BINGHAM – From Pre-K to first grade to high school graduation, teacher Rebecca York has always been there for her students.

Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School Valedictorian Kendra Sweet gives a bouquet of flowers Sunday to her grandmother Bonnie Atwood, who is also on the board of directors for SAD 13, during commencement on, June 9, 2019. Morning Sentinel photo by Rachel Ohm

“I know I sound like your first grade teacher today telling you to make good choices, but my advice still stands,” York said Sunday afternoon as she addressed the Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School class of 2019.

York, who taught many of the graduates in pre-K and first grade, was chosen as their graduation speaker Sunday. She offered the small class of 10 four pieces of advice.

First, she told the graduates, “Don’t apologize for your story.”

“Be confident in who you are and where you come from,” she said. “Always know you do matter and you are important to the greater world.”

Next, York told the graduates to not worry about the things they can’t change or as her own mother used to tell her, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“If you spend your time looking for and worrying about all that’s wrong or hard in your life, you’ll find it,” she said. “However, if you spend your time looking for what’s right and positive, you’ll find that too.”

York’s third piece of advice was to not take the people in your life for granted. Think about the people in your life and what you appreciate about them, she said, and remember not to take them for granted even as your life takes you in new directions.

Graduates of Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School line up to enter the gymnasium Sunday, prior to the start of commencement. Morning Sentinel photo by Rachel Ohm

Finally, York told the graduates to live a life of balance. Several wiped away tears as she spoke to them individually about the impressions they left on her as an educator.

“Keep in mind a single moment in time can change a person’s life for good or for bad,” she said. “So while you’re out there forging your new path, make good choices for yourself and those around you.”

Upper Kennebec Valley Memorial High School includes students from Bingham and Moscow.

During the intimate ceremony in the school gymnasium Sunday, the graduates presented flowers to their family and friends while Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up” played in the background. Later they gave each other hugs on stage before receiving diplomas.

In other remarks, Valedictorian Kendra Sweet told her classmates to be present in the moment.

“Don’t wish your life away looking for the next big milestone,” she said. “Appreciate what’s around you, and say thank you to everyone who’s gotten you to where you are before it’s too late. Be passionate and strong, and live life to the fullest.”


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