FARMINGTON — Anna Dunbar tried to keep it together in the half hour before she was scheduled to graduate from Mt. Blue High School. Standing with a group of friends, she didn’t want to trigger a wave of crying in the group. At 18, Dunbar said she had seen her fair share of schools bouncing between six or seven, she wasn’t sure, before finally landing at Mt. Blue her sophomore year. As she reflected on her impending graduating, Dunbar said she hoped college and the world she was about to enter was as welcoming as the community she found at Mt. Blue.

“The amazing thing about it is these people are just like sponges, they absorb everyone,” Dunbar said. “I’ve never found a school environment I felt more comfortable and accepted in. I came here and that was it.”

Dunbar said she had been bullied at other schools and struggled to fit in. But at Mt. Blue she found a family of students, teachers and administrators who together created an environment she thrived in. Her experience at Mt. Blue has also laid the foundations for her future career. A student of Mt. Blue’s American Sign Language program, Dunbar plans to attend the University of Southern Maine next fall to study American Sign Language and work to become an interpreter. Dunbar said she didn’t have an existing connection to the language or previous experience with deaf family members or friends. It was the environment she found at Mt. Blue classrooms that set her on her current path.

“Being at this school has taught me so much about human connection,” Dunbar said. “If I can feel what I did in those 80 minute classes, then I think I’ve found something I can do for the rest of my life.”

Dunbar was one of 155 seniors graduating Sunday from Mt. Blue High School. On a blazingly hot afternoon, family, friends and faculty packed into the Mt. Blue gymnasium to watch the graduates get their diplomas.

Principal Bruce Mochamer welcomed guests and thanked the network of people, from graduation planners and custodians to students’ educators going back to kindergarten, who brought the class of 2017 to this day.


“The celebration is really an entire community,” he said.

Mochamer challenged his students in three areas: to be kind, be a positive change and be human. He urged them to take time to connect face to face and reassured them that though they would inevitably try and fail in the future, those failures are necessary for learning and growth.

“You’re going to need to put yourself out and you’re going to need to push yourself outside your comfort zone,” Mochamer said. “And you know what? You’re going to fail and that’s ok. Because when you fail it really means this is your first attempt at learning.”

Mochamer was followed by three student speakers, starting with Dunbar, who reflected in her speech on why they as adolescents were empowered to make the big calls about their futures. She recalled her start at Mt. Blue as a quiet, shy sophomore and her transition to a social butterfly. She recalled the teachers who inspired her, especially her American Sign Language Teacher, and the car rides home with her father each day. Why were Mt. Blue’s seniors allowed to make decisions about the rest of their lives, Dunbar asked. Because they had met and been inspired over the past four years to make those choices.

“We have the chance here to have a family if we don’t have one at home,” Dunbar said of her time at Mt. Blue. “The people in this district truly care and are an inspiration.”

Dunbar was followed by fellow senior Elizabeth Burke who said farewell to her teachers, her friends, her family and, perhaps most importantly, to the person she was when she started high school four years ago.


“We are saying goodbye and that can be sad but I think it’s important to embrace these new experiences that will enter our lives,” Burke said.

Senior Makao Thompson looked out at his classmates and said he saw the future among them, with future professionals running the gamut of interests and pursuits. He thanked teachers, parents and his fellow students for an “exhilarating ride.”

“Thank you for always being compassionate toward one another and proving high school stereotypes wrong,” Thompson said.

Nolan Rogers, another graduating senior, thanked the Region School Unit 9 community for supporting the school district. He thanked educators, noting that teachers can be under-recognized for their work.

“It seems to me that sometimes some people don’t hold the job of teaching to a high enough standard,” Rogers said. “For us, the students, teachers are everything.”

Valedictorian Maggie Hickey spoke last among students, thanking the assembled parents and families, educators and peers.


“It is finally today,” Hickey said. “Finally today is that day that we can say that we made it through his and for me it wouldn’t be the way it was without you.”

In the last moments before the students received their diplomas, Superintendent Thomas Ward intervened to recognize the students and Mt. Blue principal Bruce Mochamer.

“I’m just so proud of each and every one of you and you know how I feel about you,” a teary Ward said before turning to Mochamer. “Very seldom do you come across outstanding leaders like this. That are compassionate, have a strong work ethic, that will do whatever it takes to get the job right. This is Mr, Mochamer.”

Then the class of 2017 took to the stage in their first steps into a new chapter.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

[email protected]

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

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