, Jonathan A. Peters, Nicholas J. Pinard, Sierra H. Proft, Peter B. Prygocki, Isabelle M. Racette, Holden S. Ramage, Kathryn R. Rheinhardt, Jillian N. Rioux, Jillian S. Roberts, Emily K. Rodricks, Taylor M. Rooney, Mikayla G. Ryder, Sean C. Shea, Samuel W. Smith, Rachel L. Souza, Emily L. Spinello, Caroline F. Sullivan, Evan F. Taubert, Samantha L. Vanasse, Heaven A. Voegeli, Grace R. Weinberg, Carissa W. Wells, Delaney O. Wood and Cole D. Woodbury


Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

Sturgis Graduation Tent 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 Paul Marble along with bagpiper Robert Ferguson, 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.

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, Executive Director

Paul Marble

Sturgis East Class of 2017, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends: today is a momentous day.

Ninety-two Sturgis East 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 ninety-two people will be an active part of this special group – the class of 2017.

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 Connor Holmes and Rachel Souza, shortly. I have had the pleasure of reading all 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:

From Emma Mulkern: “Good morning friends, families, and classmates and welcome to the Sturgis East Class of 2017’s graduation. If for some reason you thought this was West’s graduation and are someone who is at all associated with Sturgis West, I highly suggest that you get out of here immediately before Mark Agostinelli puts you in a headlock.”

Grace Muir

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

Becca Gutman and Paul Marble

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

Seamus Devine and Paul Marble

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

Emily Rodricks

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

Grace Weinberg

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

Taylor Rooney

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

Sam Smith

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

Bridget Bressette and Paul Marble

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

Peter Prygocki

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

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 momentous, and today is a day to celebrate in that accomplishment.

Just as all 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:

Steve Carah, Steve DeTora, Nadia Selim, and Emily Weitzman, please stand.

I would also like to celebrate three of my long-serving colleagues retiring this year who have been wonderful ambassadors for our mission and great role models for our students: Rich Mathews, Carol Vari, and Marion Weeks, please stand.

And finally, I would like for the class of 2017 to join me in honoring our final departing faculty member, whose great humor, kindness, and devotion to students have not skipped a beat these past few months as he weathered the strongest of storms: Dave Whalley, please stand.

Sturgis East class of 2017, 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 – Mary Agostinelli, Trustee

Mary Agostinelli

Good morning. My name is Mary Agostinelli. I am a member of the Sturgis Board of Trustees. I am also the proud parent of Meghan, Class of 2013, Kevin, Class of 2015, and Mark, Class of 2017.

The Board of Trustees is the organized group of volunteers who, collectively, are legally and morally accountable to the community for the health, vitality, and effectiveness of the Sturgis Charter Public School. The Board’s primary role is “Governance”, which encompasses legal responsibilities, general oversight, planning and policy-making, and meeting fiduciary requirements.

We are a group of individuals with different skills, opinions and experiences; however, we are united in our respect for the administration, faculty, and students at Sturgis Charter School. I have been asked to speak briefly, on behalf of the Board, to the Sturgis Class of 2017.

Today many people are congratulating you on the success of your graduation. Indeed, it IS a significant accomplishment. It took serious commitment to complete all your CAS work, your internal assessments, your paper 1’s, 2’s, and 3’s, and don’t forget that 4000 word extended essay.

Yet, I would like instead to congratulate you today on your struggles from the past four years. Yes, you heard me correctly. I would like to applaud you for the test questions that baffled you, the colleges that couldn’t see clearly enough to accept you, the awards that you didn’t receive, the coaches who didn’t recognize your athletic talents, and even the weather that wreaked havoc on your homecoming plans. Wow, what an impressive list!

At Sturgis, as in life, failure is just another word for growing. Babies can’t walk, talk or translate Latin when they are born. They will topple over, again and again, before they learn to walk, but ultimately they will get the hang of it and learn to run and play soccer.

There was a time when Einstein couldn’t count to ten, yet eventually even he mastered Higher Level Math. Shakespeare needed to learn his ABC’s before he could write Twelfth Night. Each wrong answer or bad review stretched their brains and challenged them to keep trying. They believed they could do anything.

So why do I celebrate your failures on a day like this?

