Graduation 2019 – Sturgis East

June 1, 2019 was the perfect day for the 18th graduation of Sturgis East and the 6th 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 several speeches and a selection of photographs by Jarvis Chen and Long Tong (click here for full album).  We hope the speeches, videos and photographs capture a bit of the spirit of the 2019 Sturgis West Graduation.

Congratulations Sturgis East Class of 2019:

Franz Ian Bienvenido S. Abagat, Ellen J. Adams, Lily R. Allen, Hannah C. Allen, Leanne N. Arvanitis, Lilyanna M. Benedict, Jared A. Bianchi, Meagan S. Bilodeau, Hanna J. Blake, Brendan E. Boy, Emily V. Boyle, Kyra K. Brimdyr, Emily E. Cappucci, Jamie W. Caton, Laruen A. Christopher, Grace E. Churchill, Seth P. Coellner, Noah A. Davison, Abigail T. Deane, Kylie R. Decas, Eva C. DeWitt, Sophie K. Eldredge, Kira M. Fallon, Matthew G. Fitzgerald, Meghan E. Fligg, Keira G. Foley, Skylar I. Fones, Talia O. Freelund, Elaine G. Fryer, William R. Furtado, Tristan J. Gordon, Peter J. Gototweski, Trevor L. Gutman, Isabella R. hassler, Ezra B. Heilmann, Jeanne P. Henchy, Elias J. Higgins, Katherine E. Hoga, Julia A. Holcomb, Jack F. Holland, Lauren H. Holmes, Emma J. Hupp, Jenna I. Iacobucci, Paige A. Joy, Cecelia A. Kane, Lucy E. Knox, Chyanna G. LaRochelle, Aubrey F. LeBlanc, Celeste J. Levine, Madison A. Lopez-Mata, Mason P. Martin, Jacquelyn M. May, Jenna A. Maynard, Seref L. McDowell, Nina R. Morris, Daniel R. Murray, Angelina M. Neto, Hannah B. O’Brien, Alexis D. O’Neil, Kevin T. Olson, Andrew R. Orciuch, Abigail E. Palchanis, Holden J. Parrent, Charles J. Peterkin, Andrew R. Pinard, Patrick R. Preston, Erin E. Quinn, Isabelle K. Ramage, Grace H. Rapo, Kyle A. Rizzuto, Lorraine A. Roberts, Allyson C. Rogers, Emily G. Rossignol, Eva N. Sanchez, Erin M. Sanders, Pedro B. Santa Ana, Emily E. Sass, Madelyn R. Schnackenberg, Zumm S. Serrano, Emma F. Siemenski, Emily N. Simonian, Ethan E. Sirhal, Benjamin H. Slater, Nathan L. Slover, Aidan E. Smith, Allison M. Swift, Dorothy K. Tompkins, Chelsea M. Tucker, Bryson G. Uhlman, Robert J. Walsh, Ethan W. Watson, Kelly E. Wickham, Olivia J. Wilde, Isabella M. Willette-Thuet, Samuel E. Young, Alexandria I. Zine

Kylie Decas ’19 signs out of the Captain’s Log with Mr. O’Kane

Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

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.

Paul Marble Addresses the Class of 2019

Welcoming Address by Paul Marble, Executive Director

Sturgis East Class of 2019, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends: today is a momentous day. Ninety-six 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-six people will be an active part of this special group – the class of 2019.

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 Grace Churchill and Elaine Fryer 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 Seth Coellner: First off I would like to thank my mom, for always waking up early and making my lunch. Love you. Well this is it. I honestly didn’t think that I would make it this far. No seriously I was very close to not finishing, like a couple hours close.

Madison Lopez-Mata

From Madison Lopez Mata: My eighth grade year I decided to try for the Sturgis lottery. My parents and put my name in and on the day of the drawing both my dad and I went to see if I would get called. Sitting in the back row, more and more names were being pulled and my name wasn’t on the list. Eventually I gave up and stood up to leave the room. That’s when my dad told me to wait it out a little bit longer. The last person was being drawn and sure enough it was my name. Leaving my old school, and all of my friends behind was what I thought was going to be one of the hardest things I’d ever have to do. I didn’t know a single person going into Sturgis, but it was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I don’t know if this is applicable to all, but I have had quite a struggle with some of my classes here at Sturgis. Going in at lunch for extra help, asking so many questions, and even doing homework which is unheard of in my family. The one thing I think that all can agree on though is the fact that Sturgis has set us up so well for our futures ahead of us. Setting off onto whatever the next years take us, Sturgis has helped set us all up for what lies ahead. Giving good study skills and work ethic to all. (Well) Maybe not in these last few months.

