Graduation 2019 – Sturgis West

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 West Class of 2019:

Nathan R. Balk-King, Emma E. Ball, Julia C. Berestecky, Juliana C. Bertrand, Amy N. Bloomfield, John D. Bosco, Dylan J. Bridgwater, Jessica R. Buchanan, Colleen G. Cameron, Brendan J. Cassidy, Max W. Cho, Dylan M. Cocklereece, Owen E. Conlon, Kalli A. Conway, John H. Dankert, Alexandra B. DeMoura, Emma N. Dionne, Mircea B. Dumitrescu, Derren M. Eaton, Fiona M. Fahd-Waygan, Jack G. Forrester, Tadeo W. Foster, Megan E. Freedholm, Katherine M. Gamble, Mickaela Pia O. Gerenia, Samuel H. Goldberg, Sebastian L. Govoni, Nola R. Greene, John W. Guptill, Jackson P. Hagist, Ryan E. Hall, Emma J. Heinlein, Kileigh B. Holmes, Isabella M. Huckemeyer, Caleb J. Hunt, Stone M. Johnson, Mariah A. Johnson, Emma A. Jones, Akateirina r. Kantzelis, Penelope Kelly, Satria A. Knight, Claire E. Lovelace, Isabelle A. Lower, Sydnie V. Lyons, Madison O. Maiorano, Shrusti N. Marfatia, Eduarda Z. Martini, Truly A. McDermott, Alyssa Mclean, Natalia Mclean, Owen W. McPherson, Claire J. Meli, Patrick J. Morahan, Anna Maria E. Moran, Peter N. Murray, Benjamin H. Murray, Tatiana G. Muxica, Lylah R. Niederberger, Marium U. Nisah, Isabella F. Norenberg, Patrick S. O’Gara, Maximus V. Papsadore, Hena C. Patel, Caroline C. Perry, Caleb J. Petty, Benjamin M. Poepsel, Chloe R. Pontes, Jacob T. Popillo, John C. Prifti, Katy J. Procaccino, Logan M. Pruneau, Patrick M. Quinn, Cullan J. Quitmeyer, Zachary C. Raye, Tamae T. Robinson, Ethan A. Rosa, Madeleine L. Shaw, Charles J. Siemenski, Abrianna T. Sigel, Sean T. Silvestri, Sophie N. Smith, Holly J. Soneye, Nicholas L. Stewart, Alec J. Stinnett, Ella C.F. Strano, Nickolas J. Stulsky, John F. Sullivan, Kyla J. Sullivan, Lauren E. Tavares, Olivia M. Taylor, Alexander M. Thomas, Kalea C. Trudeau, Benjamin J. Vicino, Cathryn T. Wahle, Nicole E. Waldren, Caitrin E. Walker, Maxwell D. White, Matthew R. Wilson, Alanis R. Wilson-Ehrenthal

Nautical Traditions of Sturgis Graduation

Sam Goldberg ’19 signs out of the Captain’s Log

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 alphabetically last student in each class is given the honor of ringing the ship’s bell.

Welcoming Address by Paul Marble, Executive Director

Paul Marble addresses the West class of 2019

Sturgis West Class of 2019, Parents, Faculty, Board of Trustees, Relatives, & Friends: today is a momentous day. Ninety-nine 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 ninety-nine 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 Claire Meli and Ella Strano, 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:

Alanis Wilson-Erenthal rings the bell marking the end of her class’ Sturgis journey

From Alanis Wilson-Ehrenthal: As the bellringer, I know huge name drop it’s kind of crazy, anyways, as the bellringer I have a lot of advice for my fellow classmates. I know you’re not supposed to give advice to your classmates, but I think my title as “bellringer” kind of gives me the authority. And my advice is simple: make sure your child’s last name is really far down in the alphabet. I happen to know a few last names that start with ‘z’ so just let me know if you need some ideas. Basically, what I am trying to say, is that being the last in the alphabet is great. You are usually last for almost everything which is not so great and get to sit in the far corner of the room through elementary, but you might just happen to get some amazing opportunities. Proof of that is that today I [get] to ring the bell, and all of you guys [don’t]. When I was younger I used to hold a little resentment because I could have been Ehrenthal-Wilson instead of Wilson-Ehrenthal. My life would have been SO much easier, but I take all of that back now.

