RICHMOND — Richmond graduates got a big send-off from their small school in a small town Saturday.

Megan Barto, salutatorian of the graduating class of 28 students, said she had 27 friends graduating with her Saturday. Many of them, she noted, have been together since preschool, and she thanked the school system and the town for being so good to her for the past 19 years.

“We will always have that little piece of home in our hearts,” Barto said. “That little piece of safety and comfort. No matter where we go, we will always be the Richmond High School graduating class of 2014. So many talk about how they didn’t even know all the people in their class. That is not the case here. Here we know everyone. We know almost too much about them. Here you aren’t just another face. Here you are more than a face. You are part of a community, part of a family.”

Valedictorian Haley Murphy also extolled the benefits of growing up in a small town and going to a small school, but warned it presents its own challenges, as well, and urged her classmates and their families to rise above them.

“One of the biggest is growing and changing in a small community,” Murphy said. “Sometimes we create unrealistic expectations of one another and create someone in our minds that doesn’t necessarily exist. Once we start thinking about someone in a specific way, it’s hard for that person to change our mind about them. I’m pleading with you to look up at this stage and see our class for who we are and what we’ve become instead of the people we were. We’ve grown and changed constantly through our time here, and that’s what we’ll continue to do when we leave. But we can only keep growing and becoming the people we want to be if we break free from these expectations.”

Principal Steven Lavoie said no day means more to him than graduation, at which, he admitted, already pausing to check his emotions, he is a real sap.

He was far from the only one to get emotional during the proceedings, however. Numerous graduates cried as they gave flowers — in maroon and white, the school colors — and hugs to their parents and other supporters.

Lavoie thanked family members for helping their loved ones succeed in school and make it to graduation.

He offered graduates three secrets to success: Keep the promises you make, be someone you are proud of when you look in the mirror and find your passion.

He said they each probably have around 12,500 days of work ahead of them before they can retire. He said it won’t seem like work if they’re doing something they are passionate about.

“That’s work, unless you find your passion,” Lavoie said, as he sat in front of the graduates in a folding chair, facing them. “Have the courage to seek your passion, and don’t stop until you find it.”

Cameras, phones and tablets of all shapes and sizes pointed at the soon-to-be graduates as they entered the high school gymnasium to “Pomp and Circumstance,” played by the school band.

Before entering, graduates did final primping of their caps and gowns in the hallway and talked about whether they would cry during the ceremony.

The Richmond High School Madrigals sang the National Anthem, and graduates and the crowd spread across the gymnasium said the Pledge of Allegiance. The madrigals also later sang “You Are the New Day,” a capella.

Megan Kenyon, first honor essayist, urged classmates to follow their dreams, even if they’re unrealistic. Failing to reach them, she said, doesn’t necessarily mean failure.

“No matter how unrealistic your dreams may be, follow them anyway,” she said. “It will always be worth the effort. Even if you don’t necessarily accomplish your goals because they are far-reached, your goals could still potentially bring you back a new life, a new friend, a new love or a new country.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.