On Sunday June 11, the Gorham High School class of 2017 marched out of Merrill Auditorium with their diplomas in hand for the first time.
The graduating class marched in wearing their maroon, white, and black among the crowd of family and friends, led by the junior class marshals Saoirse Herlihy and Keltan Tanguay.
After the Gorham police presented the colors and the Chamber Singers performed the National Anthem, principal Brian Jandreau began with opening remarks to the class. He then introduced class president Emma Smith to address the graduates.
Smith recounted one of the pivotal memories of her recent trip to Italy: tasting the water. Remembering the chemical taste added, she told her classmates to slow down and appreciate the clear and crisp quality of the water that can only be found in the place where they grew up: Maine.
Salutatorian Thomas Matthews, acknowledging the challenges of trying to be original and inspirational as individual students who have not yet experienced the world, looked forward to the future accomplishments that this group of students had the potential to bring forth and how their work in the classrooms, stages, and fields would prepare them.
Valedictorian Samuel Roussel stressed the importance of community in the creation of this graduating class and the responsibility each graduate now held to give back and become part of that community that had helped to raise them.
This year’s keynote speaker was Kayleigh Ballantyne, a 2010 GHS graduate. She spoke about the need for resiliency and persistence in life, especially when moving to a new stage in life. Through her own experiences with traumatic brain injuries as a child and being violently attacked outside her Boston apartment, she has learned to face adversity head on and overcome it.
Today, she advocates for efforts regarding random acts of violence and mental health, and she uses athletics to promote her cause. Ballantyne graduated from Bryant University in 2014 and played field hockey throughout her academic career.
Following Ballantyne, all of the seniors who participated in chorus and Chamber Singers during their time at GHS sang “Homeward Bound,” then the diplomas were presented by Jandreau. Vice principals Kim Slipp and Ryan Watts, superintendent Heather Perry, assistant superintendent Chris Record, school committee members Dennis Libby, Daryl Wright, Stewart McCallister, and Kyle Currier, and senior class officers Emma Smith, Blake Wallace, Narissa Libby, and Molly Sposato congratulated each graduate.
Once everyone had received their diplomas, the group broke into their class song “Home,” by Philip Philips, and the officers led the turning of the tassels. Class advisor Neile Nelson officially presented the class of 2017 graduates for the first time, and after brief closing remarks by Jandreau, the class recessed out into the streets to throw their caps and take photos.
Jandreau, with the class of 2017 being his first graduation as principal, was pleased with how the event turned out. “The students’ speeches were awesome and I thought it was so meaningful to have one of Gorham’s own come back to give the keynote address. The best part was seeing the elation on the graduates’ faces and pride on their families,” said Jandreau.
The graduation festivities commenced with the class going on an overnight group trip to St. Joseph’s College in Standish, hosted by Project Graduation. The trip, going until 5 a.m. the next morning, began with dinner at GHS, a police escort through the center of town, and included bowling at Spare Time before swimming, laser tag and hypnosis at St. Joseph’s College.
The graduates have made plans for a variety of post-secondary options for the coming years. There are students attending two and four year colleges, entering the military, going on volunteer trips abroad, taking gap years, and beginning work.
Photo credits Abbie vanLuling, Dawn Rioux, Betsy Nygren and Raina Cooper