From Megan Freedholm: When writing this speech, I had trouble pinpointing what exactly to say. I thought to myself, “How did I really end up here today”, and these are things that came to mind. Walking into Sturgis in August 2015, I remember distinctly my perceptions of the school in the first week. Like many, I did not have a choice whether or not to attend this school.  On the first day of school, I was handed my peanut butter and jelly and was pushed out the front door with a soft smile from my parents. As I walked into the school, I saw many teachers who I remember vividly. I thought Mr. Newcombe looked like one of those teachers who made you hide in the bathroom during class so he wouldn’t make you cry. Ms. Singer looked way too strict to be a teacher. And finally Mr. Tech looked like the coolest man alive. After my 4 years here, I’ve realized most of these assumptions were not true, except for Tech’s. He still is the coolest teacher I will ever have.

Brendan Cassidy, Colleen Cameron, and Jessica Buchanan

From Colleen Cameron: Our class was definitely not the luckiest, as almost every field trip we went on, it poured. Freshman year, we went to camp Burgess, the whole entire day there was a thunderstorm, forcing all of us to be stuck inside a random building. Where we played team building games the entire day. Another field trip, the vernal pools, we were all in the woods for hours while it was pouring, and we all came back to school covered in mud, with a whole half a day left, I bet we can all remember how that smelt. Even our group four project, usually the class is able to go to main street, allowing us to have a better vision for a project, however this even got rained out. So we had to stay at school and just use our imagination and online images instead. Somehow, our grade made the most of it though. One thing no one ever will forget is, south west. Sophomore year the pipes burst at Sturgis, meaning we had to go to school at the conference center for 2 weeks. Having classes at a bar was definitely something i never expected would happen before attending Sturgis, but these are the little moments that made me realize, hey Sturgis isn’t that bad after all.

From Jessica Buchanan: Now let’s think. What happened sophomore year? I can’t say I remember much, besides the time our school flooded. That was pretty interesting. Our week of school at Sturgis South West, or for those of you who don’t know, the conference center. It was pretty fun but horrible at the same time. We got to play hide and seek on the golf course with Mr. Anand and that was by far my favorite wellness class. Yet when we had to take chemistry tests in the “great ballroom,” I’m sure most of us wished to be back at West. Although once we were back we were all secretly praying for another flood; sorry Mrs. Kirk.

Abrianna Sigel

From Abrianna Sigel: As I continued my journey here, I realized that the change from who I was to who I thought I needed to be would not happen overnight. Throughout sophomore and junior year, the academic challenges faced by my peers and I began to grow more and more daunting to me. While I enjoyed the topics that many of our lessons and projects centered on, time management and balancing classes was my biggest struggle. After a lot of procrastination and disorganization, I was fortunate enough to have teachers here at Sturgis teach me another important [lesson]: asking for help. While it seems simple, asking for help studying or planning a project can, in my opinion, be one of the most difficult aspects of schoolwork. Being able to admit that I did not already know everything about what we were studying was a relief to me, and I could not be more grateful to my teachers who gave me room to make mistakes and take the time to help me fix them. After learning this, I found myself providing help to classmates who had the same questions as I did, and working together to fill in the gaps in our knowledge is something I will value from my time at Sturgis.

