RICHMOND — With expressions both dazed and joyful, the 36 members of the Richmond High School class of 2017 filed out of their high school gymnasium for the final time at 2:57 p.m. Saturday.

They had spent the previous hour sharing recollections with classmates, thanking the friends and family members, all packed into chairs and bleachers, who helped and supported them through school.

They are headed off in different directions: college, work, the military, Malaysia and Italy; but more immediately, they were getting ready to head off on a Project Graduation trip to New Hampshire.

For Caleigh Shulman, who is heading to the University of New England to study to become a pharmacist, the end of high school still felt a little unreal on Friday.

“It’s weird. It still feels like I should be coming back here in the fall,” Shulman said. And although she had wrapped up all her work a week before, Shulman said it still felt she ought to be doing school work.

Even so, she’s able to look ahead.

“I want to go into retail pharmacy,” Shulman, 18, said Friday after a student assembly, adding that she likes working with people.

It was not always clear that Shulman would be in a position to take on an ambitious course of study.

After her freshman year, she spent her summer in summer school, making up for her dismal performance in class.

“I was that bad of a student,” she said.

The month she spent at summer school, she said, was endless.

What turned her around was a slate of new teachers who inspired her to study and work hard. It paid off; Shulman said she is ranked fourth in her graduating class.

Going into high school, Shulman said she didn’t get along with her teachers and they didn’t push her hard.

She didn’t have much faith in herself, but she grew more confident in her abilities over time.

Shulman said she learned she had to push herself, she learned the value of building better relationships with her teachers, and she learned to work hard.

For incoming freshmen, Shulman said she advises they develop relationships with people, because they will form a network of support to rely on.

The relationships and shared experiences of the class of 2017 formed the backbone of the graduation ceremony. Salutatorian Josee Geaghan listed building relationships as the top lesson she could offer from her time in high school. That was followed by being optimistic and chasing the thing you are most passionate about.

For Hunter Curtis, the valedictorian, his parting words to his classmates were a wish that they would all, throughout their lives, be seen as people with good character.

“To be perceived as having good character means that you are kind, generous and will remain true to your word, and if every single one of use can continue to be viewed as having good character,” he said, “then there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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