Welcome Aboard – A New Year Begins at Sturgis

A great deal transpires in the month between Convocation and Open House. We hope to document some of the highlights by providing the full text of convocation speeches by Paul Marble, Jenn Kirk,  and Patrick O’Kane along with a description of freshman orientation at Camp Burgess, Sturgis maritime traditions including the story of William Sturgis and signing the Sturgis Logbook at  Aselton Park.

A slideshow of photos from Convocation, Opening Day, Camp Burgess, Aselton Park and Open House is provided at the end of this article.

Convocation 2016


West Convocation

Paul Marble, Executive Director

This fall, Sturgis convenes for its 19th year, and “is dedicated to an ‘International Baccalaureate (IB) for All’ philosophy, preparing high school students for higher education in a supportive learning environment.  Sturgis provides each student a rigorous world-class educational program, encouraging academic achievement, intellectual confidence, and personal growth”

All of you will learn much more about the IB – and what an IB for All education entails – in the coming years. As we come together tonight, though, I’d like to identify what I see as six key beliefs that help to define and strengthen our school culture, beliefs that are shared amongst all members of our community and contribute to remarkable student growth.

East Convocation

East Convocation

Six Key Beliefs (I’d like to address the students directly for these six Beliefs):

  1. You are an equal part of something much bigger than all of us here: the Sturgis community. Our common language is based on your learning and our values, and is steeped in mutual respect and trust.

  1. We teach you, not stuff. Your math teacher teaches you how to learn mathematics; they don’t focus on the content, but rather on your understanding of the material, and your ability to become reflective, mature and creative with your thinking in the subject area.

  1. West Convocation

    West Convocation

    Our job as faculty is to work together to ensure that you reach your individual maximum potential. There is no set score on an exam, report card, nor IB diploma that can stand as a generalized marker of success.

  1. We use the marathon analogy: IB for All is a marathon that all of us are collectively training for and running together; it is a shared journey. It is not your time that matters most, nor is it the comparison of your time with the person next to you.  What matters most is your participation and the experience you have while training.  It’s that you run, not what you run that matters, along with striving to achieve your own personal best.

  1. East Convocation

    East Convocation

    Humility is key. Wisdom is more important – and rare – than knowledge, and requires us – and you – to become aware of all that we don’t know.

  1. Your questions are more important than your answers. This is true of the people around you, too.

I hope and anticipate that these six beliefs –

    • The importance of mutual respect

    • We teach kids, not stuff

    • Working together to ensure students reach their individual potential

    • That you run, not what you run

    • Humility is key

    • Questions matter more than answers

– will become evident in the work that you, your classmates, and your teachers do together beginning on Wednesday. These are some of the key beliefs that – in my opinion – help us to build such a strong and vibrant school culture.

Patrick O’Kane – Principal, Sturgis East

Patrick O'Kane Opening Day

Patrick O’Kane
Opening Day

Good evening Parents, Teachers, and most importantly, class of 2020!   As Mr. Marble mentioned, my name is Patrick O’Kane and I am the principal of Sturgis East.  Welcome.

On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy delivered a speech to Congress.  This so called “Moon Shot”speech outlined Kennedy’s vision of landing the first human beings on the Moon before the close of the decade.  Eight years later, Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon, thereby fulfilling JFK’s challenge.

Last year, Astronaut Sunita Williams delivered a lesser known speech when she spoke to me and 400 other audience members at Woods Hole.  During her talk, she outlined the future of NASA, told us a bit about living in space, and outlined NASA’s plans for a human trip to Mars. Amid the details of hypothetical space vehicles, gravitational forces and sheer scale (Mars is 34 million miles away from Earth), Ms. Williams made reference to JFK’s moon shot speech.  She commented that the Moon, in her opinion, was not the most important aspect of the space race.  What far out shadowed the actual Moon Landing were the scientific advances NASA made along the way.  The Space Race brought us, among many other things, vastly improved satellite communication, digital ear thermometers, improvements in baby food production, and of course, the dust buster.  Ms. Williams is looking forward to all of the amazing advances this next goal of Mars will bring to our society.

east-class-meetingTonight, I am delivering a speech.  JFK I am not, for sure.  Nor do I have any experience in Space.  I do know, however, that you, incoming Sturgis Students, have accepted a challenge.  You have decided to pursue the graduation requirements at Sturgis, an IB for All school.  Four years from now, you will receive a piece of paper telling you that you made it; that you, in effect, reached the moon.