From Emily Sass: We see each other, with our different beliefs, interests and dreams, and instead of pushing away those differences, we not only accept them but we learn from them. Sturgis is well known for the academic rigor of the IB, but I honestly think the better part of my high school education has been by the observations shared by my fellow students. Whether we are determining the theme of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf or debating the inevitability of the Cold War, discussions provide perspectives that a text book could never teach us. It is incredible how diverse our mindsets and beliefs are, and how those translate into a mutually beneficial classroom environment.

Lucy Knox

From Lucy Knox: Just a few weeks ago I was walking back from the nurse and as I passed by Ms. Lombardozzi’s office, and as I always do, I popped my head in to say hi but she stopped me and said that she was going to be so sad next year because I won’t be here to say hi every once in a while. Which really made me think of how much I will miss the little things that make me smile everyday. Like Grace Rapo smiling at me from across the english room, or Mr. O’Kane screaming “E BLOCK PLEASE” even if it was D block or C block. Or the vending machine always eating my money, or the leaks in the ceiling, or Mr. Mckay cracking a dad joke, or Fetz saying “I Really hope you guys are getting this”. Honestly I could go on and on, but those small things really stuck with me and helped define my high school experience. Without those little moments, High school would just be 7 boring hours a day for 5 days a week.

From Jack Holland: Throughout my four years at Sturgis, I have learned countless lessons about myself and the world around me. Did you know that one building can have many different climates, differing dramatically from room to room? Or that returning to your car that you forgot to move at lunch and realizing that you didn’t get a ticket is undoubtedly, without question one of life’s greatest joys?

But jokes aside, Sturgis is undoubtedly a special place. Whether it’s the IB for all program and the urgency behind the philosophy that everyone is able to complete incredibly difficult IB courses regardless of their academic background, the teachers, the social environment, or a mixture of all these things and more, there is a certain drive to learn, push yourself, and explore areas of study you’d never even considered exploring before, felt by not only myself, but without a doubt my peers. If you told me as an entering freshman that in my time here I’d write a fourteen page paper on quinoa and love every second of it I probably would have called you crazy. But Sturgis has had a way of making me surprise myself like that.

Lilyanna Benedict

From Lilyanna Benedict: My sister was the one who convinced me to join field hockey, and to be completely honest, I hated all four years of it. I realized this after the first year, so you may ask why I continued to torture myself for three more years. Well, I don’t know. But what I do know is that despite hating the sport, I loved the team. As many of you know, the Sturgis Field Hockey team has never won any tournaments, or state games, or been first or second or third in our league. In fact, our team celebrated our first win in four years just two seasons ago. Yup, we’re that bad. So why stay on a losing team, playing a sport you don’t love? Because I couldn’t stand leaving a team that made me feel like a part of a family, a team that never quit even though we had every reason to. The friendships that I made being a part of the field hockey, they were the cornerstones for me during these past four years, and they still continue to be. Like field hockey, I hated every moment of taking the full IB. But just like field hockey, I was a part of a family that was going through the same exact thing, losing over and over again but still having the endurance to continue on. There were times where I considered dropping the IB, as I’m sure many of you have also contemplated. It’s appealing, I agree. Likewise I could have switched sports, or done no sport at all. But I’m glad I didn’t, and I’m glad I stuck with Sturgis all these years, because the person I have become as a consequence of my endurance, I would never want to be anybody else. I am stronger, more confident, and more alive than I have ever been before, and I see that in each and every one of you. As Mr. Hyer always said, there are no winners in the IB, only survivors. And we have survived.

From Lorraine Roberts:  The Sturgis graduating class of 2019 is one that I’m very proud to be a part of, and not only because I get to be among some of the best people I know, but also because I have learned valuable lessons from almost every single one of you. On a daily basis, I was dismissive about my day at school whenever my mom would ask me, but looking back, I learned a lot in these four years. I learned how the smallest acts of kindness can have a huge impact. I learned how to be compassionate and that asking for help truly can signify strength. I have the pleasure of graduating alongside a group of independent thinkers and innovators, all made possible by the truly gifted teachers who believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.

Bella Hassler, Noah Davison, Sophie Eldredge, and Eva DeWitt

From Eva DeWitt: For me, the best analogy that I can make to Sturgis is to compare it to one of the things that I love the most: concerts. For me, concerts are the place where I can not only find the most solace, but also the most joy. At shows, I feel as if I am more myself than I am in most other situations. The other place where I experience feelings similar to these, I suppose, would be Sturgis. I know some people feel as if they hide their true selves at school, and maybe I do to some extent, as well. But there’s only so much you can shield from the teachers and students who you have seen for the majority of every weekday for four straight years. Sturgis is a place that makes you like it, even if you don’t at first. I, luckily, was one of the people who enjoyed it from the get go.

