FARMINGDALE — The anticipation was thick as the Hall-Dale High School class of 2017 started lining up before the ceremony.

Jack James, 18, stepped out of the gymnasium to Facetime with his girlfriend as the clock ticked toward 7 p.m., when the commencement ceremony would begin.

Yet to come: the last-minute marching instructions from Principal Mark Tinkham, the salutatory speech by Justine Drappeau, the co-valedictory speeches by William Fahy and Rose Warren, the playing of the “Carnegie Anthem” by the Hall-Dale High School Concert Band, addresses by Sierra Proulx and Nick Guiou, and the awarding of diplomas.

James was a little nervous, a little anxious.

He has a plan.

Outside of high school, James’s life has been ruled by tides.

“I’m self-employed,” he said Friday afternoon.

Since he was 12, he’s followed the family tradition started by his great-grandfather of digging bloodworms. James has been up and down the coast of Maine to dig at low tide for the worms that are destined for bait for sport fishermen.

“It’s a good living,” he said. From the beginning of spring to the end of summer is when you can make the most money, he said.

As good as it is, the 18-year-old said he was not tempted to drop out of high school to take on more hours of worm digging.

“I want to graduate,” he said. “It’s the way of the world. You have to have a piece of paper to get a job.”

On the way to graduation, James had to complete a capstone project to meet his graduation requirement.

He chose to replace a diesel engine in the 1994 Chevy pickup truck he had bought last summer. The capstone project doesn’t require an investment of money, just an investment in time and learning; but James said this project was something he wanted to do.

With the help of Chris Lane, his girlfriend’s father, he took out one engine and replaced it with a used engine that he dickered for at Brown’s Exit 27 Salvage in Gardiner.

“I really like the sound of a big diesel engine,” he said.

The pair worked for three weekends, often late into the night, to get the project done.

James said the project was more unique than the projects other students undertook, and he thinks it was more in-depth.

The final requirement of the project is a speech. While he doesn’t think of himself as much of a speaker, James talked for more than an hour about the project. If he has a passion for a subject, he said, he doesn’t know when to stop.

After graduation, James said, he’s looking forward to a good week of worm digging, because with the proceeds, he’ll be able to replace the truck’s power steering hose and battery terminal heads. After that, he said, he’ll get the truck stickered and registered for July. And after that, in the fall, he said, he plans to get his driver’s license.

“I would just honestly say keep on top of your work,” he said in advising students who have their high school years ahead of them.

“Don’t stress, because someone is always going to be in a worse situation than you. Life is the way it is, and it’s hard. But if you keep positive, you will have a good outcome. I have had some ups and downs, but I am pretty positive about how it came out.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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