PITTSFIELD — Maine Central Institute held its 152nd commencement Sunday, awarding diplomas to 100 graduates.

The ceremony took place under a large, white tent on MCI’s Boutelle Savage lawn, with additional space behind the tent for more guests.

While the class numbered 100, some students were unable to attend the graduation in person because they were in a remote cohort or in a location where travel would have been difficult or restricted, according to Wayne Lobley, director of advancement at MCI, an independent boarding and day school that teaches grades seven through 12, and is the secondary school for the towns of Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit.

Last year, MCI held commencement in a variety of forms: A virtual version, a drive-through graduation and in-person ceremonies with only 10 students graduating at a time, a process that lasted all day. 

This year, the event featured speeches by valedictorian Natalie Hodgins and Dean Neal, the former head of the visual and performing arts department.

Hodgins spoke of measuring success and the impact of failure. She said when she was younger, she had been on the softball team, but she was not very good. In fact, at the end-of-season team celebration, her coach commended her for her excellent … handwriting.  


A Maine Central Institute graduate celebrates with a fist bump Sunday after receiving his diploma during the outdoor ceremony at the Pittsfield campus. Kaitlyn Budion/Morning Sentinel

Discouraged, Hodgins did not play softball her junior year. But when this year arrived and her other sports had limited seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided to give it another try.  

And while the team did not always excel on the field, it certainly thrived elsewhere, as Hodgins bonded with her teammates and encouraged younger students, helping create a supportive atmosphere like the one she valued at MCI.

“I experienced my success in softball this year because I chose to not let one bad experience hold me back,” Hodgins said. “But at the same time, I put myself in an environment full of people that were supportive of me and genuinely wanted me to succeed.” 

Neal began his speech by announcing he had three points to make: celebrate, what’s next and goodbye. 

Maine Central Institute graduates depart the ceremony Sunday at the Pittsfield campus. Kaitlyn Budion/Morning Sentinel

He spoke of celebrating graduation and the major milestone it is in students’ lives. He also spoke of the excitement and anxiety in asking oneself, “What’s next?”

Neal offered a heartfelt goodbye to the other students as he encouraged them to remember to thank their teachers, parents and friends before leaving. He said leaving MCI should not be like the abrupt end to a Zoom meeting. He also reminded students that although they have spent much of the past year on their own, they are not alone. 

“You are not alone for your what’s next,” Neal said. “If you have faith, you are not alone. If you have family, you are not alone. If you have friends, you are not alone.”

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