ANSON — Explore your passions and don’t avoid the path that is right for you, even though it may be harder and longer than others.

That was the message 1987 Carrabec High School graduate Sally Beaulieu imparted Saturday to the class of 2016 at Carrabec High School.

Beaulieu, who works for GEAR UP Maine, a federally funded program that identifies and assists students and families from economically disadvantaged backgrounds to prepare, enroll in and successfully complete a postsecondary education, was the guest speaker at Saturday’s graduation ceremony.

She spoke to 54 seniors who were taking part in the 47th annual commencement exercise in the school’s gymnasium.

Experience tells her, she said, that they fall into one of four categories: those who always knew what their career path would be and would pursue the education needed to reach that goal; those who are similar to the first category but would end up pursuing the career they wanted, only to realize it was not the right one; those who want to continue their education but do not know what they want to do; and those who are so busy making sure they do what needs to be done now that they’ve had no time to think about what happens tomorrow.

“No matter which description fits you, you’re all graduating from high school today. Congratulations,” Beaulieu said. “Way to go.”

The graduating seniors, she said, probably had varying levels of support during their school careers, and some may have struggled more than others to make the grade. A senior was graduating first in the class on Saturday, and someone else was graduating last, she said.

“The question is, what are you going to do with the education you received?” she asked.

Beaulieu urged seniors to explore their passions — to ask themselves what excites them and what they really care about. If they can define their passions and figure out a way to support them, they will be lucky — and successful.

School Administrative District 74, which includes Anson, North Anson, Embden, Solon and New Portland, is one of 10 districts in which Beaulieu works in central and western Maine. She is a former 23-year middle school teacher, having started her career at Solon Elementary School and then spent 18 years teaching at Maranacook Community Middle School. She also is an adjunct associate professor at both the University of Maine at Farmington and Thomas College, where she teaches graduate courses in organizational behavior and change. Her niece, Bianca Beaulieu, the class of 2016 vice president, gave the farewell remarks before the recessional.

The gymnasium was packed with relatives and friends of graduating seniors, who marched in and sat on the stage. Five tall tree branches were adorned with tiny sparkling lights against a wood backdrop behind them.

Before the ceremonies began, the seniors gathered in the school cafeteria, where Assistant Principal Timothy Richards gave them last instructions and encouragement.

Senior Taylor Stewart, 16, of North Anson, said she had doubled up on several classes while in school and, with a lot of support from family and school staff, was able to earn enough credits in three years to graduate. She plans to enroll in Husson University in the fall to study accounting and plans to do an accelerated program that will allow her to obtain a master’s degree in four years, she said.

“I’m nervous, but I’m very excited to start the next chapter of my life,” Stewart said. “It was wonderful here. I took eight college courses.”

Zach Cates, 18, of Anson, said he had planned to enter the U.S. military but learned three weeks prior to graduation that he could not do so.

“I’m going to shuffle around and see what I can do. I think I’m going to KVCC (Kennebec Valley Community College) in the fall to study carpentry,” he said.

Cates said he enjoyed high school and will miss it.

“I’m going to miss all of my friends and my teachers. It’s going to be different, not seeing them every day.”

He credited teacher Janet Boothby, who teaches multiple subjects, with helping him in school when he didn’t have the energy for it himself.

“I had times when I didn’t really care about school, and she’d always help to get me back to a positive attitude and get my work in so I wouldn’t be failing,” he said.

Desarae Howard, 18, of Solon, said she was heading in the fall to the University of Maine at Presque Isle to pursue a bachelor’s degree in athletic training with a minor in physical education.

She said she has been training and doing light weightlifting with physical education teacher Jack Kaplan since her freshman year and has played basketball and softball.

“I’ve met with the softball coach up in Presque Isle and I’m planning on playing softball,” she said.

Richards welcomed the crowd in the gymnasium, as did the class president, salutatorian and class marshal, Shenciaray Black, who thanked parents, friends and teachers.

“Without all of your efforts, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said, to applause.

Valedictorian and class marshal Brandon Dixon quoted the late Muhammad Ali in urging his fellow graduates to be courageous, take risks, reach out for opportunities and make every day count.

“I want to personally congratulate each and every one of you,” Dixon said. “I wish you great success.”

Seniors Morgan Steward and Deborah Ellis, class treasurer, belted out a moving rendition of the song “Breakaway,” prompting tears from fellow seniors, teachers who were sitting next to the stage, and those in the audience.

School Principal Regina Campbell praised the class of 2016, saying the students scored higher on SAT tests than any other class at the school. Many took advanced placement courses and excelled in various activities.

“You left Carrabec High School a much better place than it was before you came,” she said.

She and SAD 74 Superintendent Kenneth Coville handed out diplomas.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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