RICHMOND — It was a day for tears and cheers Saturday at Richmond High School, as 35 graduates received their diplomas in an emotion-filled graduation ceremony packed with friends and family.

“It’s a good thing I wore waterproof mascara,” tearful, smiling graduate Taylor Clapp said as she squeezed former neighbor Sarah Spofford, of Greenfield, Mass., tight before graduation got underway. Spofford, who said she was a “BFF,” or best friend forever, of Clapp, made a surprise appearance at her friend’s graduation.

Sentimentality ran high once the graduation started, as well, with one graduate, a singer in the Richmond High School Madrigals, struggling through tears to finish singing the class song, “Home,” by Phillip Phillips, which includes the lyrics “Just know you’re not alone, because I’m going to make this place your home.”

Salutatorian Jamie Plummer, tall and striking at the podium, started her speech by listing the latitude and longitude points of Richmond, which she said will always be home for her classmates, and always has been and always will be there for them.

“From the countless fundraisers, drama productions or sports games, the people of Richmond have never failed to come through,” she said, choking back emotion as well. “That is what makes this small town one that is unforgettable. Personally, just this past year, I experienced the encouragement once again, but on a whole new level. January 8th, in this very gym, I scored my 1,000th point. But to top it all off, the bleachers held more people than I had ever seen. I had dreamt of that night multiple times, but this community gave me more than I could have expected.”

She said most of her classmates went to preschool together at Marcia Buker Elementary School and have been in school together for 14 years.

Apparently, each of the 35 graduates must have invited a few dozen people each to graduation ceremonies, because the gymnasium was full of people, the parking lot was full and vehicles were also parked a couple of hundreds yards away on Main Street. The rest of town was noticeably quiet for a Saturday afternoon.

Principal Steven Lavoie said the full gymnasium was a testament to the fact individual achievement is a myth.

“Thank you for being here today and, more importantly, for being there when my seniors needed you,” Lavoie said. “Thank you. They could not have made it without you.”

Graduates thanked their teachers and other school staff members, and the proceedings paused so they could give flowers — in the school colors of maroon and white — to their parents or other supporters.

Valedictorian Noell Accord reminded her fellow graduates, as she said her parents had done to her on many occasions as she grew up, that the most important thing in life is to be happy. She said the best way to become happy is by spreading happiness.

“I wish that you all step into the real world with open arms and a smile,” she said. “I wish you courage through tough times, success, and long, healthy lives. But above all, I wish you, my fellow graduates, happiness.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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