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Houlton seniors embark on next chapter

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Middle-High School bid a fond farewell to its graduating senior class Thursday evening. And for the 68 seniors who marched out of the John A. Millar Civic Center, it was a time for cheers and few tears.

Class Marshal Jillian Haggerty led the senior class into the Civic Center as nearly 2,000 relatives and friends gathered for the ceremony. Senior Class President Rhetta Vega welcomed the guests and thanked the teachers and administrators who helped their class along the way.

In his salutatory speech, Nolan Porter urged his classmates to welcome the upcoming change in their lives instead of looking at it with fear.

Donald Ouellette, right, gets some help with his sash from classmate Sydney Sides prior to the start of Houlton’s graduation ceremony Thursday evening. (Joseph Cyr)

“Although change is out of our control, we need to embrace it,” Porter said. “Change can be very rewarding if we take advantage of it. It leads to new experiences, people and friends. Do not allow change to wash over you, and leave you drowning in uncertainty.”

Porter used humor throughout his speech to help lighten the mood, including references to SpongeBob SquarePants and Kung Fu Panda.

“A wise man once said, ‘All that matters is who you choose to be now,’” he said. “That wise man was Po from Kung Fu Panda 2. I challenge you to take control of your change. A simple alteration in perspective can make change a tool not a controlling force. Make certain that your choices are your own, and it is what you want to do.”

First Honor Essayist Elizabeth Dunn introduced the guest speaker for the evening, Lori McGillicudy. McGillicuddy has been a faculty member at Houlton High School for 35 years, starting in 1984. For 12 years she has been the After School Program coordinator. In addition, she has been the high school Summer School coordinator for nine years, and the Southside Summer School coordinator for three years.

Houlton senior Tessa Solomon, right, shares a moment with guest speaker Lori McGillicuddy before the start of the Houlton Middle-High School graduation ceremony Thursday evening. (Joseph Cyr)

“When I was asked to speak, I was extremely honored, but also shocked,” McGillicuddy said. “I am so proud of each and every one of you. I have loved watching you grow and mature into the young adults that you are right now.”

McGillicuddy took the students on a trip down memory lane, back to September 2013, when the graduating seniors were entering Houlton Middle-High School for the very first time.

Class Marshal Jillian Haggerty leads her classmates in the march during Houlton’s graduation ceremony Thursday evening. (Joseph Cyr)

“You were all somewhat unsure of yourself, getting lost in such a large school,” she said. “Do you remember how nervous you were to face the ‘mean’ middle school teachers? Trying to find your way to class? Trying to get your combination locks open? Now fast forward to the here and now and look at all you have accomplished. The potential of each and every one of you is unlimited. Always remember that.”

Valedictorian Alexander Wilde stressed the importance of failures in forming one’s character.

“Tonight we celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of an outstanding group of young men and women,” Wilde said. “However, in a night that illuminates and celebrates outstanding success, I would like to highlight the importance of failure. Failures are simply opportunities for advancement.”

Ready to receive their diplomas are Houlton seniors from left, Abigail Fox, Hannah Pierce and Breanna Croxen. (Joseph Cyr)

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