Graduation 2017 – Sturgis West

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

Despite the on and off showers 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 Marion Weeks.  We hope the speeches, videos and photographs capture a bit of the spirit of the 2017 Sturgis West Graduation.

Congratulations Sturgis West Class of 2017:

Ryan F. Aittaniemi,  Briannah A. Baptista, Madison J. Barletta, Chloe P. Bass, Max C. Beaton, Rose D. Blackwell,  Juliana A. Borden,  Gabriella C. Boucher,  Devin S. Bridgwater,  Sarah A. Buchanan,  Hannah R. Cardoza,  Gwenyth R.  Carr,  Dylan T. Chagnon,  Brendan M.  Cloutier,  Ellen E. Dallaire,  Anne M.  Dankert , Allison M. Dimmick,  Sarah D.  Fein,  Amanda G.  Finch,  Amanda R. Flanagan,  Alexandra Y. Fontes,  Christian J.  Ford-Harrington , Julianna C. Foresteire, Daniel J. Fuhrman, Samuel J. Furtado, Danielle P.  Gavin,  Meghan E. Guptill,  Jennifer M.  Harney,  Lillian A. Healy, Kai M. Herbst, Steven M. Horn, Christian S. Jordan,  Benjamin M.  Judelson, Mary E. Kane, Taylor A. Keith,  Charlotte N. Kelly, Rachel N. Kilduff, Kyle S. Leaver, Taylor N. Lennon,  Owen A.  Linehan, Ryan M. Linn, Gemma T. Lombardozzi, Madeline E. Lower, Chadwick S. MacMillan, Catherine R. Mahoney, Victoria F. Mahoney, Rebecca J. Mann,  Carlotta R. Maruca, Thomas B. McCormack, Ashlynne E. McNally, Emma A. Metzger, Maci A. Migliore, Brigid R. Morrison, Madelyn E. Nasuti, Jasmine R. Netherwood, Erin K. O’Brien, Konor K. O’Brien, Erin M. O’Hara, Max W. O’Hare, Chase J. Palmer, Nathan J. Pappalardo, Nicholas F. Pepe, Joseph P. Perry, Lauren K. Perry, Conner J. Peters, Willa B. Poepsel, Molly H. Rowland, Zachary S. Russo, Emma C. Schneider, John D. Snowman, Abigail L. Spangler, Austin M. Sroczenski, Travis R. Sroczenski, Cierra J. St. Pierre-Bentley, Savannah I. St. Pierre-Bentley, Jordan M. Standish, Brett J. Sullivan, Abigail M. Thut, Jordana H. Townsend, Taylor N. Vasta, Peter N. von der Heyde, Soleil I. Vowell, Linnea A. Wahle, Michelle C. Waldron, Liam R. Walker, Sarah A. Walman, Rebecca L. White, Samuel L. White


Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

Sturgis West Class of 2017 in the 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.

Samuel White Rings the Ship’s Bell

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, Executive Director

Sturgis West Class of 2017, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends: today is a momentous day.  Eighty-eight Sturgis West seniors – soon to be graduates – sit behind me, expectantly.  They are nearing the end of one journey, about to embark on another, and for the last time each of these eighty-eight 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 Joseph Perry and Taylor Lennon 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. Mr. Lee, brace yourself.

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

Soleil Vowel

From Soleil Vowel: When I first came to Sturgis I was told I had Integrated Math with Ms.King. Now, I did not end up [that first morning] in Integrated Math 9 with Ms. King. Instead, I found myself in a classroom of seniors, and I remember looking at all the posters on the wall and thinking to myself “Hey that’s not math. That’s not even English”. I know now that I had gone to high level Spanish, but at the time I had no idea where I was and I was too terrified to say anything. I don’t know if it was the fact that my name wasn’t called at attendance, the fact that they were speaking a language that I didn’t understand, or the moment when three seniors were collectively whispering to me “you’re in the wrong place” but I did somehow manage to figure out I was in the wrong room. Now maybe I had been too scared to communicate at that moment, but the seniors who helped me find my math class weren’t. Because by the time we get through four years at Sturgis we become leaders.