Because through these experiences you have learned that tenacity and effort can sometimes change the outcomes in your life. That is a lesson worth remembering when you hit the next bump in the road, whether that hurdle happens in Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, Vermont, or even Abu Dhabi.

Two weeks ago, I listened to a graduation speech by David Fajgenbaum, a Georgetown alumnus not much older than you. Mesmerized by his incredible life journey, I recognized in him many of the IB traits your teachers have tried to instill in you. In October of his freshman year of college, David learned his mother had terminal brain cancer. His caring and compassion drove him to found a small bereavement group at Georgetown and then to form a national support group for grieving college students. He then reflected on his experience and decided to dedicate his life to a medical career in oncology. Yet, during his third year of medical school, David was diagnosed with a rare, vicious autoimmune disorder called Castelman’s Disease. Again, David did not give up. He embraced the personal motto “Think It. Do It” and created a global network for open-minded researchers to share information on this little understood disease. During repeated periods of treatment and relapse, he leveraged his inquiry skills to extensively research his disease, acquiring in-depth knowledge of his condition. David took an incredible risk, developed his own experimental treatment, and tested it on himself. He has now been in remission for 40 months, and his treatment protocol has been used to save the lives of other patients.

So, to what extent in your future life will you struggle your way forward? I don’t know, but I do know you will face hurdles again.  How do I know? I will leave that answer to the Theory of Knowledge teachers. Yet, I am confident that because of your experiences at Sturgis, you have the personal traits that will help you thrive. You are more prepared to face any challenge, embrace the motto “Think it. Do it” and emerge even stronger than you are today.

I wish you the best and hope you will always bleed blue.


Sturgis Singers “Bohemian Rhapsody”

By Queen, arranged by Mark Bryner


Sturgis Class of 2017 – Connor Holmes

Connor Holmes

“The Class of 2017.” I distinctly remember when I first heard those words.  I was ten years old, and I was sitting amidst a large crowd of elementary school students in a rather cramped gymnasium.  As a fourth grader I did not know what the year 2017 had to do with me.  When it was finally explained that that would be the year I graduate high school, it seemed utterly ridiculous to discuss an event so far off in the future, distant and intangible.  Yet somehow that fateful year has arrived, and we are all gathered here in this park by the harbor to celebrate our graduation from Sturgis.

Classmates, just take in this moment.  Look around you.  On all sides you will see some of the closest friends you have ever made.  These are friends who have been right there alongside you through every success, every victory, and every ultimate failure from which they helped you get right back up again.  Keep looking and you will see the family members and the faculty that have never stopped supporting and believing in you as we have collectively traversed this arduous journey called the IB.

However, you may also notice, as you recall your fondest memories of the past four years, that some faces are missing.  We were not always such a small number of 92 students.  We have seen good friends and dear classmates leave: students whose journeys took them places that ultimately do not include this park on this day at this time.  As much as they have been missed, they remind us of the reality that not everyone we meet will remain as a permanent part of our lives.

As I look out at you now I know that, after today, many of you will cease to be a part of my journey, just as I will cease to be a part of yours.  Some of us will remain on Cape Cod, while others will find themselves half way across the world.  That is simply how life works.  I tell you this now not to profoundly sadden the mood of this celebratory occasion, but to point out an important lesson.  What a person means to you is not defined by the length of their presence in your life, but rather the significance their presence leaves on your life.  We have only spent four years together, a fraction of the longevity we will all face in this world, and yet everyone here has left a resounding impact on the people around them.  Consider what we, and Sturgis collectively, have given one another.  Our time together has changed each and every one of us, ultimately for the better.

When I take a moment to reflect on the past four years at Sturgis, and recognize how profoundly each of us has changed, it is actually quite startling.  We came together when we were 14 years old, and yet we leave together as adults.  I know some of us, myself included, tend to cringe when we are reminded of who we were as we entered this school in 2013.  Awkward, shy, terrified.  We were children entering into an entirely new and strange experience.  But what matters is who we are now: confident, expressive, passionate individuals ready to improve the world we live in.  We have been shaped by Sturgis in so many ways that we may not even consciously recognize.  As a Freshman I came into Sturgis desperate for a new start, for the opportunity to change, and for the chance to have others like and embrace me for who I was.  Sturgis represented a new beginning, new friends, new relationships, a chance to re-start and re-invent myself.  Over the past four years I have received exactly that, and subsequently I have been able to decide who I am and who I want to be.  My friends, classmates, and teachers have all helped in that process, but in reality I have been able to grow due simply to what Sturgis offers at its core: a chance to be whatever you hope to be, not being constrained by your past but rather celebrated for the future you seek

This speech is not about me, yet given that I cannot recall each of our individual transformations in this time slot I will simply ask you to picture your own experiences and the way that Sturgis has changed and shaped you into who you are now.  Think of everything, the good and the bad, that has led you to this moment in your life.  Think of the accomplishments, the victories, and the achievements.  Revel in them.

