Caribou’s Class of 2022 receives words of wisdom from peers during graduation

2 years ago

CARIBOU, Maine – Caribou High School’s latest graduates set off toward new adventures on Sunday, June 5, but not without first gaining advice from those who have supported them through the past four years.

Seated alongside each other on the auditorium stage, the 88 graduates listened intently as students and administrators shared crucial life lessons and encouraged the Class of 2022 to seek happiness in whatever paths they take.

Valedictorian Chloe Sleeper took inspiration from one of her favorite novels, “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse, which follows the title character’s spiritual journey through India during the time of the Buddha. 

Over the course of the novel, Siddhartha seeks spiritual perfection. He first lives in the woods separate from society, meditating and praying in hopes of obtaining enlightenment. The character’s unhappiness leads him back into society, where he becomes a successful businessman. Near the end of his life, Siddhartha returns to the woods and gains ultimate wisdom from a ferryman, Sleeper said.

“Siddhartha says, ‘I needed the most shameful despair to learn how to give up resistance, to learn how to love the world, to stop comparing the world with any world that I wish for,'” Sleeper said. “‘I learned how to let the world be as it is, and to love it and belong to it gladly.'”

Sleeper connected the lessons from “Siddhartha” to her own struggles in high school. While pressuring herself to achieve straight As, she realized that much of her motivation came from wanting to satisfy others instead of achieving her own happiness. 

She encouraged her classmates to not focus on impossible standards of perfection and instead respect themselves even when making mistakes.

“Perfection is failing that test and not crying about it. Perfection is admitting that you could have been nicer to X or you were wrong in your argument with Y,” Sleeper said. “Living for others and their perception of you is a meaningless existence. You’re too caught up in your own thoughts to appreciate the skills or qualities you do have.”

Salutatorian Alden Wilcox also shared lessons learned from high school, though many of those lessons had family members, friends and staff laughing out loud.

“[Lesson] One: Cat food makes a great snack. Two: Always double check, no, triple check when backing out in the senior parking lot,” Wilcox said. “And, three, paper clips are best kept out of electrical outlets.”

Unlike in most salutatorian speeches, he made sure to admit to his nearly fatal flaw: procrastination. From submitting a college application one minute before the deadline to writing his graduation speech the morning of the ceremony, he has enjoyed the “adrenaline rush of an imminent deadline” a little too often, Wilcox said.

But all joking aside, Wilcox had one message to share with his classmates. While procrastinating is not for everyone, they should all attempt to conquer their worst fears and take chances that could lead to great success in life.

“If you take away nothing else from this speech, I want you to remember these two words: seek discomfort,” Wilcox said. “Just as procrastination would not feel as good without the relief of meeting a looming deadline, life would not feel as good without the payoff of taking a calculated risk. As the saying goes, risk makes the reward sweeter.”

Prior to the students’ “sweet” reward of earning their diplomas, CHS Principal Eric McGough reflected on the past two years of helping students learn and grow throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He expressed confidence in the class’s ability to overcome future challenges and uncertainty.

“You are ready, willing and more than able to to grasp the torch bestowed upon you,” McGough said. “May you always lead by example, work hard and set the standards for success.”

RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak left the Class of 2022 with three pieces of advice: always be confident, be someone who adds value to whatever career, organization or team they are part of and learn from the wisdom of their parents and grandparents.

“Don’t just be part of something, add value to everything you do,” Doak said. “The world needs people who are confident and who add value to what they do.”

CARIBOU, Maine — June 5, 2022 — Caribou classmates Jaedon Jones (left), Lexi Gustin and Thomas Swartz chat before their high school graduation. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

CARIBOU, Maine — June 5, 2022 — Class of 2022 salutatorian Alden Wilcox gives advice to his classmates during Caribou High School’s graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

CARIBOU, Maine — June 5, 2022 — Caribou High School valedictorian Chloe Sleeper addresses the Class of 2022 during their graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

CARIBOU, Maine — June 5, 2022 — CHS math teacher Nicholas Blais fixes Class Marshall Michael Cyr’s tassel while fellow Class Marshall Mia Theriault looks on. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)

CARIBOU, Maine — June 5, 2022 — CHS students Mackenzie Tracy (left) and Alex Olmstead pose before their graduation ceremony on Sunday. (Melissa Lizotte | Aroostook Republican)