From Kileigh Holmes: Before coming to Sturgis I was afraid to fail, and was held back by the belief that my failure would determine my worth, and as a result tended to air on the side of caution and play it safe. However, over the past four years I have come to learn that often times the scariest things in life are the ones that require the most risk, but in return those experiences will inevitably be the ones that pay off the most in the end, and will be the most memorable. My time at Sturgis has taught me that you either learn to fail or fail to learn. I held myself to the belief that failing was bad, as I’m sure so many of us have before. Coming to Sturgis was a reality check, and has proved to me that this is not the case at all, and that failure is quite inevitable, but it is what you make of that failure that really counts. I want to share a quote that has really changed my thinking over these past 10 months during the college application process: “if you succeed at 100% of the things you do in life, you’re not trying hard enough.” Not only has this quote allowed me to learn from and accept my failures, it has pushed me to continue taking risks, to navigate through ambiguity, and to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Nicole Waldren

From Nicole Waldron: A couple of weeks ago at a college interview, the interviewer asked me why I chose to come to Sturgis instead of the public high school in my town. Besides that day, I never really thought of why I came to Sturgis. Yes, my older sister was attending Sturgis at that time, but I knew deep down that, that was not the only reason. Although I may not have recognized it from the start, Sturgis undoubtedly helped me reach my potential academically. Sturgis gathers people from all over who care about their academics and really makes sure all students are given equal opportunity to learn. When I say all over I really mean it. There are kids who drive an hour just to come here. If that does not scream dedication then what does? I admit, I was challenged rigorously at Sturgis. I did have days where I wished I switched schools and often questioned ‘what is the point of all this?’ Four years later and all my questions and doubts have been resolved. The overall answer is it got me to where I am today. Without challenge and setbacks, how are you supposed to learn? We students were pushed and our limits were tested. However, look at all of us right now. Where are we? We are at graduation, which means we got through all those hard times and today marks the day where we officially begin a new journey. We all have received tremendous opportunities throughout our four years here. Some of us were even able to have traveled to other countries with some of our teachers. Some of us were able to perform in plays, play music to crowds, publish artwork and join clubs. Many also were able to play a sport while trying to balance their practice schedule and school workload. The list is endless! Sturgis gave us more opportunities than we could have ever wanted. Each and everyone of us were able to find our place in Sturgis and make it our second home.

Nathan Balk-King and Tamae Robinson

From Tamae Robinson: My perspective is that Sturgis should not be seen as the best school because that is an impossible standard to live up too. Instead I see Sturgis as a good school, a school that succeeds in educating students to a high degree, a school that allows that students to build a bond with the teacher,  a school that allows the teacher to  personally call your parent if you are not achieving the expected outcome in your classes, a school that allows students to ‘pie’ their teacher on PI day, a school that allows student vs. faculty Tug of War,  a school that has no popularity contest or king and queen ( but we do have captain and first mate), a school that allows the grades to come together during color games and field day, a school that allows the students to enjoy their experience while succeeding academically and socially.  A school like that is impressive to me.

And, finally, from Kate Gamble:

We all support each other here at Sturgis in many ways. We give each other advice and uplifting comments as we continue to struggle with our work and activities. I see this support from the music program and their incredible performances, to our sports and winning many games such as girls soccer making quarter finals, to academics, theater and their talented plays such as ‘Detective Sketches’, and much more.

Mickaela Pia Gerenia and Kate Gamble

We are given the opportunity here to find our place, and to try new things. Personally, I have experienced many aspects of Sturgis. Including art, acapella, volleyball, softball, clubs, travel, charity, and more. All of these opportunities allowed me to find my passions, and set me on a path for my future. One of these opportunities that I was especially passionate for was my trip to Costa Rica with World Challenge. We explored the rainforests through long hikes, camped in tents, slept in hostels, saw sloths, swam in waterfalls, helped an elementary school, challenged our spanish speaking, and learned independence and teamship along the way. Opportunities at Sturgis such as this one, give us the ability to step out of our comfort zones and try new things. I am eternally grateful for my experience at Sturgis. I may not be as independent, as academically challenged, or as varied in my opportunities if I had [not attended Sturgis]. I am so happy to have met so many accepting students and faculty. My teachers at Sturgis are personal, passionate about their teachings, and invested in their student’s learning. I hope we continue to challenge ourselves, to take responsibility for our learning, and to step out of our comfort zones as we embark on our future journeys. Congratulations on conquering the IB dragon class of 2019, we did it!

Brij Anand and Lynn Kelley

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:

Brij Anand, Heather Glenny, Lynn Kelley, and Savannah Moynihan, please stand.

