MSSM celebrates graduates during Saturday outdoor ceremony
LIMESTONE, Maine — Twenty-two graduates of the Maine School of Science and Mathematics’ Class of 2021 received their diplomas on Saturday and became the first graduates to celebrate their achievements at the school since before the COVID pandemic began.
Students walked from the school one by one and took their seats beneath a large canopy tent. In anticipation of social distancing guidelines, MSSM staff prepared the tent to accommodate 100 people, including students, faculty, staff members and parents. Other relatives were allowed to watch from just outside the tent. Masks were not required for the outdoor ceremony, as Maine lifted its mask mandate the same week of commencement.
The ceremony marked the first time a graduating class celebrated commencement on the MSSM campus since 2019, noted public relations director Ryan McDonald. Last year faculty and staff drove to the homes of all seniors, who had been learning virtually since March, and placed “Congratulations” signs on their front lawns.
This year’s graduating class featured students from as near as Bangor and as far away as Southeast Asia. One student, Nguyen Khang, could not attend the ceremony in person but was able to see his classmates and diploma via FaceTime.
To celebrate her class’ achievements, student speaker Lydian Frost of Belgrade recalled the “plethora of memories,” both humorous and heartfelt, that she has gained from her time as MSSM, from rap battles to science labs, outdoor classes and seeing the school rank on US News and World Report.
“I’m going to miss late-night math homework sessions on dorm room floors, slam poetry brainstorming behind the staircase and bonding over how beautiful the cerebellum looks when dissecting a sheep brain,” Frost said. “This might be the last time that I will share a room with this group of incredible individuals and that makes me sad.”
As a freshman student, Frost said, she learned early on that relying on her peers, faculty and staff members for support and guidance would help her through the most challenging times. Those “unbreakable relationships” will remain part of her even after she moves on to Dartmouth College this fall.
“To my teachers, thank you for your wisdom, encouragement and confidence in the class of 2021. It takes a special kind of crazy to be a student at this school, but an even more special kind to be a teacher. You are all truly remarkable,” Frost said. “And to my peers, ma famille, thank you for your love and support.”
The class also heard from guest speaker Nicole Grohoski, a 2001 MSSM graduate and Maine representative serving Ellsworth and Trenton in the state Legislature. Grohoski is also a geographic information system specialist and cartographer for a Maine-based mapping company.
In the 20 years since she left MSSM, Grohoski has realized the importance of embracing new and often unexpected opportunities. As an environmental studies and chemistry major in college, she never expected to enter politics. But the chance to give back to her community and influence policy changes related to environmental and energy solutions pulled her in that direction.
She reminded the students that they, too, have already become adept at dealing with unexpected circumstances and opportunities, even before the pandemic.
“You took a chance on a school far from home in order to get a great education and now you’re getting even more,” Grohoski said. “No matter what, your experiences at MSSM have made you resilient.”