AUGUSTA — The majestic eagle may be Erskine Academy’s mascot, but Katherine Newcombe shared a life lesson with her fellow graduates that she learned from birds of a different feather — chickens.

Black chickens, with a bit of white on their feathers.

The birds, she said at Erskine’s graduation ceremony Friday at the Augusta Civic Center, taught her the pitfalls of judging others without knowing their true colors.

Newcombe said she’s been raising and showing chickens since she was 8 years old. Not long ago, she said, she had some black rosecombs hatch from eggs in her incubator. The birds are treasured for their black plumage, but those chicks had white feathers on their wings. Thinking that made them unworthy of being shown, she sold the chicks to someone who would enjoy them.

She learned only later from a veteran breeder that it is common for the chickens to have one or two white feathers when they are young, which they usually shed.

At a poultry show, she later saw the same birds she had sold. They were beautiful black creatures, with not a speck of white on their black plumage.

“My point here tonight is that whenever you are trying something or meeting someone for the first time, you need to give the whole experience the benefit of the doubt,” she told the hundreds of relatives and friends of graduates gathered in the blue-and-white decorated auditorium. “If you don’t, there is a strong chance you will make a mistake similar to mine. Just remember to allow new things, people, and places to show you their true colors before you pass judgment. Just remember to never judge a young chicken by its fledgling plumage.”

The keynote speaker was Nikole Busmanis, a 2007 Erskine graduate who went on to earn a degree in philosophy from Colby College, volunteered in Texas helping hurricane victims recover and in Guatemala helping young girls from abusive family situations and worked to help raise awareness of nonprofit agencies. Now she is studying public health at the Muskie School of Public Service.

She urged graduates to do three things: Try everything, such as internships, jobs, hobbies, and ice cream flavors; don’t let life’s obstacles consume you; and find your own way to make a difference.

She said her experiences volunteering changed her life.

“The world needs your help,” she said. “I’m not telling you to move to another country. Whether you’re in China, Maine, or mainland China, find your own way to make a difference you are passionate about.”

About 150 graduates make up the Erskine Academy class of 2013.

One graduate appeared to have a special gift waiting in the parking lot just outside the building entrance — an immaculate-looking black Chevy Camaro sports car, with a huge pink and white bow tied to the hood.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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