I would also like to celebrate two devoted educators retiring this year who have been great contributors to our culture and influencers for our students: Steve McDowell and Catherine Yates, please stand.

Sturgis West 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.


West Senior Vocalists Perform ‘Send Me on My Way’ by Rusted Root


Sturgis Class of 2019 – Claire Meli

Claire Meli, Senior Speaker

High school was, in a word, rough. Don’t you agree?

We all have suffered the fear and struggle of entering a new school where almost no one knows our name. We have all faced the refreshing slap in the face as underclassmen that was the fast-moving, rigorous curriculum of Sturgis. We agonized over choosing which IB classes we should take, and then very soon realized that any one of those choices would lead to weeks on end of heavy workloads and stress. We fought to make EE deadlines and finish our IAs on time. We spent many late nights doing homework or cramming in CAS reflections at the absolute last minute. We have battled our way through our IB exams only slightly scathed in the process.

But, of course, the stress and procrastination and all-nighters we pulled are not all that have defined our journey here.

High school was, in another word, rewarding. As much as we may hate to admit it, the unstoppably demanding program that we have put ourselves through over the past four years has given us more useful skills than we realize. Stepping into a new environment has hopefully prepared us with better confidence and people skills for when we have to do the same thing all over again in college or future workplaces. Massive workloads have shown most of us the importance and necessity of a strong work ethic and time management. EEs and IAs have made the soon-to-be routine task of writing lengthy research papers much less discouraging. And CAS has forced us to reflect on our lives and realize the significance of everything we do and can do in this world. But, even further still, high school was, of course, more than just the academics.

Claire addressing her peers

In a final word, high school was nevertheless enjoyable. We loved at one time saying the iconic freshman joke, “We don’t do that here.” Students of all grades and interests couldn’t escape the addictive nature of competition that brought us all together during spirit week and color wars, and we especially remember how satisfying it was beating the senior class in tug of war when we were still short, scrawny sophomores. We’ve poked fun with and at our friends and have created inside jokes that hopefully can still make us smile when we’re old. We have spent the last few weeks of our time here playing volleyball, four square and spike ball when we knew full well our time would be much more productively spent studying for our IB exams instead. It’s easy to see just how many memories we have made during our time here.

Those are a few things that we all have experienced as a class and have defined us as such. We all know who we are as a whole, and I hope that identity is something each and every one of us can be proud of and cherish for as long as we can. The task now is to find our identities as individuals.

We have just endured four of the most formative years of our lives. The thing is, though, that the years to come will be just as, if not, even more formative, should you allow them to be that way. Almost all of us are going to yet another place next year where almost no one will know our names, where we come from, nor our stories which we have already spent so long writing.

West Seniors take in Claire’s Words

But let us fully realize and take advantage of such an opportunity before us. Now is the chance to find ourselves as people and change in ways that perhaps we may not have had the freedom to in high school. So, I ask you, what are you going to do with that opportunity?

Part of Sturgis’ mission statement says that the school “provides each student with a rigorous world-class educational program, encouraging academic achievement, intellectual confidence, and personal growth.” If you take nothing else away from your time at Sturgis I strongly urge that you at least take away the idea embedded in this statement, this idea of “personal growth.” It’s a more crucial idea than you may realize, and I realized just how important it was while recently listening to a podcast entitled, “A Better You.”

One of the guest speakers on this podcast, Jia Jang, had a crippling fear of rejection, a fear so intrusive in his life that it held him back from job opportunities, relationships, and so much more. But Jia didn’t want to let this fear take over his life anymore. He decided to try something called “rejection therapy,” basically going up to a bunch of strangers, and seeking out rejection. He asked them questions he knew they would say no to, whether it was asking a random stranger for $100 or requesting a free burger refill at his favorite fast food chain. Most of his requests were rejected, but that was his goal. He wanted to see if he could become desensitized to rejection and change this part about himself.

This method really did work for Jia. He hasn’t gotten rid of his fear of rejection completely, but his therapy has helped him deal with the idea of it, and he has learned how to confront it in a healthier way. Jia embodies the idea of personal growth and truly began to uncover the best version of himself, the version that wasn’t held back so much by the flaws of his character. If Jia can keep growing, how about we keep growing too?

