It is a simple three-letter word, but it means much more, said Winslow High School Class President Elizabeth Ferry.

Wow was the message Ferry delivered Wednesday night to 108 graduating seniors and their families during Winslow High School’s 110th annual Commencement Exercises held at the Alfond Athletic Center at Colby College.

Although hundreds attended, the ceremony was aimed squarely at 108.

Throughout the night, the guest speakers peppered their speeches with inside jokes that often singled out individual students and teachers for good-natured ribbing. And, while the jokes elicited quizzical looks from the audience, the class of 2012 was clealry amused.

During the ceremony, teacher Jared Goldsmith performed a song called “Hall Stories” — an original song that weaved together stories of lessons he learned from students. Goldsmith sang about individual students, some of whom offered him advice on fashion, lingo, individualism and more.

Teachers David Lachapelle and Lori Loftus took turns at the podium, and laughed comfortably at themselves whenever their banter fell flat. Loftus shared stories of comical mishaps from her youth, like the time she purposely jumped on an iron rake, and concluded her stories with morals, like “Think before you act.” Lachapelle followed with essayistic advice, encouraging the seniors to listen to the world around, and maintain friendships through the years.

Ferry, on the other hand, asked students to focus on one word, like a meditative koan.

“It is not an easy task representing 108 people,” she said during her keynote address. “Today, we are all dressed the same, but under these robes we are all individuals. I tried to think of something that connects all of us; something we can relate to. What I came up with is one seemingly simple word that each and every person in this room can relate to.

“Wow,” she said.

The word, or rather the feeling that propels it, is the germ of a lasting memory, she said. Ferry asked students to chart a course through their memories, based on those “wow” moments and view their high school years as a chain of moments — from their first ride in a school bus to the last time they walked through the school doors.

Ferry led the students through a rapid succession of single-sentence vignettes.

“Did you ‘wow’ at the smell of a dissected frog, or the first time you saw the blue flame of a Bunsen burner?” she asked.

She continued with examples like a pivotal song at a school dance, an embarrassing moment of a classmate, hijinks among teachers and more.

Ferry said the graduation ceremony was another one of those lasting moments, and she prepared her classmates for the presentation of diplomas.

“When you hold that piece of paper in your hands and look out into the audience — when that dangling tassel gets turned — remember everything this stands for,” she said. “Hold on to these precious moments before they are simply memories. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Cherish it.

“It is days like today … when you are feeling every emotion imaginable … (when you should) just smile, exhale and say ‘wow.'”

Ben McCanna — 861-9239

[email protected]

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