WATERVILLE — Winslow High School seniors gathered Wednesday night for their graduation ceremony and reflected on the challenges students and staff members faced over the past couple of years, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the death in December of a popular teacher and coach.

The school held its 120th graduation ceremony at the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center at Colby College in Waterville. The 95 graduates sat in chairs on the floor of the ice rink, while family members and friends filled the bowl, cheering as graduates’ names were read aloud.

Vanessa Norris, the senior class president, talked about the experiences that united the class throughout high school, and how the pandemic disrupted students’ lives. Despite the difficulties, Norris said, she and her classmates were able to bounce back with a senior year that saw a return to the traditions they had lost the year before.

“Most of all, we learned how to hope again,” Norris said. “Hope was something we had lost for so long because of the fear of disappointment.”

Winslow High School graduate Cal Beckwith reads the program Wednesday night while waiting for the school’s graduation ceremony to begin at the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Norris spoke of how the school came together after the December death of Pete Bolduc, a teacher and football coach. She described Bolduc as a physical education teacher who was also a mentor and an inspiration to many students. If Bolduc could have attended graduation, Norris said, she knew he would be congratulating each and every one of them.

“I felt it would be wrong if I stood up here today and didn’t give a shoutout to the man (who) was a huge inspiration to so many members of the graduating class, as well as to the community,” Norris said.


While not every graduate knows what he or she will do next, Norris said students will always have memories of the past four years and the bond they share from school.

“I think our time in high school was the most bizarre, changing and unpredictable four years,” Norris said. “But despite the countless hours we spent in the classrooms and (on) the never-ending homework assignments, the most important thing we learned was how to be a community.”

That sentiment was echoed by Jared Goldsmith, a language arts teacher chosen as faculty speaker for the graduation ceremony. He urged students to pursue authenticity.

“My challenge for you tonight, in the days ahead, is to surround yourself with authentic experiences,” Goldsmith said.

This year, students and teachers had to rely on one another for support, adapting to the new phase of the pandemic and the loss of Bolduc, Goldsmith said. Like students, staff members were affected by Bolduc’s death, but tried to bolster themselves to support the students. But when they all reunited at school, the students also wanted to look after the teachers.

Goldsmith compared graduation to a wedding, and he shared advice he received before getting married: Do not let your wedding get in the way of your marriage. The sentiment, to not lose sight of the long-term goal, can easily be applied to graduation. The celebration itself might be short, but the impact it has on life will stick with you. And while it might seem many things are ending, do not forget new experiences are coming.

“You’re in the season of goodbyes,” Goldsmith said, “but you’re also in the season of hellos.”

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