A sea of West supporters listen to Claire’s remarks

I’m not asking you to necessarily be as extreme as Jia. And you don’t even have to start as big as he did. Maybe the first step for you right now is using your blinker more. Or the first step could be actually flossing or brushing your teeth for two whole minutes at a time. But take that first step, whatever it may be. The point is not always so much about the actual change; rather the desire to do so, finding out who that ‘better you’ is and pursuing that desire to work towards this idea of personal growth.

Seeking personal growth and change will allow us to mature. It will make us more confident. More motivated. It will teach us to enjoy the life that surrounds us. We will have more direction for our futures. And we will be better to and for those around us who we care so deeply about.

Use what Sturgis has given you and think about the identity that your experiences here has provided you with, both as a class and as an individual. Many of you may think that your identity is defined indefinitely as what it is now. But that is the very notion I invite you to consider and challenge from now on and for as long as you can. Nothing about you is completely decided because we are never truly done growing. And, frankly, we never should be. I hope each and every one of you never stops searching for your individual identities and more importantly the best versions of yourselves.  So what are you waiting for? Your “better you” is out there. Start searching.


William H. Burke Award – 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.

Jenn Kirk presents the William H. Burke Award to Julia Bertrand

Determination and tenacity epitomize this year’s recipient. Despite massive obstacles in her personal life, this student persevered and even thrived.

To know this student is to know a deeply feeling person and an advocate for others.  She is the friend who is always there for someone else; the student who sits at lunch with a peer who is sitting alone, the friend who sees a peer who is struggling socially and lifts them up.  

Most impressive, though, is this student’s positive outlook through everything; she has a remarkable ability to look at the silver lining, and not take the little things in life for granted. Even when her situation was incredibly difficult, she was able to celebrate the good. She always looks forward with anticipation, determined to make a future for herself that will help others. She is bright, energetic, a skilled researcher, and resourceful.  

This student is the oldest child of 7 and she balances her sibling leadership and care for her sisters and brothers with her studies and a part-time job. She plans to study art therapy in college and earn a graduate degree with the hopes of one day opening a Wellness Center offering many different forms of supports and therapies, and she hopes to sell her own art as a side business. This year’s recipient of the William H Burke Scholarship is Juliana Bertrand.


Sturgis Faculty – Matt Sydow, School Counseling

Matt Sydow, Faculty Speaker

Before I even attempted to write this graduation speech I wanted to get into the state of mind of one of you seniors to really try to connect with my audience. So I did something that I’ve heard is quite popular among this group when it comes to any major assignment; I waited until the very last minute to start working on it. You all made it this far, so I figured it would work for me too. To be honest, I had originally considered getting up here and just winging it, but then it dawned on me that if I didn’t write something ahead of time and stick to a script, knowing myself, I’d end up saying something that would land me in hot water with Mr. Marble and Ms. Kirk. So instead I’m going to read what I’ve written down to help ensure that I still have a job next year.First, a brief description of my role at Sturgis and why I’ve been excited to give this speech.

Myself and the amazing counselors at West that I am so fortunate to work with are often referred to as guidance counselors. For a while now there has been a push within our professional community to have people say school counselor as opposed to guidance counselor. And though I don’t particularly care which term people use, the reason for this shift is that as counselors we really try not to give much direct guidance or advice when students are making decisions in our offices. If a student comes to us with a problem, a question, or a concern we don’t just throw answers at them, we ask them questions in return to try and get at what their answers are, the idea being that their own conclusions are typically the best conclusions. We deal with a lot of emotions, and as some of these guys can attest we go through a lot of tissues.

I’ll give you a quick real world example and snapshot into my life: it’s late February/early March, still very much winter and not yet ¾ of the way through the school year. An unnamed senior comes to my office looking dejected and upset. She sits down and says that she’s really struggling with something important. I ask her what’s wrong and she explains to me that she can’t decide if she should wear green or purple to the prom. I can’t just tell her to wear green. What if later she regrets it and then blames me? No, this needs to be her decision. So instead I might ask, “Which color do you like more?” or “What do you think would be best?”.

