AUGUSTA — Thanks to the academic success of her son, new Gardiner Area High School graduate Isaac Dostie, Amber Dostie’s full head of lovely hair is about to disappear.

Amber Dostie, of West Gardiner and a history teacher at the school, said as a fifth grader, Isaac was struggling so much with school that he would sometimes cry when doing his homework. So she made a deal with him: If he worked really hard, formed good habits, did his homework and got into the top 10 in his class, she would shave off her hair.

At the time, Isaac giggled about the offer. But he did not forget it, and he reminded his mother of the deal at the start of his senior year.

Isaac Dostie graduated Saturday with summa cum laude honors — a grade point average of 97 or better. He was also among the top 10 in his graduating class and plans to attend Colby College in Waterville to major in biochemistry.

Amber Dostie plans to honor her pledge — at noon Sunday — but will not be alone. A couple of friends, along with Isaac and his sister, Maria, who will be a freshman at the high school next year, have agreed to join her in having their hair buzzed off. They all plan to donate their hair to an organization that makes wigs for children who lose their hair due to medical issues.

Amber said Isaac will be the one to cut her hair, and she hopes he will just give her a buzz cut, not take it all. But she is prepared, just in case.


“I bought new earrings so everybody will look at my earrings in case my head is ugly,” she joked before the start Saturday evening of Gardiner’s graduation ceremony.

Guest speaker Adria Horn, a lieutenant colonel in the Army reserves, speaks to the Gardiner Area High School Class of 2022 about resilience during Saturday’s graduation ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Guest speaker Adria Horn of Pittston, a West Point graduate who deployed with the U.S. Army in the global war on terror, praised graduates for their resiliency in getting through high school, in their most formative years, during the global coronavirus pandemic. Lt. Col. Horn, who is still in the Army reserves, is an executive vice president for Tilson Technology of Portland.

“Your resilience has brought you here today. Not your test scores. Not your achievements. Your resilience,”  she said. “You all took an advanced placement course in resilience and you didn’t even know it. Remember what you’ve already done. When that tough moment comes up, tell yourself: ‘I can do this. I’ve done it before.'”

Shawn Jiminez, the school’s poet laureate, read a poem, “The Ticking Clock,” telling graduates to use the sound of a ticking clock to reflect on the experiences in their lives that molded them into what they are today.

Salutatorian Ava Goraj of West Gardiner credited her late grandmother, a former teacher, for her academic success. She shared how she would be made to read and do math before being allowed to play during summer vacations. Goraj told her other graduates to take advantage of the resources in their lives.

“There is always someone in your life who wants you to be successful,” she said.


Valedictorian Brett Palmer addresses the audience Saturday during commencement exercises for Gardiner Area High School at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

During his speech, valedictorian Brett Palmer had all attendees take out their cellphones. He asked that each person send a text message to someone special, telling the person how much he or she means to the sender. Palmer said this was a lesson he took from English teacher Christina Benedict, who during his freshman year had students send similar messages.

“I learned the ease of being kind,” Palmer said. “In 15 seconds, we have the ability to make someone’s day. Say ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m proud of you,’ ‘I’m grateful for you’ or whatever you’d like. I’ll do it with you.”

He then used his phone to take a photograph from the stage, joking he would caption it, “Everyone was on their phone during my speech.”

The auditorium at the Augusta Civic Center auditorium was decorated in Gardiner Tiger orange and black, and posters featuring each graduate were hung around the building. Graduates could take the posters with their likeness with them after the ceremony. Munzing Media livestreamed the event for those unable to attend.

Before the ceremony, graduates mixed with family members outside, posing for photographs and exchanging hugs, flowers and congratulatory handshakes.

Inside, graduates milled with one another in a side room at the Civic Center, many helping others adjust their black graduation gowns with orange sashes.


They then lined up to march into the auditorium.

The school band performed “Pomp and Circumstance” as the seniors entered the auditorium and the school song as the new graduates exited, after turning the tassels on their mortarboards.

French teacher Emily Collins, left, uses a large safety pin Saturday to secure cords, medals and a sash to the back of senior Sean Doyle’s graduation gown before Gardiner Area High School’s graduation ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

French teacher Emily Collins helped graduate Sean Doyle and other students adjust their sashes, some decorated with pins recognizing their participation in activities or sports during high school.

Numerous scholarships were awarded. In welcoming remarks, graduate Juliana Montell said scholarships this year totaled about $80,000.

Graduation plans for later Saturday also included a parade of graduates around the city, beginning at the Gardiner Business Park, traveling through downtown and concluding at the Hannaford parking lot off Maine Avenue.

The celebration also included free food and a fireworks show at the Kennebec River waterfront.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.