Jayson Millett, left, and Kira Davis look to see who is attending before graduation started Saturday in the cafeteria at Richmond Middle and High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

RICHMOND — Anticipation hummed just under the drone of the blower fans in the Richmond High School gymnasium Saturday as the friends and family of 31 seniors waited for the musical chords that would start the graduation ceremony.

The anticipation was no less in the room next to the gym where the graduates assembled, dressed in maroon caps, gowns and face masks. They waited for the next step in their lives that would be counted out by the measured beats of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

The ceremony, with cameras flashing, children fidgeting and programs fanning the air, was the last chapter  of the album of memories the students carry together, some for all 12 years of their education in Richmond.

Seniors march into the gym at start of the graduation ceremony Saturday at Richmond Middle and High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

In her salutatorian address, Marybeth Sloat looked both forward and back in the experience of the Class of 2021.

“The message that I wish to convey to you all today is to embrace the changes that are about to happen in your life,” Sloat said. “As (Nick) Nolte said, ‘nobody likes to change.’ This next part of our lives is going to be uncomfortable and will make us question ourselves, but changing will be necessary. And although these changes may feel uncomfortable, I trust that we will be able to adapt.”

Stoat also took the opportunity to look back over the years the students have spent together to highlight the shared experiences and the inside jokes that bind them together, some drawing chuckles, some outright laughter and a reminder of the need to adapt to the changing circumstances brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Valedictorian Andrew Vachon marches into graduation Saturday in the gym at Richmond Middle and High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“I just hope that as we go forward our class will continue to stay true to ourselves and our eccentric ways, no matter what changes lie ahead of us, remember: We’re great at adaptability. It’s our strongest suit.”

For his part, valedictorian Andrew Vachon captured the essence of being a graduating senior with plans, events, vacation, completing a college class, marching practice, prom and deadlines, and an unfortunate collision with a deer, all pulling him in different directions when his task was to complete his speech.

“It has been a crazy year,” he said, “but now I’ve passed my college class, watched a NASCAR race, got vaccinated, received scholarships. Everyone has something, that one thing that gets in your way, or metaphorically, a deer that jumps in front of your car before graduation. But if you keep pushing through, you, too, can have deer meat in your freezer.”

A spectator takes a photo from the back row Saturday during the graduation ceremony at Richmond Middle and High School. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

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