Senior Campbell Houston looks for her family Sunday during the Monmouth Academy graduation. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

MONMOUTH — Senior Campbell Houston was wearing a maroon mask while lined up with her classmates outside of Monmouth Academy at 6 p.m. Sunday. The class was looking down at a group of chairs, a number of vehicles and a stage.

It wasn’t exactly the graduation she looked forward to.

“At first it seemed kind of unreal, just thinking about how we’re going to graduate in the parking lot,” she said. “It’s very weird because I’ve been to several different graduations, and I’ve never seen one outside.”

Seniors clutch their caps Sunday while marching into graduation at Monmouth Academy. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Wind threatened to knock the caps off the heads of the 47 graduates Sunday during a ceremony in the Monmouth Academy parking lot. Parents and supporters filled the perimeter of the parking lot, watching from their decorated vehicles as students descended from a hill down to a socially-distanced group of chairs.

As speakers concluded their remarks and students received diplomas, clapping of hands from parents turned to the sounding of car horns. Students picked diplomas up off of a table, then walked across the stage for a photo with Principal Rick Amero, who was standing behind the stage.

Valedictorian Natalie Grandahl said during her address that March 13, the day it was announced that students would not return to the school for classes, was a day her classmates would “never forget.” She said some celebrated not coming back to school, but those celebrations were short-lived.

“Whatever it was or whatever we did, it was the end of our senior year and the end of our days here at Monmouth Academy,” she said. “To state the obvious, we missed a lot.”

Grandahl then highlighted the numerous achievements of her class during their “three and a half years” at Monmouth Academy. She described the remainder of this school year as “the three months we spent on Google Hangouts,” and spoke about the class’s unique circumstances.

“But we all know what we missed, we know the sacrifices we made, and we know very well, because we have been told 500 times, that we will be part of history and will have great stories to tell our future children,” Grandahl said. “I, for one, cannot wait to tell my kids that I graduated in a parking lot.”

A van containing the family of senior Gavin Wing was decorated for the occasion on Sunday during the Monmouth Academy graduation. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Salutatorian Edmund Zuis spoke about battling his insecurities in his address, saying that he stood up to them and gained the ability to help him address adversity. He urged his classmates to do the same.

“Even when things may seem impossible, when it looks like there is no right road to take, find your own path,” Zuis said. “Never let adversity stop you from reaching your goals in life.”

Third Honor recipient Amber Currie recalled being bitter at the process of finishing her senior year out at home and not receiving her diploma.

“If someone told me three months ago that we would all be here, graduating in the school’s parking lot, required to wear masks at our very own parking lot ceremony, with only a select few of our loved ones witnessing this milestone in our lives from their cars, I would have laughed in their face,” she said. “And if that same someone were to ask me how I’d feel if it were to be true, I would say disappointed.”

Currie said her disappointment turned to excitement, adding that this is “as normal as it can get” and the day symbolizes the class’s strong work ethic to juggle the challenges created by schooling from home.

“We are here because we conquered the mess that the coronavirus turned the final months of our high school career into,” she said. “Looking back on our perseverance in these hard times, I am confident that we, the class of 2020, can face any troubles that the future throws our way.”

Family members watch the seniors march into graduation Sunday at Monmouth Academy. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Amero lauded the seniors, some of whom worked jobs to support their families while still working on school from home, adding that it gave him “great hope for the future” to see them graduating.

“I simply want to share how proud we are of your class,” he said. “You were excellent role models for underclassmen and you set the tone of Monmouth Academy.”

After the ceremony, Amero said it was a “group effort” from school faculty to pull the ceremony together in time as guidelines from the state kept changing.

“We worked for two months,” he said. “Our kids really wanted to graduate together. I’m just very pleased they had to do that.”

After the ceremony, supporters lined Academy Road and State Route 132 to cheer on graduates as they drove by.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.