AUGUSTA — As students in red and blue gowns lined up Thursday evening in front of the Augusta Civic Center and marched into their graduation, last-second preparations took place: Missing tassels were delivered, students hastily posed for camera-wielding parents and some students told each other they didn’t think they were ready.

But about an hour later, Messalonskee High School’s graduating seniors had accepted their diplomas and thrown caps, many adorned, into the air in the Civic Center auditorium. Some caps included thank-you messages, others American flags — with and without sequins — and one with a confession: “BTW MOM I HAVE TATTOO.”

Principal Jonathan Moody welcomed the 2015 graduating class of around 170 students, saying he was filled with pride and optimism for the students.

He said everyone faces adversity, and it’s important to know the next opportunity is right around the corner. All of the moments that have come before create who people are and who they will become, Moody said.

“Guys, we know your best is yet to come,” he said.

Valedictorian Camille Fontaine encouraged her classmates to all do one small act to improve someone’s life every day, calculating that it would equal around 60,000 acts of kindness a year, more than 7,000 times the number of students at the high school.

Fontaine said that even though some might say that’s still a small portion of the world’s population, the most important thing she has learned so far is “if you can help one person, you have made a difference.”

“If you walk away with nothing else tonight, walk away with knowledge that you have it in yourself to make a positive difference in the world,” she said.

Both Fontaine and the other student speaker, class president Amber Sutherland, also spoke about tragedies the school and class faced in the past school year.

“We are all missing one classmate tonight, but I know we are holding her dear in our hearts,” Fontaine said, referring to classmate Nora Birch, who killed herself in September, two weeks before a junior at the school, Cassidy Charette, died in a hayride accident in Mechanic Falls.

Sutherland called Birch “a classmate, a friend and an overall beautiful person.” She said that losing Birch and Charette brought the class closer together and made the school a stronger community.

“With the support of many, we pushed through,” she said. “We became Messalonskee strong.”

Sutherland told her classmates that even though some will be going to different places and some will remain, they should remember each other as well as those whom they have lost.

“Remember to aspire to be all you can be and live with integrity,” she said. “And when times are tough, take my father’s advice: Let it go, let it flow.

“Also, remember my mom’s advice: Kindness matters.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig


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