The creative environment that allowed me for a comprehensive look into academia through the pre-IB and IB classes made me excited to attend school every day, wanting to learn more, and more, and more. Now that I have heard the squeaky doors of Sturgis close behind me for the last time, I am ready to take on the next chapter of my life. No doubt it won’t be as exciting or as crazy as my years at Sturgis, but I know that the school has prepared me for a life at college and beyond. Though the show has ended, my life after it has just begun.

Hannah O’Brien

From Hannah O’Brien: I speak for my entire class when I say that we are beyond grateful for everything the Sturgis faculty provides us. Every teacher I have had during my time at Sturgis is not only passionate about the subject area which they teach but genuinely concerned about the success and wellbeing of their students. When I think back to the teachers at Sturgis I don’t think of the tedious note taking, homework assignments, or tests that made me doubt whether I actually possessed a brain. I think of Mr. Abel sliding across the floor, passionately yelling about the Cold War, Ms. Williams’ excitement for a strong thesis statement, and Mrs. Sandland’s lessons that combine stand up comedy with calculus. Each and every teacher at Sturgis challenges us to our fullest potential, yet they also understand what is means to be a student. I can distinctly remember one of Mrs. Furner’s chemistry classes in the fall of senior year. Our class, all 9 of us, gathered around a lab that she had set up in front of the room. We were observing the color changes of a pH indicator in various pH levels. We intently watched each drop of indicator fall into the test tubes, anxious to see the resulting color. We laughed at each others juvenile “oohs” and “awws” and gave a round of applause to the prettiest colors. When no more solutions were left to test we felt a sense of disappointment, desiring for thrill of suspense to continue. One classmate, probably Will, offered up the idea of mixing all the test tubes together. Suddenly, the classroom lit up again and every one of was offering predictions and bouncing suggestions for new experiments off one another. And of course it wouldn’t have been a chemistry lab if we didn’t joke about drinking the solutions or predicted what flavor they would be. Mrs. Furner shared our excitement, following all our directions, except for the drinking chemicals part because apparently just because a solution is clear doesn’t mean its water. Between her fits of laughter she could only let out, “you guys are the best!” Here we were a group of 17 and 18-year-olds, cheering on test tubes and trying to make them turn our favorite color. We were drowning in assignments and this was our much needed breath of fresh air. To me this single class period exemplified what it meant to be a sturgis student. We may be challenged by a rigorous curriculum but deep down we are still just young individuals whose sense of curiosity is embraced by teachers who truly care about our success.

Emma Hupp and Lauren Holmes

And finally, from Emma Hupp: When I signed into the captain’s log freshman year the thought of signing out four years later seemed so distant that it probably would never come. Little did I know that moment would creep up faster than I could anticipate. There would be my name written twice, the same person with so many new memories in between. I thought about how my handwriting would change (probably because I was and certainly still am so particular about it).  There is something unifying about going to Sturgis. Screaming “I believe” on color day or bonding over the mediocrity of an IA, the sheer excitement when the girls bathroom was revamped. We all come to school prepared for a different climate every class. The little moments have compiled into something much bigger than I could have imagined. I would rather see Sturgis as something to reflect back on than something to miss. I hope we can all do that, I hope we can remember what we have learned from our peers. What it really means to support a friend amongst the business of the often overwhelming workload or to understand that a differing opinion doesn’t need to result in conflict.

I am so thankful for the liberty to learn that Sturgis has given me. I don’t think most students can say that they are excited to wake up and go to school every morning. But the positive learning environment that Sturgis provides has made me excited to step foot into a place every day that I knew I can step out a better person. We all have had the equal opportunity for an elevated education independent of where we come from. Moving forward I hope that we all continue to strive to be better every single day. I hope that we remind ourselves it is okay to make mistakes and that we are able to be better people for them. I hope that we can look back remember each other and all of our greatness here at this little school that we love so dearly. I am thankful beyond measures for each and every one of you. Class of 2019, may we all have the luck of the draw for the rest of our lives.

Patty O’Toole, school nurse, retires after 20 years

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 some 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:

Emily Lambdin, Will Mathews, and Emily Sherman, please stand.

I would also like to celebrate a colleague retiring this year after twenty years of service to our community. She has been a caring, cheerful, and committed presence at Sturgis for as long as any of us can remember: Patty O’Toole, please stand.

Sturgis East class of 2019, 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.


Sturgis East Singers Perform ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers


Sturgis Class of 2019 – Grace Churchill

Grace Churchill

Greetings to all my friends, family, and to all the tourists walking by wondering where such a good looking group of students could have possibly come from.

