When Winslow High School graduate Broghan Gagnon begins her studies of elementary education next year at the University of Maine at Farmington, she already will have a lot of role models to look to for advice. Those mentors will be all of her teachers from the Winslow community, as they are the people who she said inspired her to pursue a career as an educator.

“They’re all so wonderful and helpful to everyone who walks through the doors,” Gagnon said Wednesday at the Alfond Athletic Center at Colby College before the high school’s commencement began. “(Winslow) is the place that turned me into who I am today.”

These influential relationships that help mold young people along their journey to graduation and adulthood was a common theme among the speakers and graduates at Wednesday evening’s graduation.

Before the commencement began, many students from the 102 who made up the class of 2018 described Winslow High School as a place they will remember as a tight-knight community full of supportive teachers and friends. It is a place that many said they felt prepared to leave, but ultimately is a place they would miss.

Principal Chad Bell asked the graduates to think about the journey they’ve been on the last four years and the successes they’ve had, including the success of earning their diploma.

He told them to remember how it took a long time, and a lot of hard work, to make it to this place in time; but he also reminded them that they didn’t do it alone.

“Every person you’ve met has helped shape you into who you are today,” he said, adding that tonight was not the end of their journey, but just the beginning.

But still, in order to be successful in the future, they wouldn’t be able to do it alone.

“You are never too important to be nice to people,” he told them.

The student speaker, Natalie Greene, told her peers that the relationships they each made along the journey Bell described was the point of their time at school.

She said she came to this understanding one day during a psychology class. She realized that the interpersonal connections she was learning about that day are what has been crucial to her journey.

She said the teachers, friends and aquaintances they have each met at Winslow are what gives this time meaning and has shaped each of them in some way.

“You’ve all grown because of the person sitting next you,” she said. “Enjoy the life ahead and tell the people around you what they mean to you, because in the end, they mean more than what a textbook can offer you.”

Jared Goldsmith, an English teacher at the high school, was the last to speak before the students were presented their diplomas. Goldsmith also spoke about relationships and the importance of expressing how you feel about them while you can.

Goldsmith said when he was a senior in high school, he was in treatment for lymphoma, and every Tuesday he traveled to Boston for chemotherapy. There was a treatment room for children and teenagers to hang out in and play video games while they received their chemo. He said he always sat in the same place, in a wooden rocking chair that had a brass plate with a name engraved into it. He learned from nurses that the rocking chair was donated by a 5-year-old boy who had died of leukemia earlier that year, and that the boy loved to rock out to music with his mother.

Goldsmith said the boy became an inspiration for him, someone who drove him to reach for greatness. He also wrote a song about the boy and has played it in cofee houses and at concerts. But Goldsmith said he wishes he had tried to tell the boy’s parents about the song and the significance their son has had in Goldsmith’s life.

“Each year it becomes more important to me to take healthy risks to tell people how I feel about them, that I love them and how they’ve helped me,” he said.

Goldsmith then named many students in the graduating class and what he found special about them.

He said that he loved the way Ashley Dineen speaks up for those who can’t speak for themselves by volunteering at the animal shelter. He told Natalie Greene not to be afraid of how emotional she is and that there is strength in sensitivity. He said he was proud of how Jade Freeman offered free art classes for after school and told her to never stop sharing her vibrant art with the community. And to Liz Nadeau, he said her friends are blessed to have her.

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been and the youngest you’ll ever be, so go for it,” he said in closing. “It costs nothing to love someone.”

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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