Limestone High School holds what may be final graduation

7 years ago

LIMESTONE, Maine — Limestone’s Class of 2017 held what may be the high school’s last graduation, with the RSU 39 school board having voted to send the town’s grade 9-12 students to Caribou beginning next year. 

Salutatorian Rebecca Dillenbeck briefly mentioned her class potentially being the last to graduate in her speech, telling the crowd “this being the last class to graduate from Limestone Community School, at least for a while anyway, makes tonight that much more exciting and memorable.”

The school board of RSU 39, which service the communities of Caribou, Limestone and Stockholm voted earlier this year to save about $600,000 in the budget by transferring Limestone’s high school students to Caribou High School next fall. Limestone residents are seeking to withdraw from the RSU and create an independent school system, but that process, even if it succeeds, will take several months and would not be completed by fall.

On Friday, Dillinbeck spoke to her 18 classmates in the school auditorium about the long road to graduation, expressed gratitude to her teachers and classmates, and addressed common perceptions of disabilities.

“I have kept thinking about how different we each are and what we have to offer the world,” she said. “As you all know I have autism, and it made me think about the fact that they say autism, Asperger’s, and [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] are disabilities, so let’s break this down.”

Dillenbeck defined the Latin prefix “dis” as meaning “apart, away, or having a negative or reversing force,” and “ability” as a “talent or skill or an expertise in a particular area,” concluding that “disability is a negative force on a skill.”

“I say we all have not disabilities but different abilities,” Dillenbeck said. “We all have the chance to use our abilities and skills, as different as they are, for the good of the world, and that is what we must do.”

Class president Sean Hale also addressed those gathered.

“Throughout high school, our class has grown from immature freshmen to great young adults that will go on to do great things,” Hale said. “I believe that each and every one of my classmates will be successful in the college of their choice, as members of the armed services, or as members of a community.”

Hale acknowledged that the faces in the crowd, “caring teachers, friends, and family members,” helped make him and his classmates who they are today.

High school teacher James Cushman opened his student address by joking that he didn’t know “why [the students] would want to h

Limestone High School Valedictorian Aliyah Triplett delivers a speech about how those graduating are the future, and have the power to enact positive change during hard times. Triplett is one of 19 members of Limestone’s Class of 2017 who graduated on Friday, June 2. (Christopher Bouchard)

ear more from one of their teachers,” and gave life advice to the graduates.

“Choose your friends wisely,” Cushman said. “They are an influence on the way you live your life. My father always said that it is better to be in no company at all than to be in bad company. Surround yourself with good people.”

The instructor also told students to maximize their options, citing statistics from the Maine Bureau of Labor indicating that people today have, on average, 10 different jobs by the time they hit 40.

“If you train for one career only, you will be shortchanging yourself when your interests change or a new career presents itself,” Cushman said, concluding that he wishes all of his students happiness and good fortune in the future.

Valedictorian Aliyah Triplett acknowledged the “this is the first day of the rest of our lives” cliche, thanked her parents and teachers, and gave words of encouragement about the future of the world.

“This world is far from perfect,” Triplett said. “Partisanship has reached a boiling point, religions and ideologies fight for dominance and inspire unspeakable acts. Racism and bigotry are widespread and all of this is taking place while children go hungry in our own backyards, but today — today is the day we start changing things for the better.”

Triplett told her classmates that today is the time to act and to make a difference, the day that true obligations begin.

“A better tomorrow is now up to us, and we will shoulder this responsibility,” Triplett said. “We will carry this weight.”