Rose Blackwell and Paul Marble

From Rose Blackwell: Through our time in the International Baccalaureate program, as painful as it may have been, we have all developed skills that I believe have made us not only prepared for the future, but prepared to excel in whatever path we choose to follow. One of the most important lessons I have learned from my time at Sturgis is that yes, grades are important, but they do not compare to the quality of character we each possess. The skills we have learned in communicating spreading kindness, and helping others by far outweigh the information we learned in our classes. Whether it was through research in Theory of Knowledge or class debates in HL History, we all learned to hear and understand other’s thoughts and appreciate differences. This, to me, is one of the most valuable lessons that I have learned through my time at Sturgis. Knowing that the future doctors, artists, politicians, and scientists that sit behind me have all acquired these skills reassures me that our futures will be bright.

Emma Schneider

From Emma Schneider: Now for the life changing inspiration that’s an integral part of any graduation speech. Molly Blackwell said something at the Sturgis alumni day this year, which is an especially important lesson for a school full of overachievers. She said that you have to remember that there will always be someone better than you. At first it sounds harsh and demoralizing, but it’s true, there will always be someone who is smarter, prettier, faster, funnier, nicer etc. Take Mr Lee for example. He can play 57,000 instruments and even sing, he’s extremely smart, not just in history, he’s pretty funny, good at public speaking, and most important of all, he’s amazing teacher. But, he wears glasses. So even though he might be better than us at almost everything, someone who does not wear glasses can see better than Mr Lee.

From Benjamin Judelson: Sturgis is named after William Sturgis, a merchant sailor who dedicated his life to the sea and education. Four years ago, in the vein of our namesake, the class of 2017 set sail on a great voyage. A voyage that would leave us in a new chapter of our lives. A transformative voyage which was rumored to be plagued with challenges such as tests, pop quizzes, six hours of homework a night, and cruel teachers to make our lives unnecessarily miserable. However, my experience at Sturgis was far from the rumors.

Ben Judelson

Don’t get me wrong, we had several challenges along the way. The IB tested us with EE’s, IOP’s, IOC’s, IA’s, WA’s, CAS, and many many papers. Our yellow and green walled vessel even sprang a leak and we had to abandon ship! I think our winter vacation to the conference center last December in classrooms between curtains and without whiteboards, embodies what Sturgis is about. The teachers care about teaching, and the students, despite however academically inclined you might think you are, care about learning. Sturgis Southwest exemplified our commitment to learning and our ability to make do and persevere no matter what obstacle stands in our path.

Rachel Kilduff

From Rachel Kilduff: Along with all the academic knowledge I’ve gained here, there are some other very important things I’ve learned and I may have a piece of advice or two. Most importantly, always have respect for those around you. I learned this through being around all of these amazing teachers who are the reason we are all here and made it through the IB and even high school in general, which can be daunting on its own. You all deserve a thank you. Despite times where we may have seemed unappreciative of things you have done for us (especially Mrs. Kelley’s impeccable ability of always tracking kids down), there is not one kid up here that has not appreciated everything you have done to see us grow. So my piece of advice today is to always respect those that are doing everything they can just to see you succeed, because they have truly helped shape who I am today and I can never be more thankful. I never thought I could develop such good relationships with my teachers, but again, here I am. These teachers have been motivators when I needed the little extra push (which was probably more often than not), friends when I needed them, comedians when I needed a laugh (Mr. Wooton that one’s for you), but most importantly my teachers for not only academics, but life lessons.  I never thought I would end up loving all the little things about a school and this class, but here I am. And boy did Sturgis grow on me.

Carlie Maruca

From Carlie Maruca: I feel like there were many academic things that I have learned through my time here, and well I probably retained some of it. But the things I remember most weren’t on the curriculum. So here is a bunch of stuff that was taught in class really.  I have learned that Mr. Rich’s stories tend to start with “I wasn’t proud of this but”, and they are always fun stories about bad life choices. It’s life lessons from Mr. Rich.  I have learned that the Lees are fun to travel with, that Mrs Lee’s sister isn’t like her at all, and Mr Lee and I both take pictures and make things with wood and play basketball.  Pags is an interesting man who may be short but can jump really high in the air if the refs aren’t paying attention to him.  The timeline of Mr. McDowell’s life confuses me at times; so many places and stories and schools that he attended.  Mr. Wooton lunges and points at people when he calls on them. Due to his class, I can make a poster about anything.