Today I am speaking to all of you thanks to my incredible academic merit…oh who am I fooling…Oprah was booked up.  Standing here in this beautiful park, I am backed by my peers who are the last men standing in a bizarre and quite frankly unethical social experiment commonly referred to as high school.  You may chuckle now reflecting back nostalgically, but I assure you, that is the Stockholm Syndrome speaking. In all honesty, I have no clue who’s idea was it to lock away hundreds of teenagers in a building for 6 hours every day.  Furthermore, I haven’t the faintest idea what sane adult would sign up to be one of our overseers. Nevertheless, we have made it out with all of our limbs. Though I am glad to have been quarantined for over 4,300 hours of my life with this particular group of students, you guys were absurdly weird.

For many of us, in the eighth grade hearing that we won the lottery, may have seemed insignificant. I can remember being asked in one of our first classes “Why did you come to Sturgis?” with responses ranging from “the good education” to “my parents forced me”. My  personal retort was that there is McDonalds down the street for lunch.

Regardless of how we got here, we have reached the end.  High school may be just a little blip in our future autobiographies.  After today, we will no longer attend Sturgis but our explanations of the school will still remain the same.  When asked what our high school was like our responses will likely be “Yes, I went to a charter school in Hyannis. I believe it was a typical high school experience.  Well yes, it is comprised of an old furniture store with oddly shaped classrooms and stage lighting still up, an old nail salon, an office building across the street, a house with tenants on the top floor next door and the old WINGS souvenir shop down a ways. Sure, we didn’t have a gym or a cafeteria or sports fields but we did have that McDonalds down the street.

East Seniors take in Grace’s words

Mr. Mathews likes to say that the building doesn’t make the school, the people in it do.  Though I agree and will get to the teachers very soon, I believe it would be a travesty to not alot more time to our beloved buildings.  Though it is unknown by many, Sturgis facilities are awe-inspiring. I’m completely serious here. We are up there with the likes of NASA. Similar to the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center, Sturgis is so big that it has its own weather systems.  Don’t laugh, we have all seen it. Rain coming from the ceiling. Some say its holes in the roof but I don’t buy it. Sophomore year, we had a thick fog roll in on the first floor on a rainy field day. Again, the non-believers said it was smoke from Mr. Hyer’s grill outside. Again, I. Don’t. Buy. It.  I have even heard rumors that it started snowing inside on the day we were called into school without heat or power. And you wonder where our mascot, the storm, comes from.

Throughout my four years here, I have had the privilege to be on the Varsity Soccer team, co-founder of the Astronomy Club, co-president of the Outing Club and if there are any college admissions representatives here, the varsity crew team. This high school has brought me many adventures in and outside of the classroom.  From fairing field trips to the beach and almost losing one of our dear classmates Jeanny Henchy to the marsh’s deep abyss to Ellen Adams breaking her skis mid-mountain on the ski trip and having to take a ride down the slopes on ski patrol’s sled. It really is a feat that we made it out with all of our limbs.

Sturgis East Faculty enjoying the shout-out

As promised, I have made my way to the teachers.  If the building doesn’t make the school, the beautiful lunacy of the teachers sure does.  I recently saw an article up on the wall that read “If the teacher isn’t on fire, neither are the students” It made me think about what it is that our teachers do that really ignites a passion in us. What does it take to be an outstanding teacher? A great teacher fosters a sense of community and is a confident leader, Dr. Pete taught us how to collectively survive the apocalypse tempering steel to make “swords” in chemistry. Dr. Pete has always the best human encyclopedia to nurture our most bizarre and revolutionary imaginations. A great teacher acts quickly in the face of crisis. When Chelsea Tucker almost threw up in Latin after we drank whey, Mr. Mathews ran away from her very quickly. Readings of the Odyssey really came alive during those classes Freshman year. A great teacher is a master of their subject matter. Mrs. Singh caught me immediately when I copied a translation of one of Catullus’s poems from the internet for homework.  Turns out, Ms. Singh has such a good memory that she recognized one peers in grad school wrote the exact same one as me. Awkward…

Every student has teachers and classes that impact them immeasurably.  For many of us, our Environmental Systems and Societies class with Dr. Pete was one of those classes. His opening remarks our junior year were “Forget the syllabus, I am going to teach you how to be a citizen of the 21st century.” and personally, I have not once dreaded going to that class, even on the days when we were learning about human sewage.  Our teacher’s ability to expand our learning to outside the classroom, whether that be going to town hall meetings after school on the  polyfluoroalkyl substances of concern on Cape Cod, having a “sick” day to go to the Cape Cod Net Zero Conference on local carbon emissions, spending the night in the student halfway house on Sandy Neck or even just coming down to this harbor to study sources of persistent pollutants and see the eutrophication in the water has made my classmates and me view the environment, particularly our local marine environment, with great curiosity.

