WATERVILLE — Winslow graduates gathered for commencement and reflected on the challenges the students and staff faced in the last several years, from the pandemic to the death of a teacher in December.
Winslow High School held its 120th graduation Wednesday evening at Colby College’s Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. The 95 graduates sat on the floor of the ice rink, and friends and family filled the bowl, cheering raucously as names were read out.
Senior class president Vanessa Norris talked about the experiences that had united the class through high school, and how the pandemic disrupted their lives. But despite those difficulties, Norris said, her classmates were able to come back with senior year and return to the traditions they lost the year before.
“Most of all, we learned how to how to hope again,” Norris said. “Hope was something we had lost for so long because of the fear of disappointment.”
Norris spoke about how the school came together after the death of Pete Bolduc, a teacher and football coach, in December. She described him as not just a gym teacher, but a mentor and inspiration to his students from her. 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 shout out 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 all of the graduates know what is next for them, Norris said, they will always have the memories of the last four years and the bond they shared from their 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 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 the faculty speaker for the event. I have 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 each other for support, adapting to the new phase of the pandemic and the loss of Bolduc, Goldsmith said. The staff were just as impacted by his death as the students, he said, but tried to bolster themselves to support the students. But what happened when they reunited at school was that the students wanted to look after the teachers.
He compared the experience of graduation to a wedding, and the advice he got before getting married: Don’t 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, Goldsmith said. The celebration itself may be short, but the impact it has on your life will stick with you.
And while it may seem like so many things are ending, don’t forget that new experiences are coming too.
“You’re in the season of goodbyes, but you’re also in the season of hellos,” Goldsmith said.