It is astounding how accomplished our grade is.  After all, we are the class that won Spirit Week two years in a row.  To anyone else that may seem like an incredibly arbitrary and underwhelming achievement, but to us that victory is a symbol of the determination and coordination present within our class. We are state qualifying and league champion athletes, gifted musicians, actors, and artists, and brilliant intellectuals.  These notable feats make me realize that we are a group of students unified in a mutual commitment, perseverance, strength, and a desire to achieve greatness.

As well, we cannot forget that we are also united by the many strange shared experiences that are so uniquely “Sturgis.”  We all know what it is like to hang out in the parking lot for a whole class period due to a drawn out fire drill.  We know the excitement and curiosity peaked by the prospect of descending into the mystery that is the Sturgis basement.  We know what it is to be shoved into our tiny senior hallway for an entire year.  We know that subtle divide between those who risk the Red Cross every morning and those who settle for the Annex lot.  I do not know about all of you, but I myself have engaged in countless unorthodox errands in the name of this school.  These have ranged from Home Depot runs for STAGE to transporting music equipment in the cramped backseat of my car to being randomly recruited by teachers to assist in daily errands too large for two hands.  We are a class united by the idiosyncrasies that comprise our crazy, abnormal high school.

In the end, the emphasis should be placed on this idea that we are a class united.  Together, we have conquered the IB.  That in itself is a victory worth celebrating.  Each and every one of us has proven that we have the drive, the perseverance, and the aptitude for success in the face of any challenge, and that is an incredible skill that will serve us well in the future to come.  Ultimately, friends, I do not need to wish you luck in whatever endeavours you pursue following this ceremony because I know that you all have what it takes to handle anything life will throw at you.

I would like to conclude this speech by simply thanking Sturgis for all that it has done for us, and in thanking Sturgis I am thanking the teachers, faculty, parents, and fellow students who have given us a home for the past four years and shaped us into the adults that we have become.  Thank you for encouraging us to be ourselves, in all the crazy, passionate wonder that Sturgis stands for. Thank you.


Sturgis Faculty – Steven DeTora, Business

Steve DeTora

Good morning,

It’s always incredible to see a day like this come together- the families and friends joining us, shuffling in and jockeying for photo opportunities – followed by the administration and faculty descending the hill and leading the way into the tent, joining our board of trustees here at the front – and of course, the Graduates of the Class of 2017. I am truly honored to be here with you today.

What an amazing venue for a commencement ceremony. I can almost picture a young William Sturgis strolling down here to the harbor after getting lunch at The Olde Little Sandwich Shoppe. Taking in the sights of the Hy-Line Passenger Ship leaving the docks. Returning back to campus for his Mechanical Arts class with a discussion centered around: Navigation. A lesson he probably would denounce as something he will “never use”. If only that were the case.

This day has been circled on all of our calendars for quite some time – as seniors you have been counting down since that first snow day in February. Extended Essay’s, CAS, TOK, IB Exams, back-to-back spirit week champs – is there anything you can’t do? And as much as it was our goal, as faculty, to teach you every day, you managed to leave a lasting impression on all of us that is sure to stand the test of time.

In fact, the other day a student pointed out some grey hairs that recently started to show – and I politely reminded him that teaching the IB can be just as rigorous as learning it. Perks of the job I guess. Telling my friends that I was teaching high schoolers was one of the funnier moments I got to enjoy a couple years ago – so you can only imagine the looks on their faces when I told them what I’d be doing here today in front of hundreds of people.

Writing this speech was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my time here. I considered waiting until the night before graduation to write this but, I saw how well that worked for some of your internal assessments, and decided against it.

