Cuttyhunk schoolhouse

Carter Lynch, seen here, was the Cuttyhunk schoolhouse’s sole graduating student this year.

The Cuttyhunk schoolhouse is the last one-room schoolhouse in Massachusetts. Built in 1873, this institution has a long history of providing education to the various generations of Cuttyhunk children. Through the years, class sizes have ranged from as many as 10 students to, most recently, two, including eighth grade student Carter Lynch and his sister, seventh grader Gwen. Part of the charm of this island, and this school, is the tight-knit community and the fact that there can be just one student, in a one-room schoolhouse, and the whole island will come together to make sure that student has the finest education and the most unique experiences. This is something the Cape Cod Life team witnessed firsthand during a recent trip to Cuttyhunk that, in a happy accident, overlapped with the Cuttyhunk Elementary School’s eighth grade graduation, a ceremony in which the entire town—and a few other special guests—showed up to celebrate the lone graduate, Carter.

A Cuttyhunk schoolhouse graduation isn’t your average affair. There’s no large sports stadium with bleacher seating and beating sunlight or too-cold air conditioning, and tickets aren’t limited to select guests—the whole town is invited. Almost 60 people showed up to Carter’s graduation, all packed into the town church to celebrate and wish him well. The day started out hazy and a little chilly, but that didn’t stop this close-knit town from making the occasion special. The keynote address was given by Dr. Cady Coleman, chemist, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel and former NASA Astronaut who completed two separate space missions, including an expedition to the International Space Station. Coleman drew an intriguing comparison between her time in space and Carter’s time on Cuttyhunk. Life in a spaceship is a lot like life in a one-room schoolhouse, she explains, and what you come to learn is the importance of accepting other people and their differences and working together with those people—much like Carter will soon learn to branch out from the world he’s known and find his place among the students of St. Andrew’s School in Providence, where he will attend in the coming years.

Having seen the world from space and at the same time lived in a small environment with only a few people, Coleman understands both Carter’s world on Cuttyhunk and the world he is about to discover as he ventures forward. Her speech was, to put it simply, moving. Following the keynote address, Carter also received commendations from Senator Julian Cyr and Representative Dylan Fernandes, two young professionals who have accomplished a lot at an early age and expressed their hopes for Carter to do the same. In all, Carter’s graduation was a beautiful celebration of education and, above everything, community. Cuttyhunk, for many, is an escape—the type of place where you can hop on your boat and disappear for a weekend. But beyond that, it’s also the type of place where long-term residents are free to dream and to follow their ambitions wherever the winds may take them—the type of place where Carter can leave his one-room schoolhouse feeling like he can conquer the world because there’s a whole community of people that also believes he can.

In 2013, Carter and Gwen started a schoolhouse blog. The endeavor only lasted a couple of years, but nevertheless it’s a great look into their little world. In June of 2013, during their last week of second and third grade respectively, Gwen and Carter participated in an Annual Field Day, during which they stopped at various homes around the island and completed activities ranging from kayak obstacle courses to pottery making. The entire community pitched in, and the result was a multitude of memories that these two surely won’t forget.

At the end of each blog, Gwen and Carter sign off, “Until next time, The Cuttyhunk Kids.” As Carter moves on to a new adventure on the mainland, Gwen finishes up her final year at the schoolhouse, and in turn the Cuttyhunk community prepares for one last graduation before looking to the future and toward a new generation of students, it seems only fitting that we bid a similar farewell to Gwen, Carter and the years of Cuttyhunk graduates they proudly represent. So, until next time, Cuttyhunk Kids.