HYANNIS — The first time graduating senior Ella Strano attended a Sturgis Charter Public School commencement was three years ago — and then she was so moved she broke down in tears.
“The intensity of the emotion surprised me,” Strano said Saturday afternoon during the Sturgis Charter Public School West Campus graduation ceremony at Aselton Park.
One of two student speakers Saturday, Strano said she has realized the hard work and camaraderie of students at the high school offering the International Baccalaureate diploma fostered a unique culture.
“Our quirky school has offered us a safe harbor to grow and learn,” Strano said. “Each and every person here has been rooting for us since day one.”
Paul Archer, a Latin teacher who was one of two faculty speakers, compared the students’ journey to that of Virgil’s Aeneas.
It’s a metaphor all the students could grasp, since Sturgis requires six years of foreign language — two years of Latin taken simultaneously with other languages.
“Just in coming to Sturgis you took a risk,” Archer said.
Students left their hometowns and some endured long commutes to the campus on West Main Street in Hyannis.
As they move on from graduation they will go on new adventures, make mistakes and question themselves, Archer told the 99 graduating seniors.
“Remember where you’re from,” Archer said. “Help others, and learn from your mistakes.”
During the commencement ceremony under a tent in sight of Barnstable Harbor, the afternoon turned increasingly chilly and breezy.
At least it didn’t rain — as it had freshman year when students conducted the traditional signing of a ship’s log in a building foyer instead of down by the harbor.
Sturgis Charter Public School Executive Director Paul Marble quoted a student as saying, “This class has had some particularly bad luck when it comes to weather.”
In December 2016, pipes at the school on West Main Street broke, causing 400 students to take classes at a temporary school set up at the Resort and Conference Center hotel.
Students joked they took a class in a bar. Marble said it was a restaurant.
High school was rewarding and tough and enjoyable, student speaker Claire Meli said.
“We all know who we are as a whole,” Meli said. “The task now is to find our identities as individuals.”
“I won’t lie to you. Some days are going to be very hard,” guidance counselor Matt Sydow, the other faculty speaker, told students.
But he said students already have demonstrated they have what they need to make it through tough times.
“You will forever be linked by your shared experience at Sturgis West — and Southwest,” Sydow said, the latter location a joking reference to the temporary classes at the Resort and Conference Center.
Following tradition, the last student to receive her diploma — Alanis Wilston-Ehrenthal — rang the ship’s bell that ended the class’s time at the charter school named after sea Captain William Sturgis.