AUGUSTA — Elijah Fish finds himself at the precarious point between childhood and adulthood.

The 18-year-old from West Gardiner is one of 136 students who became graduates of Gardiner Area High School at a ceremony Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

“I’m very excited to move on and meet new people,” he said after marching practice Friday morning. “I won’t forget my friends, though.”

During the ceremony, with hundreds of people looking on — family, friends, teachers and school district officials — Fish was busy with tasks of the moment. As the class vice president, he was one of two marshals who led the students into the auditorium and led the graduates out; he was also tasked with giving brief welcoming remarks and introducing the evening’s speaker, Olympian Julia Clukey,

Clukey urged the students to embrace the opportunities they find, work hard to achieve their goals and meet life’s obstacles head on.

“Live your life with courage,” Clukey said. “You have a voice inside you that will tell you to make good decisions at the time. Every decision you make is a step up the block. Follow your passion. Follow your dreams. And then come back and share that with the next generation.”

In a way, she could have been speaking directly to Fish.

Sitting on the steps at the civic center as the next school started setting up for its graduation, Fish said he didn’t have a great deal of confidence in himself when he left middle school and enrolled in high school.

“It was the awkward, middle school stage,” he said.

But his coaches, parents and teachers all played a role in helping him have faith in himself and his abilities. Part of it was working hard and part of it was recognizing his own accomplishments. On Saturday, they were plain for everyone to see. He graduated in the top 10 of his class and with highest honors.

Outside the academic realm, he said he learned his biggest life lessons in sports, which also built his self-confidence.

“You learn to be a good teammate and lead by example,” he said. “And working well with other people is important, particularly in a job setting.”

“I’m always working hard, giving 100 percent. That helps me feel confident,” he said. He also has good role models in his parents and two older sisters.

High school has had its ups and downs, he said, adding, “It was better than middle school. I am looking forward to college.” The thought of the added responsibilities is a little nerve-wracking, but he’s sure he can make the adjustment.

Fish said he applied to and was accepted at a number of colleges in New England. In the fall, he’ll attend St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., where he hopes to be able to play baseball or basketball. He’s not sure yet what he wants to study.

“I changed my mind a million times about what I wanted to be,” he said. When he was growing up, first it was astronaut, then judge, then lawyer. Now he’s a interested in numbers.

But not knowing his major now isn’t a big deal; he’ll have time to figure that out.

In the middle of the ceremony, moments were etched in his memories and in those of his classmates: speeches by Bailey Bourque and Chase Tomberlin, the class salutatorian and valedictorian; the back flip by Peter Del Gallo, New England’s best wrestler in the 120-pound class, after he received his diploma; the flash of cameras and the thunderous applause delivered by family and friends.

After he sheds the cap and gown, he said he knows he’ll make more memories and meeting new people.

And he’ll do it with the foundation of his personal philosophy. “Keep your head up. Focus on the next goal. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Always work hard.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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