Seniors react to Mr. Sydow’s remarks

It’s a tough job. Honestly, a lot of my time is spent sitting quietly and listening intently, making it clear that I care. Well, today we’re turning the tables because now you are all forced to sit quietly and listen to me, and I am going to offer some small amount of direct advice before you head off into the great big world.

So, even though you’re sitting behind me and it feels a bit strange because I can’t even see you, allow me to directly address the wonderful class of 2019, one of the best groups of students that I’ve ever worked with.

High school graduation. It’s a big day. You’re celebrating the past four years and all the ways that you’ve grown and all that you’ve accomplished in that time. Most of you started at Sturgis as a super awkward 9th grade kid (I’ve seen the old pictures so I know) and you had no idea what was in store for you over the next four years. I’m sure it was a bit terrifying.

Thinking about this graduation day I was struck by how much you change during high school but how you tend to find yourself having come full circle and in a similar situation now at the end of it than you were at the beginning. I’m guessing that, similar to your first day at Sturgis, there is some amount of fear rummaging around in most of you right now because the end of one chapter of course means the beginning of a new one, and that can be scary. New places. New people. New questions that you’ll need to spend time and energy finding your own answers to, no longer surrounded by the comforts that you’ve had here.

Matt Sydow addressing the class of 2019

Around this time in your life it’s very common to hear people say that the best times are ahead of you, and I agree. But it’s also true that your most difficult times are yet to come. As we all learn at some point, life has a way of delivering major challenges, sometimes when you least expect them, and every one of you will face these as you move forward. You will all have ups and you will all have downs. Hopefully more of the ups. But I won’t lie to you, some days are going to be really hard.

However, I have seen you all conquer so many things already. From IAs to relationship drama to your own deeply personal challenges, you’ve been through the ringer and you’ve come out on the other side, now sitting here well prepared for what comes next. Don’t ever forget how tough these years could be at times and that you had what was needed to make it through. Build upon this accomplishment.

Together as a group you’ve gained so many skills and so much knowledge and resilience. No matter what you think of your classmates right now, and I know some of you just want to get as far away from everyone as possible (because you’ve told me), you will forever be linked by your shared experiences at Sturgis West. You have built a foundation here that can never be broken. In your hardest of times you will be able to reach out to these people with the understanding that they know you for who you are and where you come from. And don’t be afraid to reach out. You’re leaving high school but you will always be a part of the community sitting around you right now, and it will always be a part of you, whether you’re halfway across the world, halfway across the country, or halfway across the Cape.

Mr. Sydow with 2019 Seniors

Here’s one final piece of advice, something I’m sure I’ve said to most of you at some point already because I often say it to students as they leave my office. Have fun! Wherever you’re going, whatever you decide to do with your life, enjoy it. Live it up.

Find what makes you happy and dig into it with all the energy and passion that you can. Do your best to enjoy even the little things. Every day is an adventure and there is plenty of excitement to be had if you look for it, even right here on old Cape Cod. And if you’re ever struggling to find that spark of fun, think about making a change, whether big or small. Life is just too short to not enjoy it.

I myself have had an incredible amount of fun with this particular group of students. It’s been a true pleasure and an honor getting to know your class and working closely with so many of you. Students often ask me why I work at Sturgis when I could be back overseas working most anywhere in the world. The answer is sitting right here – you guys are amazing and you’ve made going to work every day so easy for me. I only wish that I had been here to see you in 9th and 10th grade and had those two extra years with you, but I thank you so much for welcoming me to your school when I showed up. Next year definitely won’t be the same without you and I will absolutely miss you, constant complaints and all. Good luck, and have so much fun out there.


