WINTHROP — The excitement of 52 Winthrop graduates and the scores of their families and friends erupted into whoops and applause at the close of Sunday’s graduation ceremony.

Caps flew, cameras flashed and the graduates in green and white robes strutted down the center aisle and out the door to the rest of their lives.

Haley Nichols, 19, was one of them. As she stood outside after the ceremony with her parents getting ready to move on to Project Graduation, the alcohol-free post graduation party, she reflected on high school years.

“It’ll be nice to leave behind any bad memories,” Nichols said. “I am going to miss people here, but I am so excited for the future and meeting new people.”

She came to her graduation by a different path from her classmates. From the eighth to the eleventh grade, she was home-schooled. She enrolled at Winthrop High for her senior year.

“She worked hard,” Deb Nichols, her mother, said.

During the ceremony, as class President Kennedy Connor had read out the names and next steps of all her classmates, Nichols was one of just a few who are headed directly into the workforce before taking her next step. Her classmates have plans that will take them to colleges and universities in Maine and beyond to study subjects such as radiology, conservation law, anthropology and marine biology.

Nichols has a different plan. She said she’s expecting a call on a job she’s applied for. She wants to work for a while, Nichols said, and once she has settled into that, she’ll take some courses at the University of Maine at Augusta to continue her education.

As she and her classmates move on, they can take with them some of the very practical advice that guest speaker Verdell Jones offered up.

“People will tell you after high school, it’s a real jungle out there, that these are the best days of your life. I hope to hell not! I don’t mean these are bad days,” he said, but there are plenty of good days to come.

High school students face a big push to grow up. “I’m not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be. It would be nice if you are a dependable, responsible and a decent human being, but I hope you never lose that inner child.” Do some dumb stuff, some silly stuff, he said. Eat something undignified, and be a good sport.

But even as they all head off to wherever their lives take them, Jones said, they’ll always be a part of the fabric of their town.

“Have fun. You’ll hit some bumps. You’ll need to,” he said, because that’s how people learn. But, he cautioned, “Don’t let your feelings get to the point where you do something rash.”

For Nichols, the time she spent in high school taught her more than just what she learned from books and lectures.

“Every single person is fighting a battle you don’t know anything about,” she said, stressing the need to be kind to others.

Come Monday, she’s likely to be a little kind to herself. With no plans, she said, she’ll take the morning to rest and relax.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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