Grace addressing Sturgis friends, families, and peers

Next year, we will all be in scattered across the country and abroad. Soon will embark on our own different life journeys.  So, I ask my peers, look to your left and to your right… today is the last day that this exact group of students will ever be together as a whole. Though, if I’m being frank, with the amount of absences our grade has amassed, this may be the first time we are all together as a whole. We have students going off to study applied mathematics, nursing, childhood education, biology, pursuing professional ballet and entering gap years.  In just a few years time, this group of students will be scientists, educators, doctors and artists. I have my own bets on who’s going to drop off the grid.

If there is one thing to remember from this speech.  It is that if we made it through the nightmare that was high school, we can make it through anything.  Looking at this group now, I see all of my favorite people with incredible intelligence and creativity and realistically speaking, the man-power for a moderately effective militia.  Just spitballing here.

To wrap this up, I want to thank all of you for enduring 4,300 hours with me. Through my fun facts, impromptu stand up and snowball ambushes as we crossed the street for classes, you always meet my quirkiness with an eye roll and relent with an equal level of crazy. Comrades, go off and see the world, explore and spread the offbeat and outgoing thinking fostered so well in our little community.  I’ll see ya when we are old and wrinkly at our reunion.


Sturgis Faculty – Dr. Pete Sampou, Chemistry & Environmental Science


Ryan King Award presented by Kerrie Lombardozzi, East School Counselor

The Ryan King Award is given to the graduating senior who most exhibits perseverance, determination, resolve, and a positive attitude in their academic pursuits at Sturgis. Ryan King, 2002 Sturgis graduate suffered from a serious head injury when hit by a car on Main Street outside of Sturgis during her junior year. She displayed remarkable endurance that the Sturgis community seeks to remember and emulate each year by selecting a deserving student for the Ryan King Award accompanied by a Sturgis Parent Association Scholarship of $500.

Sturgis faculty sing the praises of the student receiving this year’s Ryan King Award:

Bob Wojtowicz says “After having taught this student for two years, I can honestly say that they are one of the most focused and consistently dedicated students I have ever had in class. This students’ actions, both in and out of the classroom, speak for themselves. She knows and shows that success comes from doing and trying, and sometimes failing, but always being sure to learn from those errors.”

Jeanne Henchy, 2019 Ryan King Award Recipient

Dr. Mark Wright shares “This student is one of the sunniest and most optimistic students I have ever taught—even with all their other responsibilities, they consistently completed excellent work, on time and with flair.

I am excited to present this award today to a student that has never let the challenges of life get in their way. A committed student, friend, teammate, daughter, and sister, she has gone above and beyond, always “showing up”. Over her fours years at Sturgis, she has been such an upbeat, easy going, and resilient young woman. When she could have easily allowed personal circumstances and the challenges she has experienced in her daily life alter her outlook and personality, she has remained eager, genuine and always focused on the positive. If the level of commitment that she has shown to her family, academics, friends, and athletics throughout her four years of high school is any indicator of just how successful she will be in the future, I am so excited to hear just how far she soars –  or in her case, as an international competitive jump-roper, jumps.

This year’s Ryan King Award goes to Jeanne Henchy.


Sturgis Class of 2019 – Elaine Fryer

Elaine Fryer, Senior Class Speaker 2019

Almost four years ago, when the Class of 2019 came to this park together for the first time, graduation was one of the last things on our minds. Just one week into our high school careers, we sat here impatiently on the grass, just young teenagers at the time, and anxiously looked around at the unfamiliar faces surrounding us. We tried our best to listen to Mr O’Kane as he told us about how fast these next four years would go and what it would take to get there — determination, teamwork, risk-taking. But if I’m being honest, I’m not sure how much of that information we were actually taking in. In fact, I specifically remember thinking “I wonder what that kid’s Instagram is” and “I can’t believe I have an hour long bus ride home after this.” It’s safe to say our priorities were a bit less grand back then. Nevertheless, the minutes passed unhurriedly as each of us waited for our name to be called so we could sign the ship’s log and take part in the infamous tradition that officially marked the beginning of our journey here at Sturgis. The summer of 2019 seemed light years and lifetimes away, a time which would surely never come.

Mr O’Kane, I have to hand it to you. I didn’t believe you all the times you told us, but in some twist of fate and a blink of an eye, these last four years passed before we could even realize what was happening. Our class gathers here today already for a second time. This time there are a few less of us, we are a bit older, a bit taller, a bit more mature, and surrounded not by unfamiliarity but by faces that have become part of our everyday life and ones that we will soon miss. And in a few minutes, we will sign our names once again, perhaps a little neater this time — perhaps not — and receive the diplomas that seemed so elusive up until not too long ago. We will leave this park and each go our separate ways, ending our journey here. But we will not forget the chance we were given when we entered this school as fourteen year olds: the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, be who we wanted to be, say what we wanted to say. We must appreciate this opportunity as a fortuity that led to immense personal growth and a wealth of new connections — all because we were lucky enough to have our names drawn from a lottery.

