Last week, as per tradition, the graduating class of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School gathered for a seniors lunch under the beams of the Far Barn at the Polly Hill Arboretum. The graduating class is always a small one and this year is no different as seven students will celebrate at the ceremony on Sunday.
As they looked back on their school experience and made plans for the future, the students agreed the intimate class size allows for a unique educational experience.
President of the board Steve Nierenberg joined the students for lunch.
“People who send their kids to the charter school, they have a sense of what goes on, but many others don’t know,” he said. “I mean, these kids are special. They really know who they are in a way that will serve them so well.”
The charter school’s graduation is Sunday, June 2 at 1:30 pm. The ceremony will be held on school grounds at 424 State Road in West Tisbury.
Tatianna Reyes-Major, or Tati as her friends call her, sees the ceremony as particularly picturesque. “Graduation is so sweet. We have all these silks hanging in this tent, and the students are sitting on a platform wearing crowns,” she said.
Tatianna will attend Stamford International University in Bangkok, Thailand next year.
The charter school ranges from kindergarten to senior high school and graduation is an opportunity for the younger grades to show their appreciation for the senior class. Each senior spends the year partnered with a younger classroom, and at graduation that classroom presents their senior with a gift. Gifts can range from superhero capes to books of poetry.
Aiden Donovan has assisted in Lori DiGiacomo’s kindergarten class. The partnership has been 14 years in the making.
“She was my first teacher at this school,” Aiden said. “We have a really strong bond. The fact that I still get to see my kindergarten teacher every day, it’s a really important part of my experience.”
Aiden will attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York city next year.
Layla Buckley has traveled the world with the charter school. For her senior portfolio she worked on her writing by chronicling her travels with the Spanish department to Panama and Costa Rica. Layla will attend Suffolk University in Boston, Mass.
Ryan Laslovich came to the charter school in seventh grade from the Tisbury School. Soon other classmates from Tisbury, including Layla, joined him. The school has been a great support to Ryan ever since, he said.
“I hope the charter school stays on its course of having teachers and students who help each other in times of need,” he said. “That’s what makes the school so special.”
Next year Ryan will pursue his passion for gastronomy and business at Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts Program in Providence, R.I.
Kyle Ribeiro will study electrical technology at the New England Institute of Technology next year, and hopes to remain a volunteer firefighter on the Vineyard. Kyle became a volunteer firefighter as a part of his senior portfolio project, a capstone project which all charter school seniors participate in. Kyle turned to the charter school after attending schools on and off-Island.
“My little brothers went here, and I was skipping around schools a lot,” he said.
Classmate Julia Kane interjected. “Kyle didn’t like it at first, but now he does.”
The group chuckled knowingly.
“I really like how comfortable I can be with teachers,” Kyle said. “I can talk to them on a person to person level.”
Julia Kane agreed, and said she feels the connection with their teachers is something that facilitates growth in unexpected ways.
“I think because you do have such a close community, teachers end up advising you not just in school work, but in life,” she said. “I think that because we receive that support we, in turn, know how to give support. And that’s a skill we’ll use forever.”
For her senior project Julia created a series of poetry notebooks. She will study environmental science and humanities at Bard College in New York’s Hudson Valley in the fall.
The seventh member of the class, Charlotte Rooney, will attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design next year, but was not present at the Polly Hill Arboretum event.
As a parting gift, the class of 2019 planted viburnum, a shadbush, three white azaleas and a lily of the valley tree on campus. When asked what they hoped their school would look like in the future, Tati replied: “I hope the trees we planted are tall and fruitful.”
Julia agreed. “I’ve got my fingers crossed. I hope we put enough compost in.”