Steve DeTora

So I’m here, as your teacher, mentor, coach, and advisor to pass along a little bit of wisdom that I think is worthy of the honor you have given me here today. I searched for a topic that would be meaningful but also was genuinely from me. I’m not a teacher of 25+ years. I haven’t taught overseas and I certainly haven’t figured out this thing called ‘life’.

I considered possible themes for my speech – I could tell you to change the world or perhaps remind you to work hard and never to give up. Maybe I could modestly confess tales of my own failures – but then I remembered I wanted to keep this speech under 10 minutes so we’ll skip that one.

The connections and relationships we build with these students are rare – in fact sometimes I think they tell us too much. I realized, despite my lack of worldly wisdom and experiences, our connection was different, and you would still listen. It was normal for someone to stop by my office unannounced to chat. And knowing I would always be there for you, you invited me to send one last message before you leave.

I’m here today to tell you that the next 10 years will be the best decade of your life.

Yes, I may be a little biased in the sense I have yet to see what is still to come in my own life, but I assure you, the next several years will not let you down. I can’t tell you where you will go after Sturgis. In fact, this is the first time in your lives where there is no planned next step. No next chapter to turn to. No Grade 13.

But as you leave here today you are going to now begin your life after high school. It’s like in the history books when the years go from BC to AD. This is that point in time. You will now refer to the years to come as After High School – AHS.

10 years ago, the still now popular music artist Kanye West came out with an album – appropriately titled ‘Graduation’. With his lyrics taking the form of a commencement speech, Kanye expresses several messages to the listener including the idea to leave their comfort zone. He says “Reach for the stars, so if you fall you’ll land on a cloud.” Take risks. Nothing’s promised – we all know that. But at the same time, nothing worthwhile is given. The next time you’re between two decisions, say YES!  Never turn away a memory.

Regardless of where you are headed, I can confidently tell all of you that the next 10 years will provide some of the best opportunities you will ever get in life – you are never going to be younger or more eager than you are right now, today. Some people like to say ‘Life is short’. For me, it’s always been more like, ‘Life moves fast’. And to this I tell you to ‘Find your own speed’. Sometimes you gotta cover up the speedometer, because if you know how fast you’re really going, you may be tempted to slow down. Find the speed that works for you.

As the business teacher here, it is only right that I challenge you to invest in yourselves. What will be your 10-year plan? The success that you acquire will be a direct reflection of your own doing.

When it comes to the life you have now, you will notice differences. Your friendships will change – that happens – but the close ones will never be too far away. And you will meet new people in the next 10 years that will change your life forever. College roommates, co-workers, significant others. You’ll see changes in yourself. Being on your own will show you what kind of person you truly are.

You’ll do your best to save money and it will be hard – don’t worry, you won’t be alone. You’ll change jobs – several times. It’s ok – comedian Stephen Colbert once said that “Nothing looks worse on a resume than nothing.” You will learn, adapt and you will grow. There is still so much out there for you to experience. Graduating high school is just the first step.

I asked you today to consider the next 10 years but, truthfully, this thing called “life” sees no boundaries. I googled the definition for “life” and my computer crashed – how can you have an explanation for such an unlimited concept?. So now, I challenge you to crash the norms of society. You will take this as far you believe. And just when it seems like you have things figured out, life will change. And so will you.

As Kanye famously said on that Graduation album, “Welcome to the Good Life.” – the moment where you take full control – AHS. All the parents just looked at one another when I said “full control”. Don’t worry parents, there is still plenty they will need you for. And I know all of you will be extremely proud of the young men and women they become over the next 10 years.

Graduates, before we leave here today, I ask you to take a moment to appreciate each other. Friends, classmates, peers – bonded together one last time. This is not a moment you will forget. You are going to do great. I look forward to connecting with all of you years from now and hearing of your experiences. Remember: reach for the stars.

I also want to thank you again for allowing me to share this day with you – thanks to you, I will always Bleed Blue.

Lastly, I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama that I probably saw on Facebook or Instagram but nonetheless I have held it close to myself and it’s one that I hope you will all take with you.

There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.

One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow…….

So today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live…..

Class of 2017 – today is your day. Thank you.


Ryan King Award – Danielle Massey, Assistant Special Education Coordinator

Danielle Massey

The Ryan King award is presented to a graduating student who, during their time at Sturgis, has consistently exhibited perseverance, determination, resolve and an overall positive attitude in their academic pursuits.  It is my distinct honor and privilege to be presenting this award to a student that I have seen epitomize the characteristics of a high school student that serves as a model for not only his high school peers, but the entire Sturgis community.