Faculty enjoying the moment

During our time here at Sturgis, there was room for each of us to speak. Some would say that our class is overly talkative — I apologize to all the adults who had to yell “B Block” a million times in the hallway each morning before we finally started to get to class — but I like to think we were just working to become the Communicators that the IB always wanted us to be. Although we were not always great at being quiet, we always had something to say and to share. When we spoke, we desired to be heard. Sometimes it was the voices of Aidan Smith yelling “Bleed Blue”, Grace Churchill telling a wild story or crazy idea, or Mr Fetzer on a passionate tangent down the hall. And sometimes it was the quieter yet equally powerful and kind voices of Franz Abagat and Mrs Todoroff that filled our hallways. Either way, teachers and students alike wanted to hear each other. We came to love to debate in TOK class and argue in History about which dictators got it wrong the most. We screamed during Spirit Week, got too riled up over Kahoot, and cheered as loudly as possible at Homecoming. We sang, we celebrated, we made noise. Our presence at Sturgis was clear. We learned that there is no better way to learn, no better way to solve problems, no better way to break down barriers and build bonds than through conversation. We found relief in opening ourselves up and using our voices, and many of us weren’t able to do that until arriving here at Sturgis.

Together, we not only spoke, we took action. So often we seized the chance to get involved — whether strongly encouraged by CAS advisors or on our own — and to make our community and our world a better place. We educated ourselves, we marched to raise awareness, and we volunteered. As a class, we harnessed our subtle creativity and bold personalities to help others, whether it was in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, or right here on Hyannis Main Street. We have become an example to each other and our school of the power and passion of young people.

East Seniors cheer on their classmate

And yet, as wonderful of an experience as Sturgis is, these past four years have not been perfect. Together we struggled through the IB and every challenge it brought, side by side. It was the days that frustrated us, tired us, and pushed us to our limits — made our heads spin with every acronym imaginable — that made the good days that much better, the successes that much more rewarding, and the 30,000 miles driven back and forth all the more worth it. Without these obstacles, we could not have known our worth and how strong we actually are, even if it meant writing an entire essay an hour before it was due. And even though we became very well read over the years, none of the amazing authors we had the chance to discover could write anything as inspiring or comforting as “Oh man I haven’t started that assignment yet either.” Because no matter what, there was always someone who was in the same boat as you. And if we fell, even literally like Jack Holland in Costa Rica or Talia Freelund on a normal day, someone was always willing to help pick us back up.

But it’s not just the memorable parts of Sturgis that we will miss — it is all the seemingly insignificant moments that probably made more of an impact than we have yet realized. Lunchtime get togethers in the hallway, study periods that turned into a group counseling session, cramming outside the doorway of your class two minutes before a test, late night support, and knowing which of your friends will be awake past 11 o’clock (me) and which ones definitely will not (Will Furtado). These were all integral parts of our Sturgis experience.

Will Furtado & Elaine Fryer begin their march

But even though we’re the ones sitting here, wearing caps and gowns and being celebrated today, this ceremony is not just about us. There are so many people who have helped us on this journey that we must take time to thank — not just today, but in the days, weeks, and months to come.

Thank you to our teachers, who became the foundation on which we have grown during these past four years. Thank you for seeing us as kids first, grades second; for knowing when a break was necessary, but also knowing when to push us in order to help us grow. Thank you for taking a part in raising us, in getting to know us, in inspiring us, and becoming daily support systems. And a special appreciation for teachers like Ms Monfort who were willing to listen to whatever crazy story we needed to tell. Whenever someone asks “What is it about Sturgis that makes it so special, so worth it?”, my answer comes easily every time. The teachers.

And let us not forget Los who was always there to clean up every one of our messes, the administration who tried to keep us all in line, and the counseling team who consistently had our backs. Mrs Todoroff who single handedly kept the school together, and the librarians who did a fantastic job ignoring every ridiculous thing they heard us say during study halls.

Thank you to the friends, family, and loved ones at home who supported us every step of the way. Through procrastination, fatigue, breakdowns, and more, you helped us get here. Even if you’re still not sure what the IB is — I promise you, some of us are still a little fuzzy on it — you stuck by us while we learned from mistakes and enjoyed successes.

Faculty applaud a job well done

To Sturgis, 427 Main Street, our small school with no cafeteria, no gym, no auditorium, and a different climate in every room — you are the definition of humble beginnings. You may have a ceiling where sometimes when it rains outside it pours inside and when the wind blows you wonder if the walls will come down, but we were always ready to embrace the storm. I’ve never had so much fun dodging rain buckets, tripping on duct tape, laughing about the unlockable bathroom stalls, exploring the mysterious Sturgis Basement, and almost falling up the crowded staircase when finding out your favorite teacher is pregnant.