Mary Kane Signs Out of the Captain’s Log

From Mary Kane: As I stand before you today and glance over the faces of my fellow graduates, it is hard not to smile. To finally be able to consider myself and my peers “graduates of the Sturgis Charter Public School Class of 2017” is beyond gratifying. These past four years were by no means easy, and there were multiple times when I thought I would not reach this finish line with numerous IAs, IOPs, IOCs, Paper 1s, Paper 2s, incomprehensible markschemes, chocolate filled all nighters, and mornings where we felt we had to drag ourselves out of bed in effort to get dressed and ready for school. And on top of that we must not forget the Group 4 project. But those struggles have only made this moment sweeter for all of us.

From Travis Sroczenski: Though my nickname of “waterboy” and first impression on everyone slowly faded away, I found myself. In that fateful class, I met my girlfriend of 2 years, and decided I liked it here. I liked how tight knit we all are, I liked how approachable my counselors were, I liked how I could talk to Mrs. Kirk as if she was my equal, I liked how my teachers were my coaches, and my coaches were my teachers, I liked how the smell of burnt popcorn in the atrium or the constant yelling of Ms. Weimar’s “get to class!” felt like home, and I really liked how Sturgis allowed me to be me, to be “Travis”.

Travis Sroczenski

Moving on, I also will be ever grateful for the opportunities Sturgis has given me. Although I do admit that it’s cliche to bring up the amount of clubs and sports I did, I could not bring myself to leave the experiences I’ve had out of this speech. Through Sturgis, I played 3 different spring sports, including Tennis with Mr. Lee. I’ve traveled across Europe with some of my closest friends (and Mr. Lee), I went to New York and participated in a United Nations conference representing Saudi Arabia (with Mr. Lee), and even attended school in a hotel (and yes, Mr. Lee was also there). Its no secret that Mr. Lee has made an impact on my life.

Rebecca Mann

And finally, from Rebecca Mann: I had the opportunity to attend one of the best high schools in Massachusetts just by luck. I don’t always see that event as lucky. Especially after four years of the IB with IAs, IOCs, IOPs, OPVLs, RPs, EEs and any other acronym you can think of. But everything is done, checked, stamped and mailed off to Zimbabwe and Timbuktu and we are done. Looking back on the day where I got into Sturgis, where I sat in the room where they picked the lottery, I did not recognize any of the names they were saying. I would have never guessed that those people would impact my life in such a way that all the strife and tears and sleepless nights and countless hours of homework and writing essays and studying, would all be worth it. It was a stroke of luck getting into Sturgis, for all of us, but it’s the hard work, determination, strength and bravery that led us to this point, where we can say that we are officially finished with the IB and we finished strong.

I’m going to miss this school so much. I’m going to miss talking about books and poetry, I’m going to miss playing historically accurate Mafia in History. I’m going to miss the winter concert and arts fest, the musicals, playing ships and sailors, spirit week and the small moments in between. I’m going to miss these yellow walls, the constant smell of pizza and popcorn, but most of all I’m going to miss all of you, my classmates and the teachers that have been so formative in my life. But I’m going to bring all this with me and keep it for the rest of my life because it’s the small moments that make life worthwhile. Thank you all for giving me these small moments to hold onto but inspiring me to go make a new adventure. Thank you.

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

Laurie Carah & Sue Whalley

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: Mary Albis, Kristen Anthony, Joselle Dellamorte, Mike Jeghers, Caroline Lee, Matt Lee, Elisabeth Moore, Kristin Nissen, Divya Sharma and Jessie Wilburn, please stand.

I would also like to celebrate two of my long-serving colleagues retiring this year who have been vital community members and contributed greatly to the culture of Sturgis West: Laurie Carah and Sue Whalley, please stand.

Sturgis West 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 – Dr. Keith Clarke, President of the Board


Sturgis Senior Musicians “Rivers and Roads”

By The Head & The Heart


Sturgis Class of 2017 – Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry

To start, I would like to thank the teachers and the administration both for letting me speak in front all of you, but also for helping us with so much over the past four years of high school. But now that we are finally graduating seniors, I can say many of us are wishing we were freshmen again. I am astounded to be here. I have always dreamed for this day, but now that the dream has turned into reality, my anticipation has turned into excitement and apprehensiveness, like it has for most of us. However, even though our time in high school is ending, we are not done yet. In fact, our lives are just getting started, and I am happy to say that Sturgis has prepared us greatly for this moment.

