AUGUSTA — Luke Washburn sported a tie covered in dollar bills under his blue graduation gown at Oak Hill High School’s graduation Monday.

“It’s to represent what I’m doing after I graduate — making big bucks,” the Litchfield resident said before a smile indicated that may not really be the case. “Which is ironic, because I want to be a teacher.”

Washburn hugged his aunt, Kim Tessari, of Gardiner, in the lobby of the Augusta Civic Center before she went into the auditorium to take her seat, and he went into a hallway off to the side to line up a few minutes later to march in as “Pomp and Circumstance” played.

Tessari was one of numerous family members there for Washburn’s graduation. He was clearly proud to share the moment with them.

“It’s exciting. We’ve all been looking forward to it for a while, as a family,” said Washburn, who plans to attend Husson College. “We’ve worked hard for it. I have a big family, and they’ve been super-supportive.”

Hundreds of family and friends welcomed graduates into the auditorium by standing and, in several instances, with shouts of “Woo!” as individual graduates entered.

Principal Patricia Doyle congratulated the class, saying, “What a class. What a class!”

She said graduation night was a celebration of their success.

Graduate Brady Dion, speaking to the crowd, said the unpredictability of high school has helped prepare graduates for their lives ahead.

“Our experiences and lessons learned in high school play a major role in attaining our goals for the future,” Dion said. “High school has taught us how to be leaders when we need to be and followers when we should be. It taught us to communicate in a more educated fashion. And on the opposite side of that, how to tweet. It has taught us how to overcome adversity and stand up for what we believe in. Most essentially though, it has taught us who we truly are.”

Valedictorian Derek Gamage said he wasn’t chosen “for his impeccable speaking skills, the life lessons I can teach, or life-changing experiences I can reflect upon, but rather because I spent most of my time in high school doing homework and studying, learning how to read, write, math, and even hack the school computers, true story.”

He said in four years of high school he learned many things — many of them useful things and several of them things he will never need in his life again. He joked that graduation was “one small step for us and one giant relief for our parents.”

Graduate Athena Ritcheson, of Sabattus, who plans to study social work at Saint Joseph’s College, said she had “a lot — plenty” of family members at the Civic Center for her graduation, including multiple sets of grandparents.

She said she was excited and nervous about graduating, and she enjoyed attending Oak Hill.

“I like that it’s small, so everybody can just be everybody — be themselves,” said Ritcheson, of Oak Hill, who wore a gold rope with her white graduation robe, indicating she had a grade point average of at least 3.0. “That’s why I chose St. Joe’s; it’s small.”

Graduates briefly batted around an inflatable beach ball during a lull in the proceedings after scholarships were awarded.

The school band played “Evil Ways” during the ceremony, and the band also played a number of tunes as attendees filed into the auditorium.

The Oak Hill High Choral Seniors sang the “Star Spangled Banner.”

Graduates spread throughout the Civic Center during the ceremony to give red roses, and in many cases huge hugs, to audience members who have supported them.

Oak Hill, Regional School Unit 4’s high school, takes students from Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales.

Following graduation, the new graduates planned to head to Kennebec Valley YMCA, also in Augusta, for their project graduation activities scheduled to last until 5:30 a.m.

Keith Edwards – 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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