WATERVILLE — The stands were packed Thursday night at Colby College’s athletic complex to celebrate 111 seniors who graduated from Waterville Senior High School.

“I feel an overwhelming sense of pride and gratitude for the journey we have undertaken together at our school,” Principal Brian Laramee said in his opening address for the school’s 145th commencement ceremony. “The path that has led you to this moment has been filled with challenges, triumphs and above all an unwavering spirit of hope, determination and resilience that each of you have demonstrated.”

Laramee lauded the graduating class for persevering through the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which interrupted the students’ freshmen year and forced them into a long, uncertain period of distance learning.

“You, over your time at Waterville Senior High School, have discovered that obstacles are not excuses to give up, but merely stepping stones along the path to success,” Laramee said.

Many seniors said they felt well-equipped to tackle life after high school.

Haley Dunn and Camron Carpenter made the most of the school’s partnership with the Mid-Maine Technical Center, taking courses in early childhood education and criminal justice, respectively, that helped them determine what they want to do in life. For Dunn, it’s being a kindergarten teacher. Carpenter, on the other hand, has decided on a career as a private investigator.


Other students like Addison Bernier credit their teachers for inspiring their next steps. Bernier said he’s off to study finance at Kennebec Valley Community College this fall.

“I like Ferraris, big money and math,” Bernier joked about his post-graduation decision. But the senior said in earnest that his interest in mathematics was spurred by teacher Donna Forkey, who instructed him through all four years of high school.

Carolyn Kinney said her Advanced Placement Government teacher, Jessica Graham, inspired her to study political science at the University of Maine at Farmington this fall.

Waterville Senior High School graduate Joudy Aljendi waits in the hallway Thursday before the start of the 145th commencement exercises at the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center at Colby College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Kinney said she often felt dispirited growing up. She said she watches the nightly news and despairs at the state of the world. She also felt underrepresented as someone living with alopecia, a hair loss condition, she said.

Instructors like Graham, she said, were “super inspiring” and gave her hope. Kinney now is excited to brainstorm solutions to the political issues of today and provide representation for others like her.

Graham was not only an inspiration to Kinney, but to the entire senior class. The history and civics teacher, who joined the school faculty last year, was elected by the class of 2023 to deliver the commencement address. Graham took the opportunity to reflect on the importance of civic engagement.


“Wealth and accolades are great, but to be successful, to be a civically minded person, you’ve got to demonstrate compassion,” Graham advised. “Tutor kids at a local elementary school learning to read, shovel snow off your neighbor’s roof, join the National Guard or the Peace Corps, make sandwiches to give to people who need a meal. No matter how much or how little you have, no matter your abilities, thinking about and taking action to help others will be the true measure of your success.”

Already, Graham said, the seniors have shown they are engaged, responsible and resilient citizens. She said she has seen the students mentor younger peers in the classroom and on playing fields, collect socks for the local homeless shelter, paint murals around town and some even worked 14-hour shifts last November to ensure the city’s polls ran smoothly around election time.

Waterville Senior High School graduate Kyra Pham laughs Thursday after taking a picture of a friend in the hallway of the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center at Colby College before the start of the 145th commencement exercises in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

“All of these actions, all of that compassion, all of your initiative gives me hope. It gives your parents hope, it gives the community hope,” she said.

After Graham’s address, which was met with thunderous applause, Class President Brianna Bates presented the speaker with a gift. Then the seniors were presented diplomas, the crowd giving raucous cheers, claps and whistles as they walked. The school band provided the evening’s soundtrack and a stirring, harmony-laden rendition of the national anthem was sung by a group of students before the speeches began.

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