I would like to tell you about one of my moments here at Sturgis that embodies what Sturgis has taught me over the past four years. I was a freshmen in Mrs. King’s math class. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying, but I can assure you it was probably something thoughtless and naive. However, I can remember exactly what Mrs. King told me: she said “Don’t be so judgy”. At first, her words didn’t really sink in as I didn’t always think deeply about anything in my freshmen year. But after repeated times, the words finally sunk in.

I really thought long and hard about what she was saying about my judgements; not only what I was saying directly, but why I was saying them. As my thoughts were beginning to grow and mature, I had a revelation; the way I was interpreting and judging the world had to do with me and how I perceived people, rather than the actual individual themselves. Once I realized this, everything started to change for me.

I looked at people differently. I realized that all of my criticisms came from a place of ignorance and insensitivity, rather than a place of wisdom and compassion. I needed to understand that I was imperfect. In turn, I realized that no one is perfect, and it would therefore be unfair for me to make critical and superficial judgements of others.

I don’t believe this is something that the IB can teach. In fact, I don’t think any curriculum can teach a lesson like the one I learned freshman year; only a culture such as the one at Sturgis can cultivate such a positive atmosphere and encourage and lead students to their own self-development and understanding. It is an important lesson to learn in a time such as now. Ignorance and intolerance is an issue that plagues our society today. This combined with sentiment of insecurity is a destructive combination that leads communities and societies into polarization.

Joseph Perry

History shows us that this insecurity can lead people to make impulsive decisions that ostracize and veil distinct groups of us from the rest of society in hopes to keep us safe and secure. But as critical thinkers, we should understand the underlying cause for people to act discriminately. That is why I encourage all of us to use the ways of thinking taught by the culture here at Sturgis in a constructive way as we become global citizens. With the world becoming more and more polarized, many of us are feeling insecure. I am encouraging all of us to be involved in society, whether it be by voting in our political system, or protesting against bigotry, we all need to be active and engaged citizens, especially in the world’s current social climate.

I want everyone to picture a society in the future that mirrors Sturgis’ culture. It may be hard to imagine, but I believe it’s possible. Contrary to how many adults feel, I have a lot of faith in our generation. Of course, we will have many issues of our own that will arise over the coming years. But in the big picture of things, I believe we have the ability to change how society thinks and runs in ways no one has done before. So even though our time here at Sturgis is coming to a close, our opportunity to make positive change in the real world is just beginning.

That’s what I am leaving you with here: an encouragement for all of us to implement these positive ideas we have learned in Sturgis into our adulthoods. The qualities of being principled, open-minded and non judgmental that we have as the next generation are so important to cultivate a peaceful future. I have no doubt in my mind that we can paint a bright future for all of us. Thank you.


Sturgis Faculty – Marjorie Chaprales, Student Support

Marjorie Chaprales

Greetings Board Members, Faculty, Staff, Parents, Family, Friends, and most importantly: The Class of 2017.  The day you have all been waiting for is here!

Standing here with you all in cap and gown I can’t help but think of the silent group of freshmen that I encountered on your first day of school.  I had nearly 20 of you during B block that day: after you had spent all morning in meetings and orientations – you came to room 214, Mr. Lee’s classroom, in a bit of shock.  You had just been given the real insight into what your next four years were going to look like and who you were going to spend them with.  I was also having my first day at Sturgis – and I think in many ways that gave us a bit of a kinship.  We were setting out on the Sturgis adventure together.

During our time together I have gotten to know that many of you are the exact opposite of the silent kid that I met in September 2013.  We have had many conversations about life, school, friendship, family, and my love for 90s hip hop and boy bands.  You have taught me a lot of what it is to be a teenager in the world we live in now and I have shared many stories with you about “back in my day…”.   Beyond us starting Sturgis on the same day – we come from the same place. I was once, not too long ago, a teenager in a high school on Cape Cod.

