MADISON — For someone with a fear of public speaking, Stephany Perkins gave a motivating speech Friday night on Rudman Field.

Perkins is the Jobs for Maine’s Graduates specialist at Madison Area Memorial High School. She was chosen by the Class of 2021 to be the commencement speaker.

She explained that she is a swimmer, and when she was nervous in competitions, her coach would tell her to “fake it ’til you make it.” Through finding herself by joining the Peace Corps and subsequently learning new languages, Perkins urged the graduates to follow what they are passionate about and not be afraid of exploring new things.

A large crowd gathered to support the graduating bulldogs. Two large speakers played music as guests filed into their seats, facing a stage with chairs for the graduates. The American and Maine flags were on display along with assortments of flowers.

The 44 students received their diplomas on the football field. The size of the class made the ceremony seem intimate, and allowed for many academic awards, scholarships and distinctions to be offered as well as four-year varsity athletes to be recognized. Over $150,000 worth of scholarships were awarded to the class thanks to local organizations and businesses, according to Taylor Pelkey, a member of the school’s counseling department.

Vice president and third in the class, Christian Cabrera, gave the student welcome address.  “When the dust settles, we only have each other and I could not be more grateful to call the seniors behind me my family,” said Cabrera. “If we would have dwelled on all the bad and negative times, we would not be here before you all today.”

“I leave you with this, in a world and time of hate, utter chaos, uncertainty and negativity, be a light and beacon of hope to those around you,” said Cabrera.

World history teacher Ron Chillington shared that this class is “an incredibly resilient group” and that COVID-19 “brought them closer together.”

Chillington, along with other faculty members, sat in special seating that allowed them to wave and cheer for the graduates as they received their diplomas. The cheering earned him many smiles and waves.

“I encourage my fellow graduates to never lose your sense of humor,” said Susannah Curtis, class president and valedictorian. “And to never change who you are to fit someone else’s mold, because life is way more fun and much less complicated when you just own who you are.”

Curtis’ message struck a chord with her class, whose motto is, “We’re here for a good time, not a long time, so make every minute count.”

“I feel very proud of myself,” Krista Reynolds said, “and I’m ready for the next adventure.” She wore a silver chord denoting her completion of a certified nursing assistant course at the technical center.

“I couldn’t be happier for it to be over,” said a laughing Elizabeth Lightbody.

Thomas Dean, junior class president, gave a farewell address to the seniors. He shared that many of the graduates were his friends and they would be missed at the school.

“You have demonstrated you are leaders, fighters and survivors,” said Dean.

Principal Christopher LeBlanc echoed his colleagues with his thoughts on the class. “For them to have a senior year where a lot of things were taken away from them and they didn’t complain, I’m very proud of them.”

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