AUGUSTA — Waiting outside the Augusta Civic Center, Rita Stimpson contemplated clusters of teenagers in red and blue robes.

“It’s fascinating to see them all, to see all the graduates,” Stimpson said. “And I’m wondering what their future’s going to be in this day and age, just looking at them and wondering where they’re going to go, how many will be going to college.”

More than 80 percent of the 196 students who graduated from Messalonskee High School on Thursday will continue to postsecondary education, said Principal Jonathan Moody. Another 4 percent are headed to the military.

Stimpson’s granddaughter Kelley Boyce — her third and last grandchild to graduate from Messalonskee — plans to study psychology at Mercy College in New York.

Stimpson said she is proud of her granddaughter and hopeful for Messalonskee’s class of 2012.

“I think they’ve got their heads screwed on right,” she said.

Class President Kallie Buzzell encouraged her classmates to run for positions of leadership and apply to their dream colleges and dream jobs, sharing advice her father gave her when she discovered in seventh grade that she was terrible at basketball: “100 percent of the shots you do not take will not go in.”

“Trying and not succeeding is not failure,” she said. “Succeeding means trying again. We are all here because we tried, and in that we accomplished this. I am proud to stand here before you and share my dad’s words of wisdom to all of you. They have helped me in my everyday life, and I hold them very close to my heart.”

“I wish you all success in life beyond today,” Buzzell told her fellow graduates.

The graduates put a lot of time and hard work to reach graduation, said student speaker Andrew Bucknam.

“It’s something that we’ve worked toward for 13 years,” he said. “Thirteen years of staying up until 1 o’clock in the morning studying for a test we know we’re going to fail anyway. Thirteen years of crazy projects assigned to us by even crazier teachers. Thirteen years of asking those crazy teachers, ‘When are we going to use this in real life?'”

The graduates will not take all that for granted, Bucknam said.

Graduate Dylan Clark, of Oakland, said high school has mostly been wonderful, but he looks forward to leaving behind interpersonal drama when he enrolls at Thomas College to study criminal justice.

Oleksandr Shatskov said a highlight of his senior year was scoring a goal in the state championship soccer game, even though Messalonskee lost.

Shatskov, an exchange student, said secondary schools in his native Ukraine don’t put on major graduation ceremonies; the students mark the occasion with a formal dance.

Shatskov gushed over his experience at Messalonskee.

“It’s the best school, and I love Maine,” he said. “I like nature, and the people were very nice, very polite.”

Shatskov has to return to Ukraine for one more year of school, and then he plans to attend Colby College.

Susan McMillan — 621-5645

[email protected]

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