Maine Central Institute Valedictorian Lijia Chen told fellow seniors at Sunday’s 145th commencement ceremonies to identify what they are passionate about and pursue careers to that end.
“They have to find their favorite job and enjoy their job — not the one that they will make the most money doing,” Chen, of Chongquing, China, said later after the noon event.
It was just before 3:30 p.m. and Chen and her friends, Salutatorian Xinxiu Zhong and fellow graduate Yiyi Fei, were about to board a bus on the Pittsfield campus that would take them to Boston. From there, they would fly home to China.
Chen said she will return to the U.S. and attend Michigan State University in the fall to study accounting.
“I was influenced by my Mom,” she said. “She was in accounting. I’m very interested in it.”
She said she was sad to leave the U.S. and all the friends she had made. She said she loved her two years in Pittsfield, which is much different than Chongquing.
“It is a big city and it’s really hot and we eat spicy food,” she said. “When I came here, I was shocked because it was so quiet, but I got used to it. I like this place because it’s quiet and I can focus. We have a lot of international students, and we share culture and there are a lot of activities. The teachers are so good. I’ll miss them so much.”
Chen, the daughter of Yongmei Shen Chen and Zhiguang Chen, was involved in the MCI Key Club, Cultural Diversity Club, and math and rifle teams. She received an American Society of Engineers Award. She also took part in the 2013 U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad competition.
About 100 seniors graduated Sunday under sunny skies on MCI’s Boutelle Savage Lawn.
The commencement speaker was John Ford Sr., a retired Maine game warden and author of the popular books, “Suddenly, the Cider Didn’t Taste so Good,” and “This Cider Still Tastes Funny.”
A Maine native, Ford, of Brooks, was a game warden for 20 years in Waldo County, retired in 1990 and then became sheriff of the county. He also is a painter of wildlife.
Ford told the seniors that 49 years ago he sat at his Sanford High School commencement exercises, petrified that his diploma was not going to be signed. He was no notable scholar. In fact, he said, he didn’t really want to be in school.
His grandfather was Sanford police chief and then became one of the original Maine state troopers. He started his career in 1929, and Ford was inspired by his work, he said. Ford’s grandfather died when Ford was young and his own father was a deputy sheriff for York County Sheriff’s Office. He provided young Ford more inspiration for working in law enforcement.
His parents divorced when he was young, and his mother married the local game warden, he said. His mother was a wildlife rehabilitator for the state’s fish and game department, and they always had wild critters living in their house, he said.
All those influences eventually led him to become a game warden, assigned to the town of Burnham. He learned how to communicate with people, including those who despised the position he held, he said. He added that his stepfather gave him some advice that he wanted to pass along to MCI seniors — to treat people with respect and eventually, he would get that respect back.
“And for the most part, he was absolutely right,” Ford said.
His stepfather also recommended he keep a diary because, he said, one never knows when he will write a book.
Ford said he wished his stepfather were alive today to realize that that day had come.
Later, when Ford became sheriff, he was encouraged by a journalist, Beth Staples, to write a column for the local newspaper, he said. Staples, a 1982 MCI alumni, worked for the Republican Journal and edited his work, encouraging him all the way. He said Staples’ influence made it possible for him to launch a new career — that of author and public speaker.
He encouraged MCI seniors to follow their dreams, too, and never give up.
“You are our future,” he said.
MCI Headmaster Christopher Hopkins welcomed students, family, staff and friends Sunday.
Commencement ceremonies were preceded by a graduation brunch for seniors and their families in Savage Dining Room in the student center.
Graduates are: Alexandra Kathryn Ackroyd, Alyssa Marie Albert, Benjamin Frederick Allen, Jesse Joseph Almeida, Barbara Marie Baker, Karissa Marie Ballard, Sarah Elizabeth Batchelder, Tharon Keith Blaisdell, Brian Thomas Bussell, Paul Albert Campbell IV, Jennifer May Chadwick, Borui Chen, Lijia Chen, Zhongzheng Chen, Jeffrey Ryan Colson, Patrick Michael Cookson, Dangyuan Ding, Paul Louis Dionne Jr., Mathew Peter Duncombe, Dylan James Dunphy, Hannah Cyr Emery, Yiyi Fei, Chimene Maria Goewey, Olivia Jean Hamm, Shane Wilson Quentin Hathaway, Ryan-Michael Spencer Havey, Kelsey Susan Hayes, Runpeng He, Jason Michael Henry, Amanda Lynn Herman, Meng Chun Hsieh, Yucheng Hu, Qiongbo Huang, Jessica Rae Huff, Ryan Paul Jackson, Trevor Avery Kitchin, Dominic Michael LaMarre, Paige Ann Larochelle, Thomas John Lessard, Jacob Stephen Lester, Yvonne Leung, Bowen Li, Haoran Li, Yuanhu Li, Tanner Carl Littlefield, Junjie Liu, Brianna Jade Losee, Yan Lou, Li Lu, Yuntong Lu, Chenxing Luo, Brian Anthony Mahan, Brody Graham Malloy, Polina Mariutina, Ashley Ann McFarland, Augustus McWilliams, Catherine De Carvalho Mezavilla, Charles Robert Moriarty, Brandon Scott Murray, Joshua Everett Nevells, Dinh Quoc Nguyen, Grace Chanel Oliver, Jordan Allen Peavey, Nicole Elizabeth Peters, Zhilang Qin, Cory Jayson Reynolds, Michaela Daisy Rizza, Cody Ryan Robbins, Felix David Roller, Jiaju Shi, Adam Brooks Shorey, Tanesha Jade Smith, Makayla Michelle Snow, Courtney Lynn Sprague, Monica Lee Sprague, Daniel Joel Stevens, Kanphong Suvarnnaphichaya, Keren Lorraine Swift, Shawna Marie Taylor, Haley Jo Tibbetts, Paige Hunter Topel, Caitlin Rene Tozier, Austin Ray Varney, Amie Lynn Walton, Kaimin Wang, Lilang Wang, Hannah Elizabeth Wardwell, Nikkia Rhiannon Washington, Dylan Joseph Waltrous, Mikayla Louise Wick, Yifan Wu, Chen Wu, Kuangdi Xu, Jinping Yu, Yiling Yu, Damian Michael Zezima, Qiwen Zhang, Xinxiu Zhong, Jiaqi Zhou, Lin Zhu.