Since freshman year, this student has excelled in every expectation in all areas of academics as well as various extracurricular activities.  No matter where in the school he is seen, he’s working hard, is well-mannered, self-directed, has a positive attitude …and he does it all with a smile on his face.  He’s confident enough to take risks with his studies and his school work but at the same time he knows the importance of taking those risks at his own pace.  He is reliable both in and out of the classroom.  Always striving to be the best he can be, he can be found meeting with teachers to ask what he can do to improve his grade from an A to an A+.

And like many high school students, he has struggles, struggles that sometimes classmates or teachers don’t see.  Struggles that some would rather hide from others than expose and seek help with.  But, rather than hide them or stumble through his struggles, he always acknowledged them and at the same time showed a determination to fight through them and excel.  This character trait of his, determination, is a quality that all of us should try to emulate.  As early as 7:15 most mornings, he would wait for me at the top of the stairs outside my classroom to talk about a variety of things before I could even get my coat off.  I’m confident that I can speak for each and every teacher that knows him when I say we have seen his motivation and have watched him overcome his own academic struggles using that motivation.

This past Christmas he handed me a picture.  It was a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge.  And when he handed it to me he said “this is fitting because you have been MY bridge through everything in high school”.  I was so touched by his gesture.  First, he probably has no idea how he has been an inspiration to me and so many others.  Second, he definitely had no idea that San Francisco is my favorite city and that I’ve walked that bridge a number of times.

Danielle Massey and Tsuf Baumflek

It can be said that those who inspire us the most, do so without asking for anything in return, they do it without being asked, and in most cases…they do it without even realizing it.  So, on behalf of my colleagues our message to you is to keep being an inspiration.  Just like you were every time you helped Mr. Pizzolatto with technology.  Or in Mr. Abel’s class, being the type of student that represents the reason Sturgis exists, because you epitomize what our school stands for.  Mrs Abel feels your collaboration, devoting much extra time and creativity in being co-editor-in-chief of yearbook has demonstrated your  pride and commitment to our school. Or just like you were in my class and for your classmates, helping them with Math,  Latin, or any subject as well as projecting a positive attitude, always with a smile on your face.

So, Sturgis families, faculty, staff and students…please share this exciting moment with me as I present the Ryan King Award to Tsuf Baumflek.


Sturgis Class of 2017 – Rachel Souza

Rachel Souza

Good morning to the faculty, our families and friends, and of course my fellow classmates. I will start out by admitting that people have viewed Sturgis in different ways since I’ve been a student here, but overarchingly I think that Sturgis can be viewed as an open system with ever shifting inputs and outputs. Into Sturgis flow many inputs, and those feeds change over time: anxious, apathetic, or excited freshmen come in and turn into passionate musicians, future problem solvers, or skilled linguists. Of course, there are other flows into the system, such as the once hazardous drinking water that ran rampant throughout the Town of Barnstable, the constant offering of rainwater through the roof during my first two years at Sturgis, but, on a more positive note, the tireless dedication of faculty and students. And then there is the Class of 2017, the output, shaped by those many contributions to the Sturgis community. Yet what has resounded the most with me is the interconnectedness of the little ecosystem (with the rain droplets and all) that exists between the dynamic and eclectic group of 400 students and faculty.

At Sturgis, each student is made to feel important, takes classes from an expensive curriculum at no fiscal cost, and is included regardless of their background. Students are not left in isolation to fend for themselves, dragged into the community forcefully at the hands of prying teachers or peers, such as when each class requires power in numbers and unwilling contenders are dragged into Ships and Sailors during Spirit Week. I had always enjoyed existing in isolation before Sturgis. I had always felt very distanced from both my peers and teachers and was content with being in a closed system. Sturgis could not have been further from this. Instead of feeling superficial, factual, and routine, the learning experience at Sturgis has felt genuine, valuable, and enriching. I had felt connected with the community for the first time, and talked to my classmates instead of distancing myself from any form of social interaction.

