The Star-Herald

Ashland celebrates 15 graduates

ASHLAND, Maine — Reaching for every possible opportunity was the theme of Ashland District School’s graduation Friday evening.

Graduates processed in to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the school band, led by marshals Clark Condon, also class salutatorian, and Garrett Tilley. Relatives and friends packed the gymnasium.

Class member Sidney St. Peter dedicated the ceremony to late classmate Amelie Calabrese, who died in 2015 at age 11. Calabrese’s presence was signified onstage by an empty chair on which rested a single orange rose.

Valedictorian Mia Carney and Salutatorian Clark Condon addressed the class, sharing memories of their school years.

Class of 2022 Valedictorian Mia Carney delivers her speech during graduation exercises Friday night, June 3, at Ashland District School. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

Life’s most important lessons can’t be found in textbooks but through experience, taking every chance available, said Valedictorian Mia Carney.

“I realized that if I wanted to achieve all my goals, I couldn’t be scared of chasing after them,” Carney said. “So take that risk, make that jump, and follow your heart, because one small step now will lead you to bigger outcomes in the future.”

The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that no one could prepare for, but that’s reflective of life in general.

“We can’t prepare for anything specific because nothing is certain. The funny thing about life is you never know what’s going to come next,” she said.

Condon urged his fellow graduates to seize any opportunities that present themselves. He related work experiences that may not have seemed exciting, but helped him build recommendations and a positive work history.

Ashland District High School seniors Ashley Jones, Rochelle Chasse and Gabriela Ayotte pose as they prepare to enter the gym for Friday’s graduation ceremony. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

“One should not be afraid to step outside of their comfort zone,” he said. “You never know what may light a spark in you. It could be something that you were unaware you had an interest in.”

The class endured home schooling, zoom classes, masks and weekly COVID testing, but everyone made the best of their time together. He urged classmates to continue their journey of learning.

“There has never been a time on this planet when information was so readily available. You can learn anything you want, right from your phone in your pocket,” Condon said. “Take advantage of this. Learning is earning.”

Both speakers thanked their families and school faculty and staff. Each graduate presented an orange rose to their parents, reflective of the school colors of orange and black.

SAD 32 Superintendent Gehrig Johnson told the class the single best advantage they could give themselves is to further their education. That, along with adopting a positive attitude, will help them go far.

“Life throws a lot at you that you can’t control. But you can control your attitude,” he said.

Ashland graduate Garret Tilley presents a rose to his parents during Friday’s graduation. Graduates presented the orange roses to thank their families for their love and support. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

Guidance Counselor Lynwood McHatten presented more than 50 scholarships to class members. Then the Class of 2022’s 15 seniors received their diplomas from Johnson, Principal Joel Hall and SAD 32 Board Chairperson Brenda Clark.

It was Johnson’s last graduation as superintendent. He will officially retire as head of SAD 32 when the school year ends, and Hall will take the helm as principal/superintendent.

The two have worked together for 16 years.

“It’s been a wonderful run,” Johnson said after the ceremony. He will still act as superintendent for Portage Lake, Nashville Plantation and Eagle Lake.

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