And finally, to the Class of 2019, thank you for being the biggest distractors and the best motivators. Thank you for challenging each other, but also for constantly encouraging one another to get some sleep, even if we were far from heading to bed ourselves. Here’s to those who will remain a part of our lives, those you wish you had gotten to know sooner, and to those whose time together is coming to a close. Each one of us has made an impact on this school and each other.

So whether you’re going to California, and hopefully (finally) learning how to de-stress in the West Coast sunshine, fortifying your roots and staying close to home, or taking time to find yourself or just explore, I hope you all remember where you started. I cannot wait to see what this class accomplishes. Stay in touch, keep looking forward, and never lose your voice. And as Mr Hyer once said in some unknown context: “What could possibly go wrong?”


Faculty Speaker – Chris Abel, History

Mr. Abel celebrates with Alexis ONeill (left) and Celeste Levine (right)

Good morning and thank you very much.   Thank you parents, friends, relatives, fellow teachers, administrators, members of the board.  Mostly, thank you to the Class of 2019 for choosing me to speak here today…I’m not sure how many of you realize this, but 2019 marks not only your own graduation, but it also marks 30 years since I graduated high school.

Although my memories of my own graduation are fuzzy at best, I remember sitting just like you – in my goofy hat and goofy robe – and having a very distinct thought – a thought many of you are probably having right now

I remember thinking:  “when is this going to be over?”
well, if I’ve learned anything as a teacher it’s that the most important information you can give a young person is when something will be over.  So, in that vein:  my portion of it will only be about 6 or 7 more minutes.  But, pay attention b/c as the Pueblo Indians say:  “cherish youth, but trust old age”

So, it’s been 4 years since you arrived at Sturgis.  Four years since you sat here on this lawn, wide-eyed and nervous…..perhaps bored….waiting to sign the Sturgis Log Book and ring the bell… you remember?  Do you remember what you were like? Well, I went w/ you to Camp Burgess that fateful day, so I remember and… were pretty dorky.  But, let’s not stop at 4 years ago. Let’s delve a bit further back into youth and memory if we can

Mr. Abel Addresses the Class of 2019

I would like all of you to think back to your childhood.  Back to your earliest memories. Back to a time when, as Joseph Heller put it in his famous novel “Catch 22”,  you were “a kid with a ten-week summer vacation that lasted a hundred thousand years and yet still ended too soon.”  Think back . . . Who did you think you would be?  Who did you think you wanted to be?  Do you even remember? For me, I wanted to be Smokey the Bear. that’s right.  I was about 7 years old, the fire department came to my school, Smokey was with them and I thought “that’s it…that’s what I want to be”Obviously that didn’t happen.  Nor did my dreams of being a cake-baker or flying on the Space Shuttle. My awkward teenage years were filled with equally ludicrous ideas that maybe I would be a lawyer….or an accountant

So, why am I telling you this?  Is it because I’m now passing through middle age and questioning “what have I done with my life?”  No.  other than the “middle age” part.No.  I am telling you this b/c You see, kids, the reality is you might think you have an idea of who you want to become.  And, some of you may be right and go on to become that very thing. But, many of you will not.  Many of you will head in a completely different direction.  A direction you might not even know exists yet. Because, one thing I have discovered in the 30 years since I left High School is that the “you” you are today, is not necessarily the “you” that you will become.

That is to say, there is another “you” out there in the undiscovered future.  And, although that other “you” might look, sound and act somewhat similar….that “you” will probably look back and laugh at the absurdity of the thoughts you had when you were 18 and contemplating your future.

Soon to be High School Graduates

So, how do I find this “other me?”  You might ask. Well, the most famous response people often give is that you need to go out and “find yourself.” And this might seem like good advice on the surface. However, the problem w/ that advice is that, as the poet Robert Penn Warren reminds us, the self is not some inanimate object just waiting to be found. It is not some inert commodity lingering somewhere on your phone, discovered w/ a few simple scrolls, clicks or Google requests.

No, the self is created.    Created through the bi-product of a million different actions-some of them conscious, some of them unconscious, but all of them taking place here in the real world. So I appeal to you:  go frolic, go dance, go play in the real, rather than being engulfed in the virtual.  

Unburden yourself from your phone and the false sense of control it gives you, because, as much as you might want it to be otherwise, much of what shapes who you become will fall outside of your control and will inevitably be forged by the wondrous unpredictability of life. If you don’t believe me, look out into the harbor behind me before you leave here today. While it is true that you can build ships and boats of all shapes and sizes, ultimately it is the water that shapes the vessel, not the other way around.

