AUGUSTA — The Cony High School graduates, shortly before walking onstage at the Augusta Civic Center to receive their diplomas Sunday evening, were told to hold on to the railings.

In her commencement speech, Laurie Rodrigue, an English teacher at Cony, said to the more than 160 graduating seniors that now is the time to figure out what they want to hang on to in their lives and what they want to let go. She told them to think of the people who have supported them, who have loved them even when they’re unlovable, who should have walked away but remained by their side.

“They are your railings now,” Rodrigue said. “Hold onto them.”

Shaun Gallagher, the class salutatorian, in a self-deprecating speech, began by giving ground rules for his classmates. He told them to laugh at all of his jokes and not throw any objects at him, saving those for his brother, who spoke later as the valedictorian.

“I don’t know if you’re expecting some life-changing lesson or sage of wisdom from me, but you’ve come to the wrong guy,” Gallagher said.

He said he couldn’t tell his classmates the secret to living a successful life, but he has an idea.

Gallagher, quoting singer Taylor Swift, told his classmates to think about where they are now: “You don’t find happiness from living your life looking ahead or back. You find it when you look around.”

Noah Gallagher, Shaun’s brother and valedictorian of the class, started by telling his classmates: “Don’t actually throw anything at me. I bruise easily.”

The brothers, the sons of Jon and Valerie Gallagher, of Augusta, both plan to attend Husson University to major in communications.

Noah Gallagher said in his speech that, perhaps, people put too much importance on the single event of graduation. After all, he said, it wasn’t the first time the students had to wait at the Civic Center for their names to be called and to leave with their parents, referring to recent bomb threats at the school that forced students to evacuate to the Civic Center.

Gallagher also spoke about other times the students have dealt with unfortunate situations or losses and how they reacted.

“What Cony has taught us is not what to think about, but how to think,” he said, “how to approach an unfair circumstance and make it work.”

Courtney King and Liam Stokes, third and fourth in the class, gave a joint speech covering how the class created the winter carnival, the support students have given and received, and where their classmates will go next.

Regardless of where they go, King told her classmates to always strive to be the best versions of themselves.

“As you go through life,” she said, “you will face obstacles as well as opportunities.”

“Face the obstacles head on,” Stokes said, “and take advantage of every opportunity.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @pdkoenig

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