THORNDIKE — Austin Toole strode briskly through the entrance of Mount View High School carrying his suit, cap and gown in a black bag.

Closing in on the start time for the high school’s graduation Sunday, Toole quickly changed from his Army National Guard fatigues and into his graduation regalia adorned with a military bib. Toole had come straight from a Recruit Sustainment Program training in Bangor to make it just in time.

“They didn’t even want me to go, but I wanted to get the most out of my training,” Toole said.

Graduates turn their tassels after receiving their diplomas Sunday during the Mount View High School graduation in Thorndike. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

Toole, of Waldo, was among the graduating class of 67 students at the school’s athletic field. He performed on piano at the last four of the school’s graduations, but this was his turn to walk across the stage.

“I’m super excited, ready to get this over with in the best way possible, ready to get my life started” Toole said.

The high school is a part of Regional School Unit 3, which serves students from the towns of Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo.

Due to the pandemic, Mount View’s 2020 graduation was held with a staggered approach. The school held nine separate graduations with 50 or less people in the gymnasium.

Emma and Morgan Fonger, of Jackson, finished as class valedictorian and salutatorian.

In her valedictorian’s speech Emma Fonger noted the class’s closeness. She spoke about new beginnings and the potential uncertainties that lie ahead.

Fonger provided a relatable analogy. She is the person that turns off the lights in her family’s house after dark and as she does her job, she’s never quite sure what’s going to be in her way as she walks through the dark house. However, Fonger is familiar with the house and uses that to get along. The sentiment can be used for life too.

Graduates embrace Sunday after receiving their diplomas during the Mount View High School graduation in Thorndike. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“There is no way to know exactly what life is going to throw at us and there is no correct way to move forward from here,” she said. “The only way to move forward is to trust in ourselves. Trust our first steps and trust that we will make most of the right decisions.”

At first Morgan Fonger had trouble writing her salutatorian’s speech. The last year and a half, marked by the pandemic, stood out. So did the changes of the Class of 2021’s high school experience. Not only did students learn how to balance remote and hybrid learning, Fonger and her classmates gained a new perspective — flexibility.

“The world is a crazy place right now and while many things are starting to change there is much more to be done,” she said. “As a class, with these qualities our resilience and motivation to succeed, there is no doubt that every one of us, if we try, can make an impact. We can help take the steps needed to make the world a little less crazy.”

Toole enlisted in the Army National Guard Reserves in January of 2020 following in the footsteps of a friend two years his elder. Toole put aside his pianist roots for the regalia and is off to basic training soon, first to Fort Sill in Oklahoma and then to Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

“I’m super excited,” Toole said. “The military is one of my biggest passions.”

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