Rachel Souza

In the same way that Sturgis is interconnected, we learned about the connections within the material we studied. We examined the interactions between TOK and every imaginable real-life situation, the bias that can be conveyed through language, and the different perspectives on the revolutions, poetry, and dictators that we have examined. We were constantly challenging all that we were presented with, which was a very tiring process. By the time the end of our first semester of senior year came around, we were tired of picking apart everything to a microscopic level. But in this deep, sometimes arduous analysis, I have found that my education at Sturgis has led me not to answers but more questions. Although I may have forgotten some of the endless vocabulary and techniques involved in writing a TOK essay, I remember how Mrs. Daley encouraged us to explore the intricacies of our arguments, the differing viewpoints, and, most importantly, to pose questions. At Sturgis I have seen teachers scorn the textbook for providing unfounded arguments, those teachers encouraging us to test our sources of information.  Despite those nitpicky processes, we have become more inquisitive. And through empathizing with and disputing so many perspectives, we have learned that we will not always have the answers, but Sturgis has instilled in us a sense of curiosity and willingness to question what we think that we know in order to discover new knowledge. This may be one of the most valuable aspects of receiving a Sturgis education: having the humility to recognize that we are not always right and the motivation to seek out answers to what we do not know. So, from here I encourage you to keep being dubious, intrigued, and meticulous in seeking to expand your understanding of that which captivates and challenges you as you continue through life.

I have found that most importantly, over my four years, Sturgis has not only increased my understanding but has made me grow to be more understanding, a sentiment without which a system cannot function. The community at Sturgis boasts great understanding of topics ranging from Communism in Ancient Rome to random facts pulled out during “Junk Food Trivia” played in Mr. Carspecken’s Integrated Math 9 class. But while the community possesses a great deal of knowledge, it is also undoubtedly caring and understanding. Support like Mr. Barrasso’s consistently telling us that we are the best history students in the world despite missed deadlines and off days, guidance counselors providing personalized, genuine support throughout the transition both into and out of Sturgis, and Mr. Abel’s sacrificing his time every day for an hour to ensure his students are primed for success on their IB exams make the struggle through such a harsh curriculum possible. Tackling such a trial in isolation would not be as rewarding nor bearable. There have been times when we have come to school past the point of exhaustion, feeling physically ill at the hands of the seemingly endless EEs, IAs, IOCs, and a lot of other acronyms that don’t need mentioning. But Mrs. Daley’s humor and singing, Mr. Wojtowicz’s wit, and Dr. Pete’s inspired rants carried us through the otherwise dreaded days.

And within Sturgis, I have found that the atmosphere fosters the growth of diverse niches. Sturgis encourages involvement and freedom. That freedom, alongside encouragement from teachers, has allowed students such as Emily Spinello to explore biology while growing as a spoken-word poet, Delaney Wood to express herself through art while pursuing neuroscience, and Olivia Furner to both save the dolphins and grow as a student athlete. It is ridiculously easy to explore your passions at Sturgis, coming from someone who was able to explore an interest in Spanish literature even if her club only reined in four members. This would not be possible without the support of faculty such as Mr. Churchill, who selflessly stayed after school each week to help Taylor Rooney and Sierra Proft develop their proficiency in Ancient Greek Language.

Such strong support at Sturgis allows a process of succession in which we can pursue our passions and grow despite our lack of previous experience or skill. In such a way, Sturgis encourages everyone to tackle the demands of the IB despite their previous abilities. Sturgis taught us that it is not about being inherently talented, but that it is most important to strive for personal evolution, to take risks, and to trust in ourselves to accomplish feats despite their difficulty. Sturgis encourages exploration, not only in the form of numerous research projects, but also but encouraging students to find non-academic interests. That having been said, this exploration may not have led each and every one of us to find ourselves. Some of us may feel as if we still do not have a sense of direction or a grasp on what we want to pursue. But we should maintain our desire to explore without hesitation and to address challenges without doubting ourselves.

So, although we may leave Sturgis uncertain and unrealized, lacking all of the answers, Sturgis has given us the skills to challenge that which we think we know, to see any topic or issue from different perspectives, and to empathize. One singularly valuable skill that Sturgis has given us is the skill of translation. This translation does not only exist in the form of sight translations, Spanish orals, or vocabulary quizzes. Translation entails understanding,  ranging from understanding others’ ideas or art to comprehending the reasons behind global issues. In such a way, as stated by Mexican-American essayist Ilan Stavans, “No citizen, especially today, can exist in isolation—that is, untranslated.” The world into which we are going is convoluted and the ability to empathize with others, care for one another, and to translate is vital. While we may not have to carry with us  the reasons behind Stalin’s rise, the proofs behind various mathematical theorems, or the translation of Latin poetry beyond high school, we will bring with us the skills of translating, of caring, and of being curious enough to see the world in a new way.

