HODGDON, Maine — Thirty-one graduating seniors from Hodgdon Middle-High School gathered together for the first time in months on Friday to receive their diplomas.
Holding a drive-in style ceremony, parents were required to remain in their vehicles, while the seniors were seated on the soccer field, spaced apart at twice the recommended distance under the state’s guidelines.
Earlier in the day, seniors, family and friends embarked on a 1.5-hour motorcade throughout the district, featuring stops in Haynesville and Linneus and New Limerick fire departments.
SAD 70 Superintendent/High School Principal Stephen Fitzpatrick welcomed those in attendance and presented the “All Around Student” awards to Seth Tapley and Lauren McGillicuddy. The Leslie Collier Athletic Award went to Autumn Ganzel and Josh Foster.
“It’s unfortunate that we are compromised by this COVID-19 time,” Fitzpatrick said. “I want you all to know that you will be OK and will do great. If you persist in investing in your current and any future relationships as you have during this time of social isolation, you will be OK.”
Valedictorian and Class Marshal Seth Tapley thanked the faculty and staff for putting together an in-person graduation ceremony and imparted a few words of wisdom to his peers
“To the teachers that have helped my classmates and me on the crazy journey of high school, I would like to say thank you for pushing all of us to become the best possible version of ourselves,” Tapley said.
Tapley noted two teachers — Susan Lannon and Jason Little — for going the extra mile for him. Lannon, who was his adviser, pushed him to explore life outside of Maine, which he did by pursuing a community service project in Colorado. Little, who was his soccer coach and JMG instructor, always encouraged Tapley to never be afraid to voice his opinion.
Salutatorian Katherine Berube described how her class has made the best of a difficult situation, which included missing out on things like prom, the senior class trip and the Project Graduation party.
“The journey to this moment has been long — the road often fraught with uncertainty and adversity,” Berube said. “This path hasn’t been easy, but it has been a joy and a great privilege that I shared this experience with all of you. There are memories that we never got to make — our last days of school ripped from us unexpectedly.”
She added that despite all of the obstacles, the class has persevered.
“I can say with great confidence that each and every one of you can take whatever hurdles life may throw in your way and overcome the fear,” she said. “You all have the power and the strength to face this world head-on and flourish through any trial or challenge that stands in your path. This troubling time just goes to prove how strong each of you are.”
First Honor Essayist Lauren McGillicudy said her time at Hodgdon will forever be filled with wonderful memories.
“Hodgdon High has given me friendships that I will cherish forever,” she said. “My classmates are very independent and strong-willed. Standing before me are future teachers, writers, firefighters and soldiers. I am proud to have been able to get to know each and every one of you.”
Class President Autumn Ganzel gave an emotional farewell to her class as she encouraged her peers to look at the positive aspects of their unique graduation.
“Although we will never have the same memories as other graduating classes, we have created our own,” she said. “Our class will be known as the one that had to take senior classes virtually, through a screen. It will be the year that so many senior prom dresses and tuxes will not be worn. The class that will forever wait for a spring sports senior flower. A class who lost the last few months with their friends before they go their separate ways.”
She added the Class of 2020 will be remembered as the one who used online resources, like FaceTime, to ensure no student was left behind.
The ceremony was especially sweet for one of the graduating seniors, Ben Walker, who had an emergency surgical procedure earlier in the morning, but was still able to march in with his class.
The conclusion of the ceremony was able to include one long-standing tradition — an eruption of confetti from the graduating class as each senior popped a tube filled with vibrant colored paper.