Franklin County school districts graduated 276 senior students over the weekend; seeing them off to celebrations, new jobs, degree programs, adventures and more. Despite immense challenges over the last few years, all of the ceremonies took on an air of hope and happiness as the speeches, songs and remarks considered the bright futures ahead.
In Livermore Falls, administrators and educators marched 70 students across the stage, celebrating their achievements amongst hundreds of onlookers on Griffin Field.
Principal TJ Plourd began the ceremony with a quote from Maya Angelou, drawing from the poet’s wisdom to tell students to be “passionate with [their] aspirations.”
“…become passionate with your friends and family, coworkers, and leaders. Find humor in all things. Do it with style. I’m sure
that when you came to high school four years ago, you never thought that your class would be a leading force behind Pheonix pride. You, the graduating class of 2022 have created the new normal at Spruce Mountain High School, and because of your passion, your compassion, your humor, and your style, this high school has a great future,” he said.
Salutatorian Leah Gilbert was called to the podium following Plourd’s speech. Gilbert said she had been preparing for her
graduation speech since she started school, jotting down thoughts in a notebook, and crafting her path to get to the podium.
“I knew that success would not be handed to me, it would be achieved through an accumulation of showing up, showing kindness, and believing that there would be a better tomorrow,” she said.
Valedictorian Courtney Hogan wrapped up the ceremony by saying how “small and mighty” the 2022 graduating class was, and encouraging her fellow graduates to “be mighty.”
On Mt. Blue Campus’ Caldwell Field in Farmington, 150 graduating students flipped their tassels after listening to speeches from their Principal Monique Poulin, Valedictorian Joshua Smith, Senior Class Vice Grace Bell and student Evan Lowell.
Referencing the colorful flags of life advice that hang in the halls of the high school, Poulin offered her own catchphrases of comfort and encouragement.
“Be kinder than necessary at every turn. It doesn’t cost anything and certainly makes a difference to all those around you. Be your best self. We all have a choice on how to present ourselves. And, carpe diem. Seize the day. Today, tomorrow, and all the days before you,” she said.
Student speaker and Valedictorian Josh Smith asked his fellow classmates to close their eyes and breathe, recognizing the importance of the current moment. Smith attributed the skill to his father, soccer coach, and assistant principal Joel Smith, who would lead the team through the same exercise before games.
“I admit, it was weird, but I did it. I closed my eyes, I took a breath of the crisp autumn air and when I opened my eyes I saw the magnificent view of Caldwell Field, the setting sun and blue sky, and of course our huge fan section. I became present in that moment, no longer nervous, but just excited to play. I’ve continued to do this,” he said.
He ended by telling students to feel the accomplishment, and to be proud.
On Friday night, at the Mount Abram High School soccer field, the graduating class of 2022 celebrated with their friends, family, and teachers. Students from Kingfield, Phillips, Avon, Strong, and surrounding communities were recognized for their achievements and successes over the last four years of high school.
Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Kristina Stevens addressed the students first. The senior class of 2022 was halfway through their sophomore year when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, sending them all into unprecedented times and uncertainty for the future. Six months through their junior year the school community was rocked with a car crash that took the lives of Michaela Morgan and Thomas Deckard-Madore, two students from MTA. Even through their senior year, the back-and-forth with masks, distancing, and quarantine continued, making every day a guessing game as to who would be in school and who was out.
Despite all the challenges, the class of 2022 made it through their high school experience.
“We have all been through so much together that we don’t even talk about it because there seems to be no words for it,” Stevens said. “But when I look into this crowd of seniors, I do see hope of the future, because I believe that you will all learn from this experience. That you will make human connections a priority. That you will innovate. That you will build. That you will create. That you will cure something. That you will write something. That you will solve something. That you will make music. That you will make art. That you will redefine what is possible from the times when things felt very impossible.”
In a brief addition to the graduation ceremony, Darren Allen was honored by the Maine State Senate and the Maine House of Representatives for State Coach of the Year for Varsity Soccer. The delegates were unable to be present, so Stevens read the recognition letter. Darren’s son Ian Allen, a graduating senior, received the award on his behalf.
Thomas Fiske spoke to the graduating class. “I just want to leave these three things with them to enforce as they start a new chapter in their life. The first one is being a life-long learner … the second is perseverance … the last thing is community. The only way forward is with each other.”
Forty students graduated; 23 plan to attend post-secondary schools, sixteen plan to join the workforce, and one aims to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Students received 79 individual, local, community, state, college, and university scholarships, totaling $822,734. After each student received their diploma from their senior class advisor, the senior class salutatorian and valedictorian addressed their classmates.
“Standing behind me is a mountain, the same mountain this school is named after,” Cameron Walter, salutatorian, said. “Having completed my fourth and final year here at Mount Abram High School, I cannot think of anything else more fitting to symbolize the school, the staff, or the students. Having hiked the mountain once a year for soccer team bonding, I have grown to appreciate the difficulty of the hike and have learned something new each time, helping me to make the trek easier for the next year.”
Walters continued, “After making it past the tree line of the mountain, you are confronted with a peak. If it seems too easy, that’s because it is. After reaching that peak, there is another, and another, and another. About four false peaks later, you finally reach the top. A false peak, as defined by Wikipedia, is a peak that appears to be the pinnacle of the mountain, but upon reaching, it turns out the summit is higher. We have reach our own version of a false peak. Not false as in fake, this is a very real celebration of the past thirteen years of hard work. The similarity is that we have not reached the top of the mountain. We have all worked our butts off to graduate, but the hard work does not stop here. In fact, it’s only just begun.”
Valedictorian Wyatt Sieminski spoke, thanking teachers, staff, families, and community members, continuing to address his fellow classmates. “We have accomplished a lot during our time here. We’ve won soccer games in the middle of snow storms, we won a basketball game in Augusta for the first time in twenty years, and just last week we even managed to find our time capsule after over an hour of digging random holes in the ground. But beyond all those things, we have grown. Through our relationships, goals, actions, and achievements, we have slowly become people who are ready to take the next steps in our lives.”
A small group of 16 Rangeley graduates gathered on Saturday, Salutatorian Mya Laliberte spoke to the crowd, thanking her friends and family, but mostly thanking her peers. She said that over the years her class had been told numerous times that they were special, and that she never fully understood until now.
“I finally realized that our class is special because of the grounded sense of self we’ve developed over the last 13 years. We’ve competed and laughed while subconsciously forming versions of our selves that we could not create other wise. I like to think that when forming a sense of grounded self you gain the skills necessary to look to the world beyond Rangeley. You can look past minor selfish problems, no matter how big they may seem, and realize where you stand in the greater context,” she said.
This year’s seniors will be attending the following military, post-secondary and training programs: United States Marine Corps, Central Maine Community College (2), Maine Maritime Academy (2), Bates College, Clemson University, Emerson College, Plymouth State University, The Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, The University of Southern Maine and The University of Maine at Orono.
A total of $63,400 in scholarship funds was given out.