It has truly been a great privilege to have access to the IB program, to have such a strong support system, to not feel isolated, and to exist in this intertwined community of inputs and outputs, effort, encouragement, success, failure, risk-taking, and passion. Thank you for the trials, for the exhaustion, and, most of all, for the joy in feeling at home in this building containing many missing floor tiles, broken sinks, golden stars (one of which was beautifully adorned with an image of William Sturgis himself by Mark Agostinelli), beautifully painted ceiling tiles, and inspiring teachers and students. And one last time, “Go Storm!”


Sturgis Faculty – Chris Abel, History

Chris Abel

Thank you.  Parents, friends, relatives, administrators, fellow teachers, members of the Board.  Thank you.

And to the Class of 2017…thank you very much for the invitation to speak here today.  It is truly an honor.

However, perhaps most importantly, it gives me the opportunity to greet you with this adage to you one last time:  THANKS FOR SHOWING UP!

I always like to remind my students that it was once stated that “80% of success in life is just showing up”…, I guess we are doing pretty good so far today.

Incidentally, that was Woody Allen…it wasn’t me.

So, I was at the beach recently and was trying to find inspiration for what to say to all of you today.  The answer came to me unexpectedly from my wife and that saying “thanks for showing up.”

Every time we go away on vacation and we are getting ready to return home I always pick up the suitcase and wonder aloud “why is this thing so heavy?”

The answer invariably comes:  “rocks”

That’s right.  Rocks.  We go away on vacation bringing little more than board shorts and t-shirts and come back hauling a suitcase full of rocks.  Now, granted, my wife has created a beautiful rock garden for which I am eternally grateful, but this really wasn’t my point.

The funny thing is, even before I met my wife, whenever I travelled I always used to pick up A rock…or two.  Some I cast back out to sea, others I kept.  Not a whole 50lb suitcase full, mind you, but one or two small mementos gathered along the shore.

Show of hands

Show of hands – you too audience – how many of you have ever walked along the shore of a lake or stream or the ocean and picked up a rock?

It doesn’t matter why – but how many have ever picked up a rock?

And, how many of you have ever thought….and I mean seriously thought….about why you picked up that rock?

Maybe you judged it to be pretty or unusual or just plain “cool?”  Maybe it was exceptionally well-shaped for skipping?  Maybe you just wanted to see how far you could actually throw it out to sea?

Beyond a few superficial surface characteristics, most of us never really think very deeply about rocks – if we think about them at all.

But seriously….I’d like you to think for a minute:  Why did that rock turn up precisely at that moment for you to find it?

Was it purely chance?  Luck?  Something larger?

Chris Abel

Well, I was reading a book recently…..and IF YOU LIKE BOOKS….this one was about the Ojibwe Tribe of Northern Michigan.   And, the Ojibwe believe you picked up that stone because stones have voices.  Voices which speak to us, call out to us – voices that called out so that we would find them and help them on their journey.  That is, they believe there was a reason that particular rock showed up when and where it did.

Whatever you want to believe, one thing is certain – each rock is unique…in not only its physical characteristics, but its journey.  Some started as massive boulders now whittled down to the perfect shape and size to be skipped;  others were once part of towering cliffs and precipices now fallen; others have lain around for centuries, barely moving, just waiting for you to come along and help them continue their unique journey….

Think about that next time you pick up a rock along the shore – think about what it went through to get there and the impact you can have on its progressive odyssey.

And, if you believe the Ojibwe, think about the rock’s voice – a voice that is unique and decided to call out to you and only you.

Now, by this point you’re probably wondering – it’s my graduation day and I’m hearing about rocks?

Well, yes.  But, there is some sort of purpose here, I assure you.

The simple message here is that in all the complications that are bound to surround your life, I would like you to be reminded of the little things – things as simple as rocks – and the resonating impacts we can have with even the smallest of actions.

It is the little things which should remind us that we don’t need to ask “Will I change the world?”

Because the answer is: You will.