Since my time as a teenager here, a lot has changed: and I don’t just mean that we now have a Whole Foods and a Chick-fil-a.  While you and I are both considered millennials there have been some major differences between your adolescence and mine.  Unfortunately for people your age, you have become young adults in a time of intense scrutiny.  A time where everything that you do is broadcast whether you like it or not.  A time of instant gratification and information.

When I was a teenager, we had the internet and cell phones but not the two together and they were something that we stepped away from sometimes.  When I was in high school, we still had to wait to have our film developed and then make prints to share with our friends-and this cost money! In my day, we often times couldn’t reach people we were looking for and had to leave a message-with their parents!  We certainly couldn’t pull out our phone and look up something we wanted to know and get the answer immediately.  And while it is super cool that we no longer have to call the radio station to ask them what song was just playing – there can be a downside to all of this instant contact and information.

On your graduation day, in true Ms. C fashion, I want to give you a little bit of life advice.  Granted, I certainly don’t have all the answers.  None of us do.  That’s the beauty of the life we live…we get to spend a little bit of time figuring some things out.
During your time at Sturgis I have given you lots of advice.  But  I think most of you will agree, the thing that I say most to you is “Make good choices”.

Now, reflecting on this a little bit, I have realised that your English teachers would tell me that “good” is considered subjective.  There is no right way to define “good”.  So I have been thinking about this.  What do I mean by “make good choices”.  When I think about that, the word integrity comes to mind.  The Cambridge English Dictionary defines it as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change”.  I think I will instead say “Make your choices with integrity”.

I have heard it said that integrity is doing what is right when no one is watching.  I think in some ways this can also be the reverse – doing what is right when EVERYONE is watching.  Social media has made it “cool” to show everyone what you are doing.  For millenials like you and me, we now have the chance to be someone in person and on the internet.  And sometimes what you are doing on the internet is not how you behave in your day to day life.  What I hope for you is that you will use the internet and social media with responsibility.  That you will represent yourself digitally as you would in a human interaction.

There will be times when social media will become a pressure to you.  And that pressure might be making you feel like you should be something other than what you are.  My hope is that you will have the integrity to remember that there is life beyond the screen.  That not everything needs to be seen through the lens of a snapchat filter.  That’s it’s perfectly acceptable to be kind and friendly in person AND on the internet.  Make all of your choices with integrity – whether someone will see them or not.

Beyond this, I wish for you to find something you are passionate about and pursue it. Be true to yourself by going after your dreams. Become an artist, teacher, doctor, athlete, entrepreneur, advocate, musician, or explorer – the things you have shared with me over the years that bring you joy and inspire you.    Post about it on social media – but don’t do it just for the “likes”.  Have conversations, in person, about what fires you up. Don’t substitute “facetime” for face to face time.  You were put on this earth to be you – nobody else can do that!

In closing, I want to leave you with some words from e.e. Cummings. “To be nobody-but-yourself – in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight: and never stop fighting.”

Class of 2017 – you are wonderful.  You have brightened my days. I hope that someday you will do something that means as much to you as it has meant for me to be your mentor, coach, and “school mom”.  I wish you all luck as you leave our little peninsula to make your mark on this big world.  I can’t wait to see all the great things you will do.  And know that wherever you go – you have already made your mark on me and you will not be forgotten.

Sturgis Class of 2017 – Taylor Lennon

Taylor Lennon

A Transformation: From Sapling to Evergreen

My time at sturgis has brought me from a timid young sapling to a mighty evergreen, strong, rooted, able to bear any weather. Of the many things I learned in HL Biology, I learned that plants are smarter than you might think. Tropisms are a biological phenomenon, that cause the growth or turning movement of a biological organism in response to a stimulus from the environment. Basically, a tropism is something that changes the way a plant may grow in order for them to thrive in their environment. Today I will tell you a little bit about thigmotropism, geotropism, electrotropism, and phototropism, and how they all influenced my growth.

Thigmotropism: The first of these, thigmotropism, is when a plant responds to touch. Once a plant hits a wall, it begins to grow in another direction. Going to a big high school, for me was like trying to grow in a tiny box. No matter how much food and water you give it, overcrowding only leaves so much room for each plant to grow. My leaves curled under and I couldn’t reach to the light of the sun to carry out the processes necessary for my survival.

