The Star-Herald

Washburn graduates give words of encouragement as they leave high school

WASHBURN, Maine — For Washburn District High School’s Class of 2021, the evening of graduation was all about reflecting on their shared memories while also looking forward to their futures.

As the 31 seniors sat onstage in the school gym, they applauded when their classmates received awards and scholarships and laughed while recalling both humorous and poignant moments from elementary school to the present. 

With no social distancing restrictions, graduates, parents and SAD 45 teachers were able to share in the ceremony’s most emotional moments, with many tears shed and hugs given throughout the evening.

In his welcome speech, class president Ashton Henry remembered his favorite thing about high school: asking his peers random questions about themselves. In doing so, he said, they learned about each others’ abilities and skills, like reciting the alphabet backward, being a licensed AM radio operator or being a skilled “analytical thinker.”

“I didn’t ask those questions to be annoying. Simple or, in some cases, ‘stupid,’ questions helped me to get to know you all a bit more,” Henry said. “Each individual has their own set of skills that they bring, some of which can surprise you.”

For valedictorian Charlie Hobbs, graduation was a time to thank her family, teachers and classmates for the support they have given since elementary school. 

“Mom and Dad thank you for being by my side every step of the way,” Hobbs said, while attempting to hold back tears. “Thank you for being my biggest supporters and helping me accomplish all my goals. You have taught me to work hard, to dream big and to be kind.”

When speaking to her class, Hobbs reminded them that they are “the big kids now,” the ones that Washburn’s youngest students look up to and hope to emulate. She urged her fellow graduates to take their role model status seriously and to persevere through even the most unexpected challenges.

“While this has been an incredibly strange and difficult year, it has made every one of us stronger,” Hobbs said. “The fact that we are all here today, about to receive our diplomas, just shows the wit and determination that we all embody.”

Salutatorian Patrick Tardie not only celebrated his classmates but also reflected on what he believes has been his most important year of school. An avid musician, Tardie quoted from one of his favorite songs — “Pork and Beans” by Weezer — to show how he has learned to embrace his true self.

“‘I’ma do the things that I wanna do / I ain’t got a thing to prove to you / I’ll eat my candy with the Pork and Beans / Excuse my manners if I make a scene,'” Tardie said, while reciting the song lyrics.

He went on to talk about the song’s true meaning for him.

“I’ve always been a little self-conscious about myself, but I have worked hard this past year to put all of this behind me and just be happy, and I encourage you guys to do the same,” Tardie said.

In his closing remarks, first honor essayist Julian Echeverria admitted to not always being “productive” during the remote learning days that were common throughout the pandemic school year. At the same time, he urged future graduates to enjoy their time in high school before the real world of adults beckons.

“When times get tough, remember this: senior year is your last year of high school and it might be the last time you see your friends before going to college or leaving to live your life,” Echeverria said. “Don’t try to be an adult any faster than you have to. Because soon you won’t be a teenager anymore.”

He ended with these parting words for the incoming senior class:

“Do your work, don’t do drugs and don’t have too much fun next year without us. Rock on!”

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Classmates Ashton Henry (left), Russel Farley (back), Brianna Turner and Julian Echeverria strike a pose before their graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Washburn senior Kyla Cunningham (left) flashes a smile before marching into the graduation ceremony while classmate Reed Plummer looks on. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Members of Washburn District High School’s Class of 2021 shoot confetti into the air after receiving their diplomas on Friday. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Seniors Russell Farley (left) and Joseph West pose before graduating from Washburn District High School. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Fellow graduates Chauntelle Kelley (left) and Emma Johnston give a thumbs up before marching into the gym for their graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Valedictorian Charlie Hobbs speaks to her classmates during graduation. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Salutatorian Patrick Tardie gives a speech during Washburn District High School’s graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

WASHBURN, Maine — June 4, 2021 — Washburn Class of 2021’s first honor essayist Julian Echeverria addresses his classmates during graduation on Friday. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

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