Fort Fairfield graduates look back on life lessons as they leave high school

2 years ago

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — Twenty-three students from Fort Fairfield High School visited their much-loved school one last time Sunday as they looked toward their futures.

Hosted outside on the middle/high school soccer field, the graduation ceremony was filled with family and friends who came to cheer on and support the Class of 2022. In a short but meaningful ceremony, the graduates reflected on where they’ve been and who they hope to become.

Salutatorian Lindsey White remembered moving to Fort Fairfield during third grade and quickly making friends with the students who stood ready with her to graduate. She wished everyone success in their college, workforce and military journeys and encouraged them to stay connected with their hometown.

“No matter where we go in life, may we never forget the most valuable lessons we have learned here: love and compassion for others,” White said. “This world is already too contentious for an ego, so stay true to your friendly Fort Fairfield roots and keep it simple and real.”

Valedictorian Kira Rogers speaks to her class during Fort Fairfield High School’s graduation ceremony. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Similarly, valedictorian Kira Rogers reminded her class that they have learned about more than just historical periods, math equations and scientific facts. They have learned to overcome challenges as they have come — most notably, the COVID-19 pandemic — and lean on their own strengths.

For Rogers, the most valuable lesson has been learning to embrace her individual strengths and create her own happiness, even from the worst circumstances. Using an analogy from dance lessons, she encouraged her fellow graduates to do the same.

“My dance instructor tells us our biggest competition is the person in the mirror looking back at us. We cannot lose our spot looking at someone else. The second we do, we are no longer focused on ourselves,” Rogers said. “I encourage you to take every step like you’re turning in the purple studio. Chin up, shoulders back, confident, focused on you, because you are the only person you have control over.”

Students Alyssa Hood (left), Gracie Barnes and Emma Turcotte (right) pose before beginning their graduation ceremony Sunday. (Melissa Lizotte | The Star Herald)

Even as graduates focus on their goals and happiness, they should also listen to others, be they co-workers, family members or anyone wishing to give advice, Principal Jamie Selfridge said.

“If you’re not truly listening, no one cares about what you have to say,” Selfridge said. “Listening is the most important quality of a great leader.”

From the moment the graduates receive their diplomas, they will be making decisions about their health, well-being, careers and personal goals. Doing so will involve listening to the people they most trust, he said.

“Listen to your family. They are the people who know you best and have your best interests at heart,” Selfridge said. “Many who have gone before you have insight and tips that are valuable, even if their path has been different from yours.”

The graduation ceremony was also meaningful for Selfridge, as it was her last as Fort Fairfield High School’s principal. This fall she will join Caribou High School as the newest assistant principal.

“This was the last group of students I taught in a classroom, and now they are my last graduating class,” Selfridge said. “I’m honored and humbled to have been asked to share a few words with you today.”