When I reached Sturgis, it was as if suddenly, the walls were gone. I could grow as big as I wanted to without bumping into any limits. It felt like when you sit up in bed and you stretch out your tired muscles as the sun pours through the window pane. I began truly wanting to grow and prosper, and slowly I began to climb towards the rays of the sun.

Geotropism: Our second tropism, it causes a plant’s roots to grow down, and its stem to grow up. For a while I had yet to grow any roots, I couldn’t quite lock down a place. I used to think having a place meant securing a spot in a friend group. I know differently now. You cannot define yourself based upon other people, because they all have their own paths to take, so at one point, you will probably separate. And that’s okay. Who we are, our identity, it’s how we grow from our past. Like layers in a tree trunk we continue building and building on top of what we already are, and we grow roots from our center down deep into the earth. It is an amazing feeling to be grounded, secure in one’s place. During my time as a student here I grew roots down into the earth so deep that I know I will never drift away from myself. As I continued to expand myself as a learner, I could be secure in myself, and know that I can to expand my knowledge and my capabilities without fear of losing my place. Sturgis helped me find a home in myself.

Electrotropism: Thirdly, electrotropism is defined as a response to electric current, and has had a long lasting impact on me. There is a certain current that runs through the halls here that keeps us all awake, a camaraderie that bonds us together after the adversity we go through as IB students. There is a sense of interconnectedness to the extent that even strangers feel a sense of fellowship with one another. I learned to relate to others and connect with them, and since coming here my social skills have vastly improved. I feel confidence in my ability to speak to others and relate with them upon first meeting, and while I used to shy away from social interaction, I now actively seek it out. In just about any situation, I feel I will be able to catch on to the current in the crowd and form connections with others after all the positive reinforcement from those surrounding me here at Sturgis.

Last but definitely not least, Phototropism: Plants have a hormone called Auxin. When the sun is on one side of the plant, Auxin levels increase in the shady side which causes the plant to turns towards the light. For a while, for me, school was just going through the motions, getting things done to get a good grade. I learned each class could be so much more than that. Despite the fact that I, like many other students, have some subjects I prefer over others, I enjoyed all my classes. My teachers were rays of light, the amount of passion they possessed for their subjects was so inspiring, I couldn’t help but feel something for the subject as well. Mr. Wooten, making elaborate gestures that rivaled my work in theatre, and assuring me that Fidel Castro is “not some yahoo off the back of a turnip truck”. Mr. Mcdowell’s insistence that just because Robert Frost is displaying the theme of isolation in the poem “Desert Places,” that doesn’t mean anything if we can’t answer the question of why he is doing such a thing. The spark in Ms. Botsford’s eyes when she is explaining her newest idea for the show, how you can see her acting it out in her head in technicolor visions. Or maybe Mrs. Kelly’s extreme patience as she painstakingly re-explains the complex processes of DNA replication, transcription, and translation. The passion they had lead me to grow towards their light, and to find my own devotion for my studies. Furthermore, being around such ardor helped me unearth an eagerness for learning and discovering new things in all aspects of my life.

Finally, An Evergreen: So now here I am, once a sapling and now an evergreen. I am still growing, and I will continue to grow, but because of the skills I learned at Sturgis, I know I will be able to adapt to whatever my environment throws my way. When I approach a boundary I will not cower but overcome and supersede it. I will stay grounded as I continue to grow and expand, onward and upward. I will find the current and join it so that I may bond with those who surround me. But most of all, I will let passion and dedication guide my way to growth.

You may have followed along with this allegory, or you may perceive me as a strange girl who really likes trees, but at the end of this speech, I hope you take away that after this experience, we will all be Ever Green.


Sturgis Faculty – Matt Lee, History

Matt Lee

Good afternoon and greetings to Mr. Marble, Ms. Kirk, members of our Board of Trustees, fellow faculty, staff, friends, family, and of course the Sturgis West Class of 2017.

Your graduation and the end of this school year marks the end of a quarter century of charter school education in the United States, but we are gathered here to celebrate, not 25 years, but just four years.  Can you believe it’s already been four years since we first met each other, since we first started getting to know each other, since you drew those horrendous propaganda posters about me?  Whether I was depicted as a horrifying janitor mopping away your happiness or a demonish monster slaking my thirst with the tears of my students, I am flattered that you would take the time and effort to express as lucidly as possible your most earnest and endearing feelings to me.  Today, I am humbled to have this opportunity to express my most earnest and endearing feelings to you.

