AUGUSTA — Just before taking the stage to get his diploma, Robert Swain ran down the hall, seeking help from a friend.

The Cony High School graduate from Augusta said hard work and the support of his teachers at Cony High School prepared him well for four years at Columbia University, where he plans to study chemistry in the fall.

But they forgot to teach him one thing.

“They didn’t teach me how to tie a tie,” Swain said after his friend gave him the lowdown on the correct knot for a necktie.

Swain followed his friend’s instructions for knotting his red tie, which matched his red gown, and joined the 211-member class of 2012 lining up for the commencement procession.

Before ceremonies began, a series of photographs of the graduates appeared on a large video screen behind the Augusta Civic Center stage, including recent images and some that showed them as young children.

Superintendent Cornelia Brown welcomed everyone and said it was a proud day for Cony High School.

“Cony is an extraordinary school,” Brown said. “I can’t say that as a graduate, but as a parent of a graduate who went on to a successful career.”

In his honor essay, Swain told fellow graduates that the bonds made at Cony don’t have to change. Graduation isn’t the end of their friendships, he said.

He said technology makes it possible to stay in touch no matter where they all end up.

“Send a text, or stay in touch on Facebook,” he said, adding later, “Tell everyone you’ll see them later. That’s more accurate.”

Lauren Quirion, 17, of Chelsea, who will study radiology at Eastern Maine Community College, said graduation day came a lot faster than she expected.

“I’m a little nervous, but excited at the same time, to be done with school and move on to a new chapter,” Quirion said. “I made a lot of friends, and the teachers are awesome. It is going to be sad not to see them every day.”

Her friend Brittany Compagna, 18, who also lives in Chelsea, agreed the last four years sped by.

“It definitely came a lot faster than any of us expected,” said Compagna, who is entered in the nursing program at the University of Maine at Augusta.

Perrin Cody of Augusta said graduation day was “kind of surreal.”

“You think about this as a freshman, and then you’re at graduation practice,” Perrin said. “When this day comes, you’re still taken by surprise.”

Perrin won’t turn 18 until July 22. On his birthday he plans to enlist in the Coast Guard. He wants to go to college eventually and major in criminal justice.

“It’s a new experience I look forward to,” he said. “There’s a lot of possibilities out there. School was a fun ride, but it’s time to move on.”

Maxfield Hutchinson, 18, of Augusta, also will study criminal justice, at Husson College in the fall. Hutchinson said he was excited about getting out into the real world.

He said high school was a good experience. The teachers were tremendous and he made some good friends and memories, he said.

Salutatorian Allyson Drummond gave her classmates five tips on how to be a good person: Think before you speak. Don’t judge people by their appearances. Don’t procrastinate. Have fun.

“And be nice,” Drummond said. “There’s truth to the phrase you should treat people the way you want to be treated.”

She said her graduating class is grateful for all the help it received along the way. Teachers and parents gave encouragement and were there when needed.

“You should be proud and take comfort in knowing the best is yet to come,” she told her classmates.

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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