Much like Sunita Williams, however, I believe that piece of paper (we call it a diploma) is far less important than the person who will reach out to receive it.  What will you look like four years from now?  What experiences will you collect along the way?  What will you learn?  Who will you meet?  What new scientific advances will you hypothesize about?  What personal advances will you make?  These are far more important than your diploma. The journey is what matters—not the end.

crossing-street-at-eastSo consider the lottery to be your own personal Moon Shot.  Consider it a challenge to achieve the goal of graduation from Sturgis.  Never forget, however, that the pathway to the goal is what really matters.  That is where growth happens.  That is where learning occurs.  That is where your memories are waiting to be made.

I will see you all tomorrow morning.

Thank you.

Jenn Kirk – Principal, Sturgis West


Jenn Kirk Opening Day

On the morning of April 19, 1966, Bobbi Gibb ran the Boston Marathon.

At this time the greatest distance women were allowed to run competitively was one and a half miles. There was a belief at that time that women were not physically capable of running 26.2 miles.

So on that Patriot’s Day in 1966 Bobbi Gibb decided that she could prove that wrong.
She hid behind some bushes, waited for about half the runners to pass and then jumped into the race. 3 hours and 27 minutes later she finished the Boston Marathon.

West Convocation

West Convocation

This past April the Boston Marathon celebrated 50 years of women in the race. Watching a video clip of Bobbi, I was moved by her story ­­but there was one question she asked that particularly struck me and I think applies to all of us.­­ (and I paraphrase )

how can we know what we are capable of if we are never given a chance to try?

This struck me and I couldn’t help but see a parallel with Sturgis and our I.B. for All philosophy.

Tonight you might we wondering what opportunities you will be offered at Sturgis. You will have the opportunity to learn both a foreign language and a classical language, you will have the chance to sing in the A cappella group or play in the Jazz Band.  You will have the opportunity to play a sport or maybe two or three –

Camp Burgess

Camp Burgess

At Sturgis we have a “Sports for All” philosophy ­­ we believe that all students can benefit from participating in the sport of their choice, and that teams benefit from including all students who want to join. We don’t believe in cuts.

For you it might be performing in a theater production.

You will have an opportunity to join a club- ­ Model United Nations, Civil Rights club, Key Club, Outing Club, to name a few…or maybe you will take this chance to create a club that hasn’t existed before.

West CAS Fair

West CAS Fair

All you need to do is find a few people to join you, enlist a faculty member to advise, and get going.
Later you will have the chance to take 6 IB courses. You will have the chance to contribute to helping Sturgis West continue to grow and flourish.

You will have the chance to challenge yourself to work hard and grow in ways you may never have imagined.

Trying is going to look different for each one of you.

For You it might be going on an international trip for the first time. For You it might mean raising your hand in class because before you were always afraid to speak up. For You it might be trying to be more quiet and attentive, in order to listen and learn not only from your teachers but from your peers. For You it might be trying to become a different student than you were before – the student you never thought was possible. Isn’t that exciting?

You will learn that trying and stumbling is part of learning and succeeding. Your teachers, support staff, school counselors and your peers believe in risk taking, they truly care about you and believe in helping you learn what you need.

West Convocation

West Convocation

All the people in these first three rows are here to support you as you grow and learn.

Your time at Sturgis will be unique to You, based on Your aspirations, Your interests, and who You are but in a community that deeply believes in helping you reach your personal best.


Jenn Kirk welcomes freshmen

We are excited to share this time with you.

So as you get ready to join us on Wednesday, you may wish to rephrase the question that Bobbi Gibb asked and consider what it will mean for you: What will you try?

WELCOME to Sturgis West.

Freshman Orientation Combines Team Building and Maritime Traditions

When freshmen first arrive on campus, they are met with many unfamiliar faces because students come to Sturgis from every town on Cape Cod and several towns off Cape.  Each year in September, Sturgis freshman spend a day away from campus to attend a teambuilding field trip at Camp Burgess in Sandwich. During the day, Camp Burgess leaders, grade 9 Sturgis teachers and freshmen break into small groups to participate in a variety of teambuilding activities.

tightropeTeambuilding activities involve problem-solving tasks designed to help group members learn how to work together effectively.  An important part of teambuilding involves reflection and discussion about the activity, including how participants approached the situation and what they learned.

