AUGUSTA — When Principal Dwayne Conway thinks of this year’s senior class at Maranacook Community High School, he thinks of resilience.

And that’s exactly what he and others highlighted at the Regional School Unit 38 high school graduation ceremony Tuesday night at the Augusta Civic Center.

Maranacook Community High School senior Thomas Trafton hugs his advisor and teacher, Kelly Frey, on Tuesday before graduation ceremonies at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

The theme was apparent as this year’s seniors spent more than a year of their high school experience during the coronavirus pandemic — with some classes hybrid and some fully remote, away from their classmates and teachers.

But it didn’t stop the class from making the most out of its last year in high school. Many students wore colorful cords, symbolizing their academic achievements, and decorated their black graduation caps with the colleges they plan to attend and subjects they plan to study.

“Resilience and hard work. That’s what makes lasting change,” valedictorian Lily Cannell said in her speech.

Cannell made sure to thank all parents of Maranacook students for supporting their children. “It probably wasn’t easy, especially this year,” she said.

“Thank you for being the best cheerleaders, even if it was sometime from your couches while eating Ben & Jerry’s because you weren’t allowed to attend our sporting events,” Cannell said before thanking her own parents for their support.

Maranacook Community High School senior Elias Bergdahl displays teacher Steven DeAngelis as the center of the universe on his mortarboard Tuesday during graduation at the Augusta Civic Center. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

As part of the ceremony, students gave each member of their family a yellow flower. Some families shook cowbells and other noise makers to help their student find them among the crowd.

“Our senior year has been far from perfect, and we all know it,” she said. “There is no reason to pretend otherwise. But, together, we’ve made it through a pandemic, more political firestorms than I care to remember and a period of extreme general unrest, and that’s something everyone should be proud of.”

The 80 students from Readfield, Manchester, Mount Vernon and Wayne who attend RSU 38 marched into a traditional graduation. Student members of the Honor Guard held white flowers up for the graduates as they entered the Augusta Civic Center.

Conway welcomed families, pointing out the fact they were “all together again” under the same roof.

He focused on the seniors’ resilience, and pointed out the importance of having the “right mindset” throughout recent events and as the graduates continue with their post-high school careers.

Students at Maranacook spent most of their year in a hybrid model, attending classes in person and virtually.

Class speaker Justin Fecteau opened his speech to the senior class with a quote from Dwight K. Schrute of “The Office,” and offered his own words of advice.

He said the seniors have had to be their own role models during the pandemic and said their unique perseverance and acceptance of others will leave them “unbothered by trivial social issues” in their future.

“You have been left with more alone time with yourself than wanted and have had to ask yourself critical questions, like ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What do I want to be?” Fecteau said. “And I can see, looking at all of you today, those questions have been answered.”

Salutatorian Thomas Trafton said in his speech it “wouldn’t be appropriate without mentioning at least a little bit about COVID, as if everyone isn’t already ‘COVID-ed’ out.” He touched on the aspects of the school year “they’d hope to do,” such as the boys basketball team winning the state championship and having a prom and senior parade.

“These shortcomings are pretty miniscule when compared to some of the terrible things that have happened because of the pandemic,” Trafton said. “Little things, like having two arms and two legs, a roof over my head, and good health are not so little in the grand scheme of things.”

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