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Washburn students celebrate families, teachers at graduation

WASHBURN, Maine — The sixteen students graduating from Washburn District High School on June 7 dedicated much of the evening to recognizing the parents, siblings, friends and teachers who helped encourage and guide them with every step they made toward their diplomas. 

Families gathered in the gymnasium Thursday and laughed and cried their way through an emotional ceremony, as students reflected on their four years of high school and looked forward to the next chapter in their lives. Students received over $16,000 in scholarships that will go toward their education at two-year or four-year colleges.

Valedictorian Macey Barker, who will attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick this fall, thanked the teachers who gave her and her fellow classmates the skills and courage that they will need to succeed in the real world.

Throughout her own journey, Barker said, she learned the importance of staying true to herself and accepting who she is as a person. She gave credit to all her teachers — from English and math to health and science — for pushing her to be her best and believing in her abilities.

Class of 2018 Valedictorian Macey Barker speaks during Washburn District High School’s graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 7. (Melissa Lizotte)

“Mrs. Drost, I’m just going to warn you now that you’re going to need a box of tissues,” Barker said, addressing Holly Robbins-Drost, one of two English teachers at Washburn District High School. “Throughout my junior year, you encouraged me to push myself as a writer, even when I doubted myself. You kept telling me what I already knew: that I was strong and persistent and I would overcome every obstacle in my path.”

Barker herself could barely contain her own tears as she went on to thank her parents, siblings and friends, who provided a great support system throughout the often turbulent years of high school.

“Mom and Dad, thank you for putting up with me for 18 years. You have pushed me to be caring, respectful, enduring and understanding. Thanks to you, I have become the respectful, intelligent young lady that stands before you today,” Barker said. “You have been there to always pull me back up on my feet and push me forward again.”

Although she will miss her family, friends and former teachers as she moves on, Barker encouraged all her classmates onstage with her to pursue their goals despite obstacles or doubts from others.

“‘We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths,’” Barker said, quoting her “role model” Walt Disney, whose difficult journey to success, she said, reflects her own journey through high school. “People turned him down when he tried to start his own business, but he didn’t give up and neither will I.”

Devon Maynard, who plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from the University of Maine at Presque Isle this fall, encouraged his classmates to embrace the tasks that life sets before them, even when that means stepping outside their comfort zone.

Emma Cyr, first honor essayist for the Class of 2018, speaks during Washburn District High School’s graduation ceremony on June 7 as classmates Macey Barker (seated, from left), Devon Maynard and Carly Bragg look on. (Melissa Lizotte)

“I’ve learned that even if you don’t see a point to something at the time, you’ll look back and see that there always was a point to everything,” Maynard said. “Use the lessons you’ve learned here. Go out there and do what you need to do to change the world for the better. Washburn has taught me that lesson well.”  

Later in the evening Maynard received $14,900 in scholarships to go toward his education at UMPI. Students in the class of 2018 received over $31,000 total in scholarships.

First Honor Essayist Emma Cyr, who will be in the nursing program at Northern Maine Community College this fall, gave advice to her fellow graduates that arose from personal experience. Instead of making quick judgements based on someone’s personality or behaviors, she said, help them realize the potential that exists within themselves.

“Being extroverted and having a strong will can often be confused with being self-righteous just like being introverted can be mistaken for being rude or anti-social. When someone is told they’re not good enough, they often start acting like how they are labeled,” Cyr said. “Here’s hoping that after tonight we can help others living to their full potential and start living up to our own standards.”

Before they received their diplomas, the Class of 2018 held a special parent appreciation ceremony. Students took their places at various spots in the gymnasium, handed a bouquet of flowers to their mothers and embraced their parents and relatives, who congratulated them on a job well done.

Washburn District High School students (left to right) Turner McLaughlin, Keith McGraw, Keane Drost and Konner Jordan wait to enter the gymnasium before graduation ceremonies on Thursday, June 7. (Melissa Lizotte)

“As children we often had dreams that were bigger than us, but you stood behind our ideas 110 percent. Then we got older and had no idea what we wanted to do with our lives, but you gave us the strength to get through it all,” said student Anecia Fuller, in her address to the parents in the audience. “You gave us that extra push when we needed it and none of us ever could have done this journey without you.”

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