HARWICH — Like the gusty winds that mussed hairdos, sent mortarboards flying and caused the tent to creek at Sunday’s commencement, the last few years have been a bit turbulent for the Monomoy Regional High School Class of 2018. But their need to persevere, their drive to achieve, and their strong sense of community saw them safely to graduation and will help them as they enter young adulthood.
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Those were the messages shared by administrators, faculty and student leaders as they celebrated graduation day. The 111 young men and women who accepted diplomas were the first high school class to have spent all four years as Monomoy Sharks.
Principal Bill Burkhead said students were faced with a new regionalized school district, a new building, and a new principal, but managed to unify quickly as Sharks. They established their own traditions and adapted to new school schedules, curriculum and policy changes, all designed to help the district excel, he said. He praised the graduates for their patience, sacrifice and perseverance, and challenged them to maintain those traits as they face new challenges. Burkhead reminded graduates that they are loved.
“Class of 2018, you are important,” he said.
Students presented “reflection awards” to noteworthy teachers, including Amy Majka of Chatham Elementary School, retiring Principal Sam Hein of Harwich Elementary, Darlene Coy of Chatham Middle School, former Harwich Middle School Assistant Principal Sean Fleming, and Eileen Harrington of Monomoy High.
“I’m so proud of all of you,” Majka said. “We’ll be here to support you in any bumps along the way.”
Hein, who started in Harwich when current graduates were entering elementary school, said he’s also proud.
“I’m grateful and I’m blessed to be able to graduate with them,” he said.
In her address to graduates, Salutatorian Grace Boyle passed on advice she received from her parents: not to obsess about small mistakes.
“Success and perfection are not synonyms,” she said. Boyle urged her classmates to pursue their dreams, and “don’t let the small stuff get in the way.”
Student Council President Katie Dever likened the graduates to beachfront cottages, built sturdy to withstand storms and reinforced by careful craftsmen. The Class of 2018 has been reinforced by a strong community, she said.
“It holds us together and shelters us from the elements,” she said.
The school presented its first Ad Lucem awards, named for the school’s Latin motto “Toward the Light.” The awards were given to high school Administrative Assistant Katie Kelly, government teacher Rich Houston, students Grace Boyle and Tommy Graham, and parent volunteer Julie Santoni.
Recalling the writings of Anne Frank, Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter noted that everyone has the ability to contribute something that helps change the world for the better. He praised Class President Emma Mawn, whose middle school drawing was the basis for the new Monomoy district logo, as well as the founding members of the school’s Key Club, its two Eagle Scouts, the founding members of its Global Studies program, and the student athletes who helped create new lacrosse and girls ice hockey teams.
Carpenter said sometimes the best gift people can offer is patience, like that shown by Monomoy students and parents during the first few years of the new district. While some families chose to attend different districts, “you were patient and willing to give us a chance,” he said. Now, the district is receiving wide acclaim on- and off-Cape, with Burkhead recently being named Massachusetts Principal of the Year.
School Committee Chairman Nancy Scott urged graduates to reflect on their achievements, celebrate with their loved ones, “and look toward the future that is waiting for you.” With large numbers of students taking advanced placement classes, and some earning the new Global Studies diploma, “you have pushed yourselves, and each other, to greatness,” Scott said.
Valedictorian Francesca Barr said she was proud to be on stage with “110 passionate and dynamic students,” and thanked them for their contributions. She praised her teachers for their “contagious passion,” and thanked the faculty, administrators and guidance staff for their steadfast support.
“The one thing I can say on behalf of all of us is, thank you,” Barr said.
Mawn said she remembers, as a Harwich Middle School student, being given the chance to help choose a name and mascot for the new school district.
“My seventh grade class voted for the ‘Charwich Raiders,’” she said with a laugh. “Can you imagine?”
But the students in the new high school had one thing in common: they were all in unfamiliar territory. “Everyone was new to Monomoy because the building was brand new,” Mawn said. Her class has shown itself to be persistent and hopeful during adversity, even during a recent class trip to New York City which was fraught with mishaps.
“Nothing stops this class,” she said. As graduates go on to work, college or the military, “a small piece of us will always be Monomoy Sharks.” Mawn challenged her classmates to continue to be powerful, courageous, idealistic, “and most of all, optimistic.”
Email Alan Pollock at alan @capecodchronicle.com