Colleagues reflect on Mr. Abel’s words

So, don’t worry about creating your virtual identity and don’t worry too much about finding yourself. Worry about losing yourself instead. Now, I’m sure there are some parents in the audience who are staring 4-years of college payments in the face and cringing at this so-called “advice.”

Don’t worry.  I’m not advocating years of endless and pointless wandering.  If you are off to college, then you’d better make it worth it – financially-speaking if for no other reason. No.  What I am encouraging you to do is to lose the declarative preconceptions of what you think you know, who you think you are or who you think you’ll become.  Because, the truth is, you will never know who you are or who you can become if you can’t lose yourself along the way.  As the Portuguese author, Jose Saramago once said: “you have to leave the island in order to see the island.” I grew up in Amherst and went to Umass.  So, I was 23 years old when I finally left my hometown for good.  I threw all of my earthly possessions and my dog in the car and left for the bluegrass of Kentucky.

I remember my mother crying.  My father didn’t cry.  That’s probably b/c he was more worried that I’d come back. Regardless, at the time, I figured my mother was crying b/c her only living son was finally leaving for good.  However, it was about 6 hours into a 14-hour drive with a broken stereo that came to the realize that my mother wasn’t crying b/c I was leaving.  She was crying because I was taking the dog with me. Which brings me to an important lesson – get a dog…..and don’t just “get a dog”….go to the shelter and rescue a dog. Dogs, if they teach you nothing else, will teach you how to lose yourself b/c they teach you how to communicate in ways which fall outside of your established conventions.

Besides – as Josh Billings once said – “a dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than it loves itself” Nevertheless, even though it’s a great lesson, the lesson of my mother’s tears is not just “go get a dog.”   you see, realizing my mom was crying over the dog and not over me was probably the most important lesson I ever learned b/c it taught me to step outside myself, to get over myself….

In other words, it taught me to lose myself long enough to realize….it’s not all about me. And in that context, I’m here to tell you – it’s not all about you either. The truth is, even if it takes your mom crying over the dog, there are few things more transformative, more enlightening than discovering – “it’s not all about me”

You see, you shouldn’t fear having your perceptions challenged, or even proven wrong – the only real danger you face is in not allowing them to be confronted in the first place.  So, wherever life takes you next, don’t feast on the ideological and emotional safety of the familiar once you get there. Savour the turbulence and confusion of the unexpected. Relish in the provocation of the unfamiliar.  Because if your understanding of the world becomes rigid, intractable, an uncrossable border – you will miss out on one of the most important insights life has to offer – and that is recognizing that you are but one expression of the infinite province of the universe.

And although that expression is a beautiful one.  A unique one. True enlightenment comes in realizing it is not the only one. So, go.  Go lose yourself.  As Che Guevara once said:  “let the world change you, and you can change the world” You have been given this one life, and that is all you will ever need in order to become truly remarkable.  All that is left to do is lose yourself long enough to realize that.

With that – Class of 2019:  I wish all of you long life, much joy and much happiness.  I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this current version of “you” and watch it evolve.  Our paths may never cross again, but if and when they do – and even if it isn’t Smokey the Bear, I can’t wait to see who the future “you” turns out to be. Thank you.


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

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 presented each year to a graduating senior who has demonstrated a genuine interest in literature and gift for language.

Mr. O’Kane presents the Gretchen Buntschuh Award

Sturgis East Faculty shared the following remarks about this year’s winner:

She is kind, bright, and motivated. When working with others on physics problems and questions, she is able to succinctly explain a complicated concept. She can clearly articulate her question to pinpoint a misperception –  a difficult skill in science classes

She is passionate about literature and is a talented creative and analytical writer. Whenever she speaks in discussion she offers a nuanced interpretation of the work which also extends to her essay-writing. She is one of the most poised, students I’ve ever taught, and she has been like this from the first day of 9th grade. She has the wisdom of someone well beyond her years

She writes fluidly, a task that is no easy feat in History class. She is able to incorporate both fact and analysis into a single sentence seamlessly, which makes every single piece of her writing enjoyable to read. Her extensive vocabulary elevates her written work, and her historical essays read like college-level papers. While her recall of historical fact is solid, it is her analysis of these events that makes her work truly impressive.

Elaine Fryer accepts the Buntschuh award

She is a remarkably resilient, thoughtful, and reflective student with many strengths.  She is articulate, kind, and easy to bond with. She is a kid that will leave a mark on the world for sure.

This year’s recipient embodies the spirit of Ms. Buntschuh’s gift and passion for language as we all witnessed a few minutes ago at this very podium.  Following thoughtful deliberation, the scholarship committee awards this years Grethen  Buntschuh Literary Award to… Elaine Fryer.

In addition to this $500 scholarship, Talin Bookbindery in Yarmouthport has donated a beautifully hand-bound collection of Elaine’s essays written during her 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!



This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: