AUGUSTA — Unlike many of her classmates, Oak Hill High School valedictorian Emma Weissenfels didn’t grow up with the students with whom she graduated Monday night. Weissenfels moved to the area just four years ago, when the class was in its freshman year.

But in that short time, Weissenfels said, at the high school’s commencement at the Augusta Civic Center, the students have become like family.

“Even though Oak Hill doesn’t have the highest test scores, I don’t believe that is what makes a high school great,” Weissenfels said, her voice choking with emotion. “I tell you I would not want to be at any other school because you all are here and here is home.”

Weissenfels speech, which elicited a standing ovation from her 76 classmates, came moments before the students from Wales, Sabattus and Litchfield received their diplomas marking the end of their high school careers.

“Like Forrest Gump’s momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get,'” said salutatorian Kayla Veilleux, quoting the 1994 hit movie staring Tom Hanks. “But as far as I’m concerned, all chocolate is good. Enjoy your chocolate, class of 2015, and I wish you the best in this unpredictable, spontaneous, enjoyable thing we call life.”

The ceremony was marked by music, including a stirring rendition of “Little Wonders” featuring strong contributions from senior soloists Brittany Bays, Abigail Bossie, Jordan Cutliffe, Kaitlyn Doyle, Kitaira Harvey and Weissenfels.

The young women wore red robes and mortarboards, many of which were decorated with glitter of all colors. The young men, some of whom also wore glittered hats, wore blue.

Student speaker Abbey Dodge recalled her view of high school before her freshman year. She was told it would be a time of fun and parties and rife with new friends. Instead, Dodge said, she found work and lots of activities. While there were enjoyable times, there also were times of incredible stress and heartbreak, she said.

“When I look back on high school in 20 years, I really hope that I will not say, ‘Wow, those were some of the best days of my life,'” Dodge said. “Each and every one of you have so much more to look forward to. Oak Hill is not, has not been, and never will be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.”

Rather, Dodge said, the school is a stepping stone that will help the students reach their ultimate goals. The stepping stone of high school may have provided good memories, but the best is yet to come, Dodge said.

“So please don’t worry if you were not popular, if you weren’t a jock, if you weren’t involved in absolutely everything in high school,” she said. “Because in 10, 15 or even 20 years, no one will care. You dictate your success. Everything you do from this point on is decided by you.”

Veilleux imagined life with a remote control that allowed you to replay the best moments, rewinding back to best experiences and fast forward through the most difficult times. Pause is saved for the moments you wish could last forever, like the first kiss, or getting a driver’s license, Veilleux said.

“You could spend your whole life in these moments and never want them to end,” she said. “The feelings that you feel during these pause moments are feelings that you wish would never go away.”

The graduates are headed for more pause moments, like getting their college diplomas, getting engaged and married or holding their first child.

“In our lifetime we will experience a lot of moments that we wish we could pause, but all we can do is allow them to play through,” Veilleux said. “Bottom line is life doesn’t come with a remote control, and most of the time it may seem like we have absolutely no control of our lives. I’m sorry to say, but that’s just how life goes. No matter how much time and effort we put into planning for the future, life has a funny way of changing those plans at any moment.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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