READFIELD — Absent Joe Biden or another “celebrity” graduation speaker, Kents Hill School graduates received sage advice at the private school’s 193rd commencement exercises Saturday from fifth-graders.

Josette Huntress Holland, former dean of students and director of residential life at Kents Hill, and current fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina, told the 57 graduates and their assembled friends and families she speaks often, in her North Carolina classroom, about Kents Hill, where she is on the board of trustees. She said her young students hang on her every word about the acclaimed school in small-town Maine and its roster made up of a mix of local students and those from around the world.

Holland, a Maine native and Colby College and Harvard University graduate who represented Maine in the 1993 Miss America pageant before going on to a 20-year career in education, said fifth-graders are wise and not yet jaded by political cynicism and the challenges of life. So she asked them for advice to share with the Kents Hill graduates entering adulthood.

Their advice: Always remember the little guy; be nice to your teacher; trust your gut; and when you get rain, look for rainbows.

“Try to find the silver lining when life seems tough,” she said. “If you can’t find that rainbow, then make it.”

Kents Hill graduates repaid the favor, Holland said, with several offering advice back to the fifth-graders.

It included advice from Ellie Keeley, of Readfield, to “stop wanting to grow up so fast, because it will happen faster than you think”; from Anicia Gillespie, of Boston, that “nothing is the end of the world”; from Drew Blackstone, of Monmouth, to “don’t do stupid things”; from Nolan Smith, of Framingham, Massachusetts, and Isabel Charland, of Fayette, to not worry about what other people think of you, because it is what is inside of you that matters; from Santa Takahashi, of Tokyo, Japan, to be respectful to your parents; and from Katie Sprague, of Manchester, class president, to “be sure to smile, get off your phone, and spend time experiencing real life.”

Graduate Elijah Holland, of Fayette, said he used to think of Kents Hill, when he passed by it, as little more than a collection of old brick buildings. After four years there, he said he will carry what he learned at Kents Hill with him for the rest of his life.

“I never would have imagined the impact it would have on me,” Holland said.

It was Head of School Patrick McInerney’s last commencement, as he and his wife, Cynthia McInerney, are leaving the school.

Patrick McInerney emphasized to graduates the importance of three things in their lives: friendship, community and family.

He fought his emotions to be able to speak in giving out the Rist Bonnefond Principle Award to graduate Michael McCarthy. The award, named for a former longtime head of the school, who attended the ceremony and whom McInerney credited with saving the school from the “dire straits” it was in 25 years ago, is given to a graduate “who best embodies the core belief of the school’s statement of mission, that one man or woman of principle can always make a difference.”

George Dunn, performing arts department chairman and an English teacher; and Anne Richardson, director of strategic planning and initiatives, director of college counseling, director of global programs and leadership, and chairwoman of the English language learners department, also are leaving Kents Hill this year, Patrick McInerney announced from the podium as attendees sat on the school’s lawn, with birds chirping in the background, during commencement.

The soon-to-be graduates followed a bagpiper through the crowd of well-wishers to take their place on the stage made of stonework.

Graduate Tory Brown, of St. Albans, New York, drew a boisterous response from a dozen-plus-person group of family and friends on hand when he received his diploma, including some with custom-made T-shirts that said, “I made it to Maine for Tory’s graduation.”

The Rev. Myung Eun Park, school chaplain, welcomed the graduates in English but also in each of the native languages spoken by members of the class of 2017.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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