On-stage graduation night at Wiscasset Speedway Thursday, June 10, Wiscasset Middle High School Class of 2021 member Gabrielle Leavitt recalled expecting the school to close a couple weeks for the pandemic their junior year, but they did not return until fall. “In a time where we should have been touring colleges, finding the perfect school ... we had to turn to virtual tours and Zoom open houses ... As hard as it was, we had no choice but to keep on moving and plugging away.”
“While we didn’t get the ending to high school that any of us had expected or hoped for, I will always appreciate everything that my classmates and my teachers have done for me,” Leavitt said. She added some advice relating to a class trip to Morse Mountain. “Don’t ever listen to (senior advisor Elizabeth) Hemdel when she says you’re only going to be hiking a small hill. It was in fact a fairly large hill.”
Speaker Ty DeLong voiced hope fellow classmates will continue to grow and better themselves. “This is the real indication of good character.” DeLong recalled them doing that throughout school, when they faced roadblocks. “I’m extremely proud of them and how they have come out the other side. I’ve had my fair share of these times, when coming out as transgender, facing mental health issues and when my grandmother passed.
“These moments should not define someone’s nature. Instead, a person should be defined by how they learn and overcome these experiences,” DeLong said.
Salutatorian John Hodsdon said he came to the Wiscasset schools as a “rather awkward and shy homeschooler” looking to take band and some elective courses and do a few sports. But at each activity, the students and teachers “made Wiscasset a place where I felt like I was included ... I’ve always felt like I was somewhere I belonged.” He had never felt that in a community, and it led him to attend Wiscasset full time.
“That is the reason I am standing here tonight. It is because of the amazing, inclusive community here.” Remember the school is an amazing place, “because of you,” he told classmates. He asked them to make wherever they go great, like they did WMHS. “Wiscasset is a very special place and it’s up to you to keep it that way.”
WMHS excels at spirit, speaker Kyle Ricker said. In a track season where some schools struggled to fill teams, Wiscasset’s had a record number of members, he said.
Graduation got sun and a light breeze. Among attendees was 1978 Wiscasset graduate Tom Cost, a longtime Wiscasset Speedway volunteer. He said if graduation could not be held at the school, he could not think of a better venue, “especially on a night like this.”
Alna’s Coleen Trask said she arrived before the gate opened, to ensure a good seat to watch granddaughter Riley Trask graduate. She figured she might as well wait at the speedway as at home. Last year, due to restrictions early in the pandemic, she and other relatives of graduating seniors watched from their cars. Riley’s sister Kateleen Trask graduated then.
West Bath’s Carol Beal had granddaughter Alyssa Bassett graduating Thursday night. “I’m happy, of course it would be nice to turn back the clock to when she was little again.” Beal’s daughter and Bassett’s mother Kelly Bassett said on the way in, the occasion was bittersweet, but she was proud.
Principal Charles Lomonte called the turnout of several hundred amazing, the best in years. He thanked track owners Richard and Vanessa Jordan for hosting it a second year. Attendees watched from folding chairs and got up and turned around to face the American flag for the pledge of allegiance and national anthem.
Near the ceremony’s close, fireworks drew shouts and smiles. Later, Wiscasset and Edgecomb fire trucks led a parade out of the speedway and onto West Alna Road. Getting behind the wheel of Edgecomb’s Engine 3, emergency medical technician, Edgecomb junior firefighter and Class of 2021 member Ryan Potter was smiling and still wearing his mortarboard topped with a crown. On-stage earlier, Potter got cheers when he raised his arms and diploma in the air.
Lemonte told attendees, in the pandemic the class members found things to be grateful for, like their caring teachers and the smell of pancakes with maple syrup. “These students found things. Amidst the darkness, they found the light. I am just so proud of that.” He is grateful to them for their talents, good nature and the hope they give for a brighter future, he said.
The pandemic left the class with unspent funds. During the ceremony, the class gave the climate action club $2,000 toward a composting system and gave physical education teacher Samuel Wenckus a bag full of balls to revive 4 Square.