Graduates of Maranacook Community High School toss their mortarboards into the air Tuesday at the close of the school’s 2023 graduation ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — For a dozen years, the 77 members of the Maranacook Community High School’s graduating class have learned, worked and played together.

On Tuesday, they were together for the final time as students when they arrived at the Augusta Civic Center for their graduation.

The ceremony was marked by reminiscences and humor, special handshakes and tokens of appreciation from the students to family members. There were also many hugs and cheers as the students moved closer to the end of their time at MCHS.

And its speaker, the class of 2023 chose someone it has seen almost every day for the past four years: Steve Hall, the head custodian at the school.

Wearing a red baseball cap adorned with a feather, Hall said the invitation to speak was so special because the class of 2023 was the first class he had seen move from its freshman to senior years since he began working at the school five years ago.

“When you first arrived, getting two or three ‘good mornings’ out of you guys was like pulling hen’s teeth,” Hall said. “Now, the halls are all abuzz with these cheerful greetings every day. What a thing to look forward to when I come to work.”

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With those greetings, he said, the seniors have made impressions on their younger classmates — with the older students not realizing they have been passing on something important.

“You influence in the most positive ways,” Hall said. “You are passing on politeness and kindness like it’s the most natural thing.”

Isaiah Churchill, right, gives his mother, Lynda Churchill, a token of appreciation Tuesday during Maranacook Community High School’s 2023 graduation ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Churchill, 18, of Mount Vernon is one of 77 students to graduate this year from MCHS. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

Hall had advice to share, some of it taken from Microsoft co-founder, investor and philanthropist Bill Gates’ advice to youth: “Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.” Hall also offered advice based on self-reflection from “The Man in the Glass,” a poem by Peter Dale Wimbrow Sr.

“I  have tried to live my life as simple as possible, similar to one of my favorite characters growing up, Winnie the Pooh,” he said. “If he were here tonight, I am sure he would close with something like this: I am so very lucky to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. I love you all. Thank you.”

The class of 2023 was distinguished by having three valedictorians — Jordan Carr, Allie LaBelle and Lina Martinez Nocito.

Carr and LaBelle addressed the class jointly, recounting how they had moved over the course of their time at the different schools in Regional School Unit 38 from competitors into teammates and from teammates into family. And as a family, they recalled memories of going to football games and watching the sun rise on their last day of school.

They also looked ahead.

“As we sit here today, not knowing what lies ahead, nervous and excited about our futures, I feel confident in saying we will achieve great things,” Carr said. “Though it may sound cliché, my confidence is fueled by everyone here — the mentors that have guided us, the family and friends that continue to support us, but most of all, the eager individuals that comprise the class of 2023.”

Carr said no matter where MCHS’ newest graduates go, they will have the support of their community and comfort in knowing they have a home to come back to.

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