“Resilient” Nantucket Class Of 2024 Graduates 125 Island Students

David Creed •

2024 graduation
125 island students graduated as members of the Nantucket High School Class of 2024 on Friday. Photo by Chris Tran

The Nantucket High School graduated 125 island students Friday evening in a ceremony where the graduates, in the presence of their teachers, administrators, family, friends, and loved ones, looked back on the roller coaster that was these past four years.

Class President Joan Harris kicked things off by reminding her classmates to take a moment to appreciate the faces they recognize dating all the way back to their preschool days as they prepare to embark on this next chapter of their life.

The Class of 2024 was no stranger to adversity. They began their high school careers in the midst of the COVID pandemic in the 2020-2021 school year, which superintendent Beth Hallett touched on during her remarks. She said as she reflected on this graduating class, two adjectives kept coming to mind: resilience and perseverance.

“You dealt with remote classes some days and in-person classes other days,” Hallett said. “Masking, hand washing, cleaning desks after every class, one-way hallways, ‘W’s’ on the ground, six feet of separation, no singing or playing instruments, wearing face coverings while playing sports, and lunch in your classrooms are only a few of the things you dealt with, and all in your first year of high school. But you were resilient. You found ways to make new friends, connect with new teachers, get involved in your school community, and help each other through this unprecedented time.”

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Class President Joan Harris. Photo by Chris Tran

Hallett also spoke of the passings of Baxter Waldman and Christopher A. Arevalo Lemus, who were members of the NHS Class of 2024 before passing away tragically in biking and car accidents. They were honored during the ceremony with two empty chairs reserved in their honor. Hallett said no student should have to deal with the kind of heartbreak that comes from the tragic death of one, let alone two classmates.

“Yet you took it upon yourselves to honor those classmates with remembrance, joy, and love,” she said.

Valedictorian Henry Crosby and Salutatorian Rocky Monto had two different themes to their speeches. Crosby took time to express how fortunate he and his classmates were to grow up on Nantucket, and how everyone should take what Nantucket has instilled in them to the outside world to help make it a better place.

Monto took a different approach and urged his classmates to keep working and keep showing up in life in order to achieve the goals they want.

“In times of unparalleled hardship and loss, we were able to come together and support each other,” Crosby said. “It is this fortitude and compassion that I ask each of you to bring with you next year and in the years to follow, for this is the true commonality of all Nantucketers; an unwavering sense of compassion which if everyone of us can keep with ourselves, will create a more united future.”

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Henry Crosby. Photo by Chris Tran

“Do not lose hope,” Monto said. “Keep working, keep learning, keep showing up. Be realistic of course but become the person that you want to be. I promise you that each and every investment you make into yourself will pay dividends. Play your own game. Be your own scorekeeper. There is no set way to win at life so make one, and strive towards it with everything you have. I promise it will be worth it.”

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Rocky Monto. Photo by Chris Tran

NHS principal Mandy Vasil also gave remarks to the class and ended with a Nelson Mandela quote; “May your choices reflect your hope, and not your fear.”

The commencement speaker was Jamie Simonoff, the creator of the ring doorbell security system and owner of the Handlebar Café. He said he and his family have been visiting the island for over 20 years and that it is a very special place to them.

He spoke about the journey his ring security system took from being an idea scoffed at by peers to becoming the world’s largest security company. He said to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you.

“When I pitched it on Shark Tank, Mark Cuban famously told me that only a few people would want this, so how could he invest? This is the same Mark Cuban whose Dallas Mavericks are going to get their (butts) kicked tonight by the Celtics. Go Celtics,” Simonoff said. “But it was the inner voice that I was able to listen to. While so many around me were laughing at me, I saw something different. I saw something unique. I saw a way to reinvent how we secure our neighborhoods.”

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Jamie Simonoff. Photo by Chris Tran

He told the graduates to become veracious at listening, learning, and to never stop learning while identifying their passions.

“When you Google what a commencement speech should do, it is to give advice and my first piece of advice to you is don’t take advice,” Simonoff said. “The advice I am talking about is the ‘What should I do’ advice. People giving you the ‘This is what you should be.’ I certainly got a lot of this free advice all my life but with social media, I think you guys are getting more exposed to it than I ever did. We are all as unique as our fingerprints. Each one of us is a one of one, so when someone tells you there is something you should do, they are always biasing that advice on their experiences, passions, and backgrounds that while they may be similar to yours, will never be yours.”

He said it is important to make sure whatever they are working on moving forward is something they are passionate about. He said success often times is the product of a bit of luck, but that luck is often earned through hard work and commitment.

“I would be remiss not to acknowledge that in many great success stories, a little bit of luck plays a big part,” Simonoff added. “Good timing, meeting the right person, the right place can have a lot to do with it. But I can also say that I don’t know many lucky people who haven’t worked hard to get to where they are. It is not an overnight success. It is grinding every day. Small, constant failures without knowing where it is going. I like to think about it like it is the lottery. Every hour we work, we get one more ticket. While we are never guaranteed to win, the more work we put in, the better chance we have of getting that jackpot. For every ticket we scratch off that losses, those are small setbacks we can learn from, but keep going.”

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Photo by Chris Tran

Simonoff added all members of the Class of 2024 can swing by the Handlebar Cafe to scratch off one lottery ticket.

A pair of notable moments from the ceremony included Hallett awarding a posthumous diploma to Eunice Ross, a nineteenth-century Nantucket advocate for education equality and desegregation who was denied enrollment to the island’s public school system in 1839 due to her race.

You can read more about Eunice’s story here. The diploma was accepted on stage by school committee member Shantaw Bloise.

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Photo by Chris Tran

The largest ovation to take place during the presentation of the diplomas was undoubtedly for Hanniyah Zahri Moore, who received a standing ovation from her peers as she smiled from ear to ear walking off the podium.

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Hanniyah Zahri Moore waving to her classmates after receiving her diploma. Photo by Chris Tran

Several messages of good luck from Hallett, Vasil, Crosby, and Simonoff were given to the Nantucket boys lacrosse team prior to their state championship game on Saturday against Sandwich.

“We expect a state championship on Saturday,” Vasil said.

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NHS principal Mandy Vasil. Photo by Chris Tran
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Archie Ferguson, one of three Nantucket Scholar recipients this year, taking a photo with family. Photo by Chris Tran
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