Sturgis Class of 2019 – Ella Strano

Senior Speaker Ella Strano

Hello! Standing here, in front of all of you is extra special for me as I remember fondly the first Sturgis graduation I attended in 2016. When I was done volunteering at the ceremony, I clearly remember Mrs. Kirk asking me what I thought about it. A question that was intended to initiate small talk caused me to break down in tears. Filled with overwhelming emotion, I muttered, “ it was so beautiful”. The intensity of the emotion surprised me. I was unsure why I was brought to tears. Mrs. Kirk, forever graceful, reminded me that before I knew it, it would be my turn. So here I am. It is my turn and I am filled with emotion but this time, I can define it.

Today, we say goodbye. Today, we hug our teachers one last time. Before we set sail for new adventures,  I want to share a few lessons I learned while at Sturgis West.

That day that I will forever remember as the time I cried in front of Mrs. Kirk, I learned that you need to stop and smell the salt air. I think everybody can agree with me and say that our time here at Sturgis flew by. Reflecting on my career at Sturgis, I wish I had paused more frequently to fully appreciate our school community and culture. Our quirky school has offered us a safe harbor to grow and learn: in what other school can you rely on waffles every Thursday in Mr. Mee’s advisory? As we leave our protected shores and move on to unchartered territory, I hope that we all stop and treasure the little things in life such as salty air and the sweet smell of waffles.

Ella addressing Sturgis friends, families, and peers

You, my friends, are skilled sailors. Over the past four years, I have learned that everyone has their own strengths. Think about what we have just done! We have submitted over 60 pages of official reports, spent over 3,000 hours in class, and have read over a million history packets in the past two years alone. Understand what you have accomplished is far more than the majority of high schoolers. Know that your hard work here has set you on a course to success; stay that course but do not fear the winds of opportunities.

You are the captain of your own ship. Sturgis may have taught you how to navigate but now you are on your own. Use the skills that you have acquired and make your life what you want it to be. I know that there is so much ahead of each and every one of you. Do not be hesitant to take the helm and mutter “I’m the captain now”. Because you are.

I want you to know that you can always find a way. No matter how challenging the problem, Sturgis has taught us how to be creative and have a sense of ingenuity. Trust me, I have witnessed my peers do some unbelievable things. Among those in the class of 2019, some have successfully cloned plants, wrote about LGBTQ arts acceptance, and even one of us has conquered three spartan races. Within those accomplishments, there were problems, roadblocks, and disappointments. Sturgis has taught us that we just need to batten down the hatches and problem solve. Use your compass, use your charts. I know that no matter what is thrown at these seniors they are going to persevere!

Senior speakers Ella and Claire center left and right

Graduates of 2019 –  look to your left, look to your right. Take a mental picture of those around you. Acknowledge and reflect about the special part that these people have played in your life. Look at the teachers sitting in front of you. Find the person that has devoted hours of hard work to help you not only in class but also on your voyage. They are so incredibly proud. Beyond your teachers, look at your friends and family. They are here supporting you as they have been for the last four years. There have been happy times and sad times and times where you just wanted to go to bed. These faces we see in front of us encourage us to press on regardless, but they tell us that it is ok to go to bed early. Each and every person here has been rooting for us since day one.

Finally, I encourage everyone to close their eyes. What do you feel? In this tent, I feel love, happiness, accomplishment, and most of all appreciation. Appreciation for each other for their role in our lives. This is that feeling, the feeling I could not define four years ago. So, stop and smell the salt air, stick to your course, be the brilliant captain you are, and find a way.  So guess what Mrs. Kirk? You have had about four years warning, I hope you are ready this time!


Sturgis Faculty – Paul Archer, Latin

I would like to thank the Class of 2019 for inviting me to speak today, though I question whether asking one of the most introverted teachers to speak publicly is not really a gesture of revenge. I also want to thank your parents for believing enough in the Sturgis mission to send you here in the first place, perhaps kicking and screaming as you thought about starting a new school away from your friends.

Faculty Speaker Paul Archer

For the past several years you have put your trust in the faculty and the administration of Sturgis, and I earnestly hope that you will take some of the values of our school and continue to take intellectual risks and to regard others who may be in need. 