In his Odes, the Roman poet Horace famously advised his readers to “seize the day.”  I’m afraid this phrase has become terribly misunderstood and misapplied, and based on some of the stories I heard on service day of your escapades playing “Odds Are,” I have to say my fears have been confirmed; but even the Roman Epicurean, whose chief moral good was material pleasure, argued that the excess of any thing actually diminished the enjoyment of that thing.  Moderation is key, and any classicist will tell you that “seize the day” is actually better translated “pluck the day.”  So what does it mean to carpe diem?  I mean, besides being inquirers and knowledgeable and thinkers and communicators and principled and open-minded and caring and risk-takers and balanced and reflective.

First, I think, is to make the most of the opportunities given to you.  A teacher friend of mine shared with me a story about a graduating student of his, who wanted most of all a family vacation on a tropical cruise to celebrate her graduation.  This would have proved itself a financial strain on the family, but nonetheless, knowing it was her earnest desire, her parents saved up enough money to make it possible, with one caveat: in order to make the getaway affordable, the family would eat in for every meal.  To that end, they packed an entire suitcase full of spam.  So, every breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while the other guests descended upon the ship’s fine dining halls and restaurants, lavishly and extravagantly spending their fortunes, this wiser, more frugal, and more scrupulous family would retreat to its cabin to crack open a few cans of America’s specially processed army meat.

Imagine the frustration building up each day as she walked past seeing the other guests of the cruise enjoying that which was forbidden to her, until one day, she broke free of her parents’ clutches, dashed into the dining hall and devoured the nearest plate.  Her parents, horrified by the conduct of their daughter, shamefully walked across to the hostess, took out their wallet, and apologetically asked to pay the bill.  They were returned with a confused look because, unbeknownst to them, they were aboard an all-inclusive cruise.  In a moment, their wisdom was proven fraudulent and foolish.

Your own journey makes a world of opportunities available to you. To discern the difference between that which entraps you and that which frees you is crucial to avoid being blinded to these opportunities.  Here’s the good news, and a second observation about seizing the day: you don’t need to be extraordinarily gifted to do this.  That should come as a tremendous relief to most of you.  While that comes across as a dig meant to illicit cheap laughs, isn’t a great burden lifted in knowing that you can seize your day even when pursuing things at which you aren’t naturally gifted, nor may ever be gifted, regardless of how much time you invest in it?

Karen Rinaldi describes this in a recent opinion piece for The New York Times titled “(It’s Great to) Suck at Something.”  Allow me to read a short excerpt:

“Over the past 15 years, surfing has become a kind of obsession for me.  I surf eight months a year, traveling to surf destinations, seeking the waves of the Atlantic and the Pacific, spending thousands on boards of all sizes and shapes.

“And yet – I suck at it.  In the sport of (Hawaiian) kings, I’m a jester.  I fall and flail.  I get hit on the head by my own board.  I run out of breath when held down by a four-foot wave.  I wimp out when the waves get overhead and I paddle back to shore.  When I do catch a wave, I’m rarely graceful.  On those rare occasions when I manage a decent drop, turn and trim, I usually blow it by celebrating with a fist pump or a hoot.  Once, I actually cried tears of joy over what any observer would have thought a so-so performance on a so-so wave.  Yes, I was moved to tears by mediocrity.  So why continue?  Why pursue something I’ll never be good at?  Because it’s great to suck at something.  In the process of trying to attain a few moments of bliss, I experience something else: patience and humility, definitely, but also freedom.  Freedom to pursue the futile.”

You see, it’s okay to suck at something, first, because the quality of your company is far more important than the quality of your ability.  “Two left feet” does not begin to describe the aberration I become when I hit the dance floor.  I make Kevin James in Hitch and Left Shark from last year’s Super Bowl look like Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.  So when my then-fiancee tells me she wants us to sign up for ballroom dancing lessons before our wedding, what do I say?  Of course!  It was an opportunity to seize the day.  You see, seizing the day had very little to do with the quality of my dancing and had everything to do with the quality of my company.  It was something I got to do with my best friend.

