Before their graduation Wednesday evening, 101 Winslow High School seniors milled around the hockey arena at the Alfond Athletic Center at Colby College, waiting to begin the procession.

“It’s a great school, the community is great, and there’s a lot of pride in our school,” said graduate Michael Ayers, who plans to study business next year at the University of Maine, in Orono. “But I’m ready for a new adventure.”

Wearing black gowns with orange stoles, the students marched into Wadsworth Gymnasium and were cheered on by their family and friends, who overfilled the bleachers.

Kelly Daigneault, a science teacher at the high school, gave a final lesson to the students, talking about what they had in common with the Arctic tern, the humpback whale and the leatherback turtle.

The terns, birds that migrate up to 44,000 miles each year, are fiercely protective of their young, just as the students’ own parents were. The whale, which also travels great distances, learns how to work and communicate in groups, as the students had done in school. And the turtle, which goes out on its own in search of food and is self-reliant for much of its life, represents the “incredible odds” that some students overcame to get to graduation and the obstacles that others will face in the future.

“As you go on your journey … learn things, become a voice for change,” Daigneault said. “Your migration route might not be a straight line, but your detours will get you along the way.”

And remember, she added, “this place you have called home will always be here.”

Senior class president Patrick Hopkins echoed the idea of a journey in his speech about the lessons the class had learned as a whole.

“Life is about the journey, not the destination,” Hopkins said.

He reminded the class of the kindness teachers had offered and that a friendly gesture can go a long way. He also spoke about what the class had accomplished as a whole, proving that “teamwork really does make the dream work.”

“The class of 2017 possesses the unique ability to come together as one unit,” Hopkins said, adding that they should “never underestimate the power of community.”

“I truly believe the sense of community in Winslow beats every other town in Maine,” he said.

Hopkins said the class had been through challenging times before, and the students would face them again as they moved on to separate lives.

“You can only control your own actions,” he said.

So, he told them, think of yourself as holding a balloon that represents whatever is holding you back.

“Let go of your balloon,” Hopkins said. “Let go of your fear. Let go of what burdens you. And if you want something, do something today to make it happen.”

Principal Chad Bell gave the students five rules to help them as they move on to the next chapter in their lives and “achieve awesomeness.”

Start with a dream, he said, and work hard toward achieving it.

“There will always be someone smarter than you, and there may even be someone with better ideas than you,” he said, “but there is no excuse to be outworked.”

Don’t get bogged down in whatever failures happen along the way, Bell said. Everyone makes mistakes, but “awesome people fix them.”

Bell also encouraged the students to be leaders who listen to others and focus on the group and not themselves. In that same vein, the last rule he gave was to love someone.

“We are becoming a very self-absorbed society,” Bell said. “How many selfies did you take today?”

He encouraged the students to spend time with those they love and take the time to be a good friend.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

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Twitter: @madelinestamour