Building trust, cooperation, and teamwork.The Camp Burgess Challenge Course and teambuilding program stimulates group interaction and promotes teamwork in a safe and fun environment.  log-nissen-croppedGoals include:

  • Improving communication.
  • Problem solving and conflict resolution.
  • Re-energizing group members.
  • Providing focus for developing group goals.

Maritime Traditions

Paul Marble Speaks with freshmen at Aselton Park

Paul Marble Speaks with freshmen at Aselton Park

At the end of the day, Sturgis freshmen and Grade 9 teachers make their way from Camp Burgess to Aselton Park at Hyannis Harbor, the exact location where Sturgis Graduation takes place each June. Executive Director Eric Hieser awaits them at a table displaying the Sturgis Log and Ship’s Bell. Once freshman are assembled on the lawn, the annual ceremony for new Sturgis students begins. They learn the history of William Sturgis, sign the Sturgis log book and ring the ship’s bell. Just as Sturgis signed on board at sixteen for his first voyage to China, Sturgis freshmen commit to the four-year challenge ahead by signing on for the voyage. During Sturgis graduation in the same location at Hyannis Harbor, seniors sign out next to their original signature in the ship’s log book signifying they completed the voyage.

William Sturgis, 1782 – 1863  Shipmaster, Legislator, Philanthropist

The following biography is read during the ceremony each year:

William Sturgis

William Sturgis

Sturgis Charter Public School was named for William Sturgis, a native son of Barnstable. He was born February 25, 1782 in his family home which now forms the heart of the historic Sturgis Library, the oldest library building in the United States.

William’s boyhood education was overseen by his mother, Hannah Mills Sturgis, the daughter of a Harvard clergyman, who instilled in her son a lifelong passion for learning and a devotion to humanistic principles. William’s knowledge of the sea was acquired through his youthful Cape Cod experiences as well as from his father, William, a respected shipmaster who died in the South Pacific when his son was fifteen years old

Following his father’s death, William embarked on the first leg of his own nautical career by immersing himself in an intensive study of navigation, mathematics and world history. In 1798, he took up the sailor’s life as a “green hand” on the Northwest-bound vessel, “Eliza.” Three years later, at the age of 19, he became Journal of William SturgisCaptain William Sturgis, the youngest shipmaster in the American merchant fleet.

Captain Sturgis served for nine years as a commander, merchant and diplomat aboard ships that sailed throughout the Northwest and the Orient. During this period, he continued to enlarge his knowledge of human nature and history through a self-designed program of classical studies.

He formed a successful shipping firm which dominated the Pacific Northwest and China routes for the next thirty years. At the same time, he demonstrated great aptitude for statesmanship and public service as a representative to the Massachusetts Legislature (1814 – 1845). He was particularly distinguished for his role as an advocate of social responsibility.

Paul Marble tells the story of William Sturgis

Paul Marble tells the story of William Sturgis

Shortly before his death, Captain Sturgis, the self-made “merchant prince,” purchased his family homestead for the purpose of establishing it as a public library. He continues to be honored as we at Sturgis Charter Public School respect and uphold the social and educational principles of our namesake.

Just as William Sturgis signed on board for his first voyage, students at Sturgis Charter Public School must commit themselves to the challenge ahead of them and “sign on for a term of duty. As each student accepts the responsibility of the four-year commitment they sign on the first line, signifying their request to board for a new voyage.  Upon completing the graduation requirements they “sign out” beside their original signature, signifying the voyage was completed.

Students sign the logbook and ring the ship's bell

Students sign the logbook and ring the ship’s bell

Sturgis was 15 – about the age of incoming students when he began intensive study to further his career. Four years later, the same time required to complete high school, he achieved his goal to become the youngest captain in the American merchant fleet. Much can be accomplished in four years and each student’s goal can be achieved.

At the end of the ceremony, when each student’s name is called, they come forward to sign the log book and ring the ship’s bell.

Their voyage is about to begin.



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