Second, it’s okay to suck at something because your success will not look like anyone else’s success.   Columnist Michael Winerip can claim two very exclusive hallmarks of “success”: a Pulitzer prize, and a Harvard diploma.  In a recent column, he described how disappointed he would become when he interviewed extremely qualified high school hopefuls for his alma mater, only to learn later that they weren’t accepted; until he realized that his own focus on Harvard was a matter not of sophistication, but of narrowness; and while attending an elite college was one of the few ways up for him, his children have lots of avenues to success.

I grew up with a Korean tiger grandmother who for as long as I can remember told me that I had to grow up to become a lawyer.  The reason, she said, was that lawyers make a lot of money.  This abruptly changed one day when she decided instead that I must grow up to become a doctor, as not only do they make a lot of money, but also because, unlike lawyers, they actually help people.  That’s a lot of pressure for a seven-year old, but my dad gave me the greatest encouragement I could receive: you don’t have to become a doctor.

If you become fixated on the prestige of the school you attend or the job you get, it will trap and blind you to everything else you can enjoy.  That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with becoming a doctor or even a lawyer, but chasing after someone else’s ideal will only keep you from becoming your own unique and excellent self. For me, my grandmother’s ambitions were nothing more than a can of spam keeping me from seizing all that my days had to offer.

Perhaps for you, the narrow-minded ambition of becoming a doctor keeps you from seeing all else you can do. Perhaps for you, you should become a doctor, but your own lack of confidence or self-discipline inhibits you.  The important thing is, as Oscar Wilde said, to “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

I will not be disappointed if you don’t all get 7s on your IB exams, if you never achieve fame and distinction, if your names are, as Lincoln once said, “never immortalized, transferred to counties and cities, and rivers and mountains, and to be revered and sung, and toasted through all time.”  I will be thrilled to know that you made the most of the time and the opportunities given to you, that with the access you’ve been provided you sought to open doors for others, that you took a risk on someone the world would rather pass on by, that you seized every moment of your days.

It is a sad irony for teachers that the better we do our jobs, the sooner our students outgrow us, while the more deeply we learn of our fondness for them.  They say rather than making your presence known, it is better to make your absence felt.  This class, with its constant cries for attention has certainly made its presence known.  But let me be the first to admit how deeply I will feel your absence.  I will miss seeing you compete in games, perform on stage, and exchange ideas in class.  I will cherish the memories of trips to New York and abroad.  And perhaps even this monstrous history teacher who mops away your happiness and drinks your tears can dare to hope that this moment can melt away into a more profound and enduring friendship.

In just a moment, you’ll walk across that stage, sign out of the captain’s log, receive your diploma, and ring that bell.  You’ll be greeted with the warm embraces of friends, family, and teachers — the hug that says I’m proud of you, I love you, I’ll miss you, and a thousand other things.  Some of you will just get fist bumps.  Seize that moment.  Savor everything about it.  Congratulations and carpe diem!


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

Jenn Kirk, Sturgis West Principal

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 well being of others, and whose determination and tenacity helped them overcome obstacles.

This student has a strong work ethic, possesses business acumen, is resourceful and driven. In addition to balancing his schoolwork and extracurriculars, this student has held down multiple jobs at a time and has designed responsible, distinctive ways to supplement this income. He is a savvy visionary, confident in where he sees himself and already demonstrating the ambition, energy, and personal initiative it will take to get him there.

Jenn Kirk and Peter von der Hyde

When faced with adversity or challenges, some people give in, or give up, while others have the courage and will to strive to overcome challenges. This student is one of those people who rises above challenges and focuses on making life better for all of those around him – on the basketball court, in class, and in his work outside of school.

Maybe most importantly, though, this student has been described as having a HUGE heart. His entrepreneurial spirit is held up by strong family values, an unwavering kindness, and an unconditional compassion for others. He is dependable, non-judgmental and does not hold others’ flaws against them. He knows doubt and failure but remains positive when bouncing back. This student started a business selling limited edition sneakers online and has managed to make and save money for college. When he came to Sturgis, he did not know how to be a “sturgis student”.. but over the last four years he has developed habits of mind which have helped him to become who he is today. He is a hardworking student who exemplifies the conduct of a model Sturgis Student. This year’s William H Burke Award goes to Peter von der Hyde.


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


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