JACKMAN — Be inspired.

That was the message Saturday afternoon from Forest Hills Consolidated School’s class of 2019 valedictorian Alexandra Lessard.

“Even though I’ve had to face adversity in my life, I’ve used inspiration to never give up,” said Lessard as she talked about the inspiration she gets from her teachers, family and classmates at the K-12 school.

One by one, Lessard talked about each of her 10 classmates on the stage graduating with her Saturday.

She talked about how they inspired her by chasing their dreams, being good friends and bringing a smile to each others’ faces, whether it be by waving in the hallway or randomly bringing in baked goods to share on a school day.

Forest Hills Consolidated School school board member Laura Snider receives a hug from graduate Madisen Logston during commencement Saturday at the school. Morning Sentinel photo by Rachel Ohm

“Each of these individuals has been put through challenges in their lives, yet they’ve also had a positive influence on me,” she said. “Each one has changed my life, and I can’t imagine what my time here would be like without even one of them.”

She also thanked the Jackman community for their support of the graduating class and reminded her classmates to continue to look for inspiration in their daily lives.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned growing up, it’s that the people you surround yourself with shape you infinitely,” she said. “They are the building blocks of our lives. Be grateful for the people who love and support you.”

Lessard’s remarks, some of which she delivered in French to an audience not far from the Quebec border, were part of an intimate graduation ceremony Saturday in the school’s gymnasium.

The 11 graduates — five boys and six girls — listened intently as they delivered advice to each other and heard from one of their favorite teachers from their time at Forest Hills, Andrew McKendry, a middle school math teacher.

McKendry, who suffered a medical event almost two years ago that kept him out of school for several weeks, talked about the importance of making the most of every day and not being afraid to pursue new challenges.

He talked about his own dream of bicycling from Canada to Mexico and how he wasn’t sure if it would be possible after his health took a turn for the worse.

“I thought, ‘Am I recovered enough?’ and ‘Will I be fit enough?'” McKendry said. “You will have your own challenges that arrive, and the attitude with which you meet them matters.”

When he finally completed the trip and was standing at the Mexican border with his son, McKendry said his “glass was completely filled.”

“The reason I gave you that last melodramatic line was to say this life, and what you do in it, is up to you,” he told the graduates. “Do real work. Believe you can make a difference. Say ‘I love you’ and ‘Thank you’ to the people that matter. Have wicked amounts of fun doing wicked fun things.”

Forest Hills Consolidated School graduate Dalton Gregoire receives a hug in exchange for a rose Saturday during commencement at the school. Morning Sentinel photo by Rachel Ohm

Of the 11 graduates, eight plan to attend college, two will enter the workforce and one will start a career training program.

“It’s really exciting,” said graduate Madisen Logston, 17. “It’s kind of bitter sweet because growing up I watched my sister lead the way. Now all of a sudden it’s my turn, and it’s like, ‘Ahhh.'”

Jakob Rivas, 17, also said he was feeling both excited and nervous.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words,” said Rivas, who plans to study criminal justice at Central Maine Community College in Lewiston. “It came up so fast.”

“It’s definitely going to be hard because everyone knows everyone here,” he said. “We like to joke we’re one big family. It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to be happy.”

Hannah Harmon, who came to the school in eighth grade, also said she considers her Forest Hills classmates her family. She plans to study education at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

“It’s kind of shocking to tell people you’re graduating with a class of just 11, but the smaller the better I think because you get to know everyone really well,” she said.


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