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Southern Aroostook seniors ready for the next chapter

DYER BROOK, Maine — The Class of 2022 strolled into the gymnasium of Southern Aroostook Community High School one final time Friday evening for their commencement ceremony.

And when the evening was done, the group of 21 seniors were ready to take on new chapters and challenges in their lives.

Jon Porter, principal and RSU 50 superintendent, welcomed a full gymnasium of parents, guests and family members.

“The Class of 2022 has had many great things to be proud of,” Porter said. “Several of our students will be graduating with many college credits, some as many as 25-30. They have engaged in many hours of community service. And both of our varsity basketball teams made history as both the boys and girls won state championships. We have a lot to be happy about this year.”

Lindsay Derosier is all smiles as she prepares to receive a hug prior to the start of Friday night’s graduation ceremony at Southern Aroostook Community School. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Porter encouraged the graduating class to “be awesome” and reminded them that their hometown will always be there to welcome them back.

“Being awesome means you have to make sacrifices about how you spend your time and money,” he said. “Life is a challenge. Embrace it. Do not settle for less than what you deserve.”

Porter also took a moment to recognize long-time school board member Larry Greenlaw who died this past spring. 

Three seniors graduating with honors — Hunter Burpee, Maggie Harthorne and Esther Greene — each gave their words of advice to their fellow classmates with speeches.

Burpee encouraged his peers to continue on whatever path life is taking them, but also remember to be cognizant of the now.

“What seemed like an eternity away is now coming to fruition,” Burpee said. “It is crazy because I have dreamed of this moment for years and never realized just how fast it would sneak up on me.

“Now as we all start this new chapter in our lives, I want you guys to remember where you came from and where you grew up,” he continued. “I know you all will do great things in life and will work hard at whatever your goals are in the future. I hope that we will remain close with each other or at least keep some of our current friend groups because it is important to have friends in life.”

Willow Brooks (right) gives two thumbs up to friends and family as she marches into the gymnasium of Southern Aroostook Community School alongside Jordyn Legassey Friday evening. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Harthorne reminded her classmates that while many say high school is the best time of their lives, that is not necessarily the case.

“Things are about to get so much faster for my graduating classmates and I, whether we are heading to college where we’ll learn the content of entire textbooks in just a few weeks, or whether we are heading into the workforce where we’ll earn in a few months more money than we made over the span of our high school years,” Harthorne said. “When God made humans, he made clear that their purpose was to glorify him.”

In her address, Greene borrowed lines from several popular movies to help illustrate her points. Green used lines from the film “What about Bob?,” the television show “Marvel’s Agents of Shield” and “Frozen II.”

She explained her reasons for these quotes was that her future plans are to one day work in the movie industry after obtaining a degree in computer science.

“When you leave today to start your new adventure, I hope you’ll be able to look at the hard times that will come and decide to ‘Do the next right thing.’ And when life throws you curve balls, and you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that it’s okay to take ‘Baby steps’ to get to where you’re going. And finally, I hope you know that ‘the steps you take don’t have to be big, they just need to take you in the right direction.’”

Southern Aroostook Community School Principal/RSU 50 Superintendent Jon Porter speaks to the graduating Class of 2022 at SACS Friday evening. (Joseph Cyr | Houlton Pioneer Times)

Shannon Mathers, a teacher at SACS, served as the graduation speaker for the evening and reminded the class that they were graduating in an era that has “seen some horrible, weird and amazing things” during their time in school.

Among those noteworthy items she mentioned were the end of a 20-year war in Afghanistan; civilians spending millions to take little jaunts into outer space; Russia invading the Ukraine; and the imminent end of Roe vs. Wade.

“We have discussed and debated these issues and other current events in our class,” Mathers said. “You were engaged, respectful of differences (of opinion) and hopefully you have learned how to be an active and informed citizen who can debate issues without hate or malice.”

Following the presentation of diplomas, the group rocked their way out of the gymnasium to “Thunderstruck,” by AC/DC.

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