It is only a matter of figuring out what you want that change to be.

You may not always get to choose the shores upon which you land, but you can all use your voice to make the journey – and your purpose for being here – truly unique

You see, life is a mystery to be revered, not a riddle to be solved; It is a journey to be savored, not an end-line to be crossed; it is a compilation of experiences, not a competition for the acquisition of material goods.

And so, I urge you – think about the little things;  For only if we think about something as simple as the rock at our feet, can we hope to conceptualize why we were placed here on this Earth at this particular moment in time….and what a colossal achievement that happens to be

Perhaps I can break it down for you another way – and what better way to do that than by referencing everybody’s favorite subject – math.

First rocks and now math.  Best. Speech. Ever.

Anyway, I recently read an article which attempted to calculate the odds of you being born at all – the mathematical arithmetic of which is a herculean task, from what I could gather….

Anyway, you know what the odds were?  The odds of you being born?

1 in 10 to the 2.6 millionth power.

That is, the chances of an unbroken, evolving line of lineage surviving for more than 2 million years despite disease, natural disaster, wars, famines and other mortally-fatal factors…all properly aligned so that eventually your parents could meet, merge successfully and conceive you….were 1 in 10 to the 2.6 millionth power.

Now, I’m no math teacher…but even I couldn’t help but be astounded by this mathematical formulation.

I mean 1 in 10 to the 2.6 millionth power?

What this boils down to in its most basic sense is this:  With those odds….you shouldn’t even be here.

Some might call it luck; others might call it fate or predestination.  But irrespective of what you believe, it all comes down to the same thing.

Your being here is a miracle….an insanely improbable miracle.

Now, accepting that you are a miracle may come as a terrifying prospect and in many regards I suppose it is.

So, what can I tell you?

Truth is, I have no idea.

But maybe if you think about that rock, you can hopefully begin to imagine all that it went through in finding its way to you.  Then perhaps you can begin to understand everything the universe has gone through to bring you here today.

And that in that context, you can begin to contemplate a truth which is both complex and simple and the same time:

You were meant to arrive here at precisely this moment in time.  And because of that, you have the unique opportunity to actualize something that only you can offer to the world.

For, you are not just a random statistic.

And, you didn’t just show up here by accident.

I hope you consider that the next time you pick up a rock along some shore you may not even know about yet.

Now, I know you are not a rock.   What you are is a living, breathing miracle –  a miracle of which I am truly honored to have been a witness.

But now, Class of 2017, a different time has arrived.  We here among you have held you in the palm of our hand long enough.

It is time for us to fare thee well and cast you back out to sea.

It is time for your journey to continue.

Because this is your life. This is your miracle.

And all I can say is:  thanks for showing up.

Thank you.


Gretchen Buntschuh Literary Award – Patrick O’Kane, Sturgis East Principal

Patrick O’Kane and Mark Agostinelli

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

The Gretchen Buntschuh Literary Award is awarded each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated a genuine interest in literature and gift for language.

Sturgis faculty provided the following description of this year’s winner:

Chris Abel, History: “He is a gifted writer who is able to convey ideas like spokes on a bicycle wheel.  Each part is connected to a central idea and the entire written-work functions together as one solid unit.  He is a young man with an outstanding grasp of the English language and an ability to convey complex ideas in the written word.”

Marca Daley, Theory of Knowledge: “What impressed me most about his written work in TOK was the writing process he went through.   He was very willing to take chances and not afraid to re-vise – re-see – re-work his thoughts and ideas so that they expressed his vision clearly and cogently.”

Patrick O’Kane and Mark Agostinelli

Bob Wojtowicz, English: “He is a student who consistently demonstrates a genuine interest in literature and love of language.  No matter what genre we studied–fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or drama–he had the ability to discuss and write cogently about literary features pertinent to each work.  Even in his personal reflections, he displayed the heart of a true wordsmith who was constantly seeking to perfect his craft.”

Following thoughtful deliberation, the scholarship committee and English Department faculty feel the senior who best embodies the spirit of Ms. Buntschuh’s gift and passion for language is … Mark Agostinelli

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


Receiving of Diplomas and Signing the Ship’s Log


Additional photos of the 2017 East Graduation can be found at photographer Jarvis Chen’s website: 



This slideshow requires JavaScript.










%d bloggers like this: