AUGUSTA — Just the thought of marching in her graduation ceremony was making Julia Dudley nervous earlier this week.

The Rome 18-year-old had just finished rehearsing at the Augusta Civic Center in preparation for Messalonskee High School’s graduation.

“I am not big into being the center of attention,” she said.

Fortunately, she was with about 220 classmates as they closed out their time at the Oakland high school Thursday in a packed auditorium with time-honored traditions: “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches, advice, memories and laughter. There was also lingering sadness for the one member of the class missing at a time when class unity is often defined. Cassidy Charette, who was killed in a hayride accident in 2014, was remembered in the ceremony by her classmates.

Just as the Messalonskee class of 2016 is moving on, so is its principal.

In his remarks to students, Jonathan Moody said this would be his last graduation.

“I’m moving into another role — a role that will allow me to see my three children follow the journey these young men and women have taken, the journey that has brought your kids before us tonight. When my children one day become Messalonskee graduates, I’ll be like one of you — a family member, a friend, a loved one, a coach, a fan, a dad,” Moody said.

Moody is headed to Skowhegan, where he has accepted the position of assistant superintendent of School Administrative District 54.

“Learning from mistakes and growing, moving forward, is one of the most essential lessons you can take away from your time at MHS,” he said. “I have watched many of you wrangle with hard situations, with tough choices, with giant hurdles and with loss and disappointment, and with the reality of your own mistakes. The fact that you are sitting here tonight is a testament to your resilience and your strength and your commitment to your own success.”

Because Dudley completed high school earlier this year, she has had time to consider the end of this period of her life and what’s waiting for her in the months and years to come.

That includes enrolling in the University of Maine at Farmington to study biology, then medical school and pursuing a career as an obstetrician.

While many of her classmates will head up to the University of Maine, in Orono, she chose the Farmington campus to make herself make new friends, which is a part of growing up and moving on. “It’s been hard to keep connections after January,” she said earlier this week in Waterville. “I feel like I have lost a few friends already.”

Part of the transition from high school to the rest of your life is gaining some perspective, and it’s something Dudley is developing.

“What goes on socially in high school is not as big a deal as you think it will be in five years,” she said. “It doesn’t really matter. You grow up, and what people think of you doesn’t matter.”

And as much as savoring the time of relative freedom that being a kid in high school brings is important, she said, so too is understanding that life is not all lived in the present moment.

Circumstances change, and Dudley said she knows that although she has a plan, it could evolve, because she’s already fine-tuned it. As a junior with an interest in medicine, she trained as a certified nursing assistant because she had planned on being a nurse. But once she got a firsthand look at the roles of a medical team in action, she decided she’d rather be a doctor, most likely an obstetrician. Nursing involved too much of what she termed “dirty work,” and she likes the idea of being more responsible.

“I love school and I love the challenge, so I’m not worried about school,” she said. At Messalonskee, she took four years of science, with the last one being a college anatomy class. “I knew it was something I wanted to keep doing,” she said.

Dudley credits her brother Benjamin for helping her to focus; she has lived with him for two years.

“He’s showed me what’s important and how to work for what you want in life,” she said. He made her responsible for her actions and has been someone she can talk to. “He’s a big hero of mine.”

A cousin of hers also is graduating, so she expected a big crowd of family to celebrate with them.

Next is a class trip to Six Flags New England in western Massachusetts, and then it’s the future.

“I am ready to graduate and start on my new path,” she said.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

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Twitter: @JLowellKJ