As I look at the Class of 2019 busily anticipating the various courses you think your future will take, I am reminded of Vergil’s Aeneas (I am a Latin teacher, after all!). After the Greeks overcame Troy, Aeneas wandered for ten long years, encountering obstacles while searching for his future homeland . With Troy burning at the hands of the Greeks, Aeneas grabbed his wife and son, and his father, and set sail towards the place the gods half revealed as his future home. The only clue the gods offered was an adventuresome “go west” to find the birthplace of one of their ancestors.

These Trojans sailed for years from one destination to another in the hopes of finding their new homeland, only to discover their latest error and return to the sea. After each wrong turn, Aeneas and his father were flummoxed, “what could the gods mean?” Finally, when Aeneas’ father, Anchises, remembered that one of his ancestors originally had come from Italy, he understood the value of those previous mistakes and blurted out, “moniti, meliora sequamur”: “being taught, let’s follow a better course.” By learning from their mistakes, Aeneas and his followers understood more fully where they came from, and together they set sail for Italy.

Seniors react to Mr. Archer’s speech

In this story, I’m not interested in the ultimate success of Aeneas’ mission and the greatness of Rome to come, I want to think about the journey, the human journey: Aeneas was only able to learn his way because he took a risk and, ventured away from the familiar (we’ll set aside the fact that his comfortable world of Troy had been burned by the Greeks and many of the unfortunate men, women and children whom the Greeks had captured were sold into slavery or killed). Aeneas began his journey with a true belief. He had only an inkling of where he was headed and what he would have to sacrifice. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. And to overcome obstacles, Aeneas and his fellow Trojans had to rely on each other and be prepared to question their own assumptions. Sound familiar?

Class of 2019, you are setting off on your own various journeys. Like those industrious Trojans, you will leave behind your comfortable routines to encounter new adventures. You, too, will make mistakes and be forced to question yourselves. In times of these setbacks, remember where you’re from, help those less fortunate, and, most of all, be open to learning from your mistakes.

You’ve already lived the pattern for success here at Sturgis. Just in coming to Sturgis, you took a risk. While Sturgis is unique, it also presents some definite challenges and unusual choices. When you arrived at Sturgis, you landed in Latin class in 9th grade (did anyone tell you you were going to have to take Latin here? Did you learn from that “mistake”?). There was Bio class, too, with the learning logs. Who knew how much time those could take?

Mr. Archer addressing the class of 2019

But you survived, and you encountered other perils: taking tougher classes to challenge yourself, attempting a less traditional IA topic, or, worse, an EE that required growing plants when you lacked a green thumb. Some of you had to deal with long commutes; many of you have had to balance jobs and schoolwork. Through the years, you may have worked harder than you wanted as you strove for more. Sometimes you were successful, and sometimes you faltered; but you learned that faltering wasn’t an end, but an opportunity to get up, look again at what went wrong and try a different approach. Ironically, we succeed best especially after we’ve encountered setbacks.

This message might be a little bitter if you didn’t have your friendships with your classmates and the well-meaning advice from your teachers to support you. Over my two years here I’ve been gratified to observe you watching out for each other. I’ve often commented that you seem like family to one another. You have a good spirit.

Tagging a record number of horseshoe crabs last year at the beach; raising a record amount of money for Made by Survivors, staging the gun-control demonstration that took place just over there on the Village Green. And this year, I still marvel at the full-team effort in camo on Spirit Day. Each of you can add more examples to this sampling. Daily highlights like these have helped define your class.

Mr. Archer with members of the Class of 2019

This resilience, adaptability and camaraderie will be useful in your working lives, too. In contrast to my generation’s work experience, in which we chose a field and remained to the bitter end, it’s said that millennials now change jobs 15 times in their lives and that most of the job hopping will occur within the first five years of graduating college. All these job changes help young workers have more say in the direction their careers are going. If this is what is happening to the millennials, Generation Z, what will you do?

Perhaps Maya Angelou captured my message of persistence best, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

So, get ready, Class of 2019, your next step is coming. Just like Aeneas, you will encounter adversity, and sometimes you won’t succeed, but you will learn. Dare to take the risk of thinking differently, appreciate your friends and keep striving to hold on to your dreams.


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