Katahdin graduates eager for new challenges

STACYVILLE, Maine — A small group of 17 seniors bid fond farewell to their classmates and school Saturday morning as Katahdin Middle-High School conferred diplomas to the Class of 2022.

Face coverings were no longer required, due to lessening restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there were still a few subtle reminders that a return to pre-pandemic life was a ways off.

The number of attendees was far fewer than normal years, with the gymnasium of KMHS featuring chairs assembled in pods for families. Approximately 268 guests attended the celebratory event.

Senior Dominic Prise welcomed those in attendance and provided the invocation for Saturday’s ceremony. 

Salutatorian Justin Hurlbert said the graduating Class of 2022 was appreciative of those who attended, many of whom traveled considerable distances. “I think it is safe to say that we all appreciate it and we thank you,” he said. 

Katahdin’s Makayla Hartsgrove presents a rose to her mother Jennifer after receiving her diploma Saturday morning at Katahdin High School’s graduation ceremony. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

In his address, Hurlbert quoted Muhamad Ali saying, “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” 

He encouraged the younger generation to focus on the here and now. “As you go through school, don’t just count the days away — enjoy every day that you are in school. You are only in high school for four short years, so make the best of every day. Do what you enjoy and do the best work that you can.”

Valedictorian Emily Beyer thanked the many teachers who helped not only herself, but also her peers throughout the course of their education and expressed gratitude for their patience. 

“We seniors are very loud, opinionated and most of all stubborn, so I know it must have been difficult at times,” she said.

Giving two thumbs up as she delivers the class message is Vanessa Tapley alongside Nikita Keim at the Katahdin graduation ceremony. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

She added it was those same characteristics that will also benefit the Class of 2022 as they embark on their next chapter.

“As we enter adulthood and real life, I think it’s important that we can be assertive and stand up for ourselves,” she said. “Or that we aren’t afraid to tell others how we feel or think, and that we are not willing to give up without a fight. Yes, we may be a little intimidating, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. My hope is that we never lose these unique, but important qualities.”

High School Principal Shelley Lane spoke on the topic of “courage” in her address to the class, saying that a symbol of courage is soaring. She explained that some birds fly by flapping their wings in a flurry,  while others glide along, using updrafts to soar ever higher.

Emily Davenport Robinson served as the guest speaker for Saturday’s graduation ceremony at Katahdin Middle High School. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Lane also introduced keynote speaker Emily Davenport Robinson, an alum of Katahdin High School who has been an educator for the past 23 years. Robinson spoke on how growing up in a small community has helped her become the person she is today.

“Lessons that I learned here in this little community have stayed with me for a lifetime,” Robinson said. “I learned that coming from a small town doesn’t mean you have to think small. There is a big world out there waiting for you to explore and growing up in a small community gives you ambitions that others may not have. You can dare to dream.”

Seniors Vanessa Tapley and Nikita Keim jointly delivered the class message, which also included memorable moments throughout the years at KMHS. 

Following the conferring of diplomas, as well as a slideshow presentation and musical number, senior Rhoda Heath delivered the recessional invocation before the students marched out of the gymnasium.

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