Highest percentage of Houlton graduates are going on to college

HOULTON, Maine — In near perfect pomp and circumstance precision, the Houlton High School Class of 2023 took one last journey together on Thursday night as they entered the John A. Millar Civic Center at precisely 7:30 p.m.

Led by graduation marshal and senior class president Mariah Peterson, 76 graduates made their way to the stage as a packed crowd cheered and snapped photos.

“Tonight as we walk across the stage, receive our diplomas, and turn our tassels, we know that we have not achieved this goal alone,” said Peterson as she welcomed everyone to the event. “I am delighted to say that you, parents, siblings, friends and staff, are the reason we can say that we are Shires, through and through.”

A Houlton High School graduate blows kisses from above while waiting in a separate location before the graduation procession begins on Thursday, June 8, 2023 at the John A. Millar Civic Center. (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

After graduation, two of the students are entering the military, 23 are entering the workforce, and 51 are continuing their education at a two or 4-year school,” said keynote speaker Carrie Fichter, a science teacher at the school.

“This is the highest percentage for a graduating class since 2009 to pursue post-secondary education,” Fichter said. “You’re all about to begin writing a new chapter of your lives and continue 76 unique and personal journeys.”

As Fichter spoke to the students she offered two ways that the graduates might continue to grow: Make an effort to expand horizons and focus on being in the present moment.

She urged the graduates to seek out people from different cultures, beliefs and opinions.

“When you hang out with them, listen and accept that their lived experience may differ from yours, but the fact that we’re all so unique is what adds richness and excitement to the world,” she said. “Human nature is such that we jump to conclusions when faced with something unfamiliar.”

Class Salutatorian Natalie DeLucca makes her way across the stage at Thursday’s Houlton High School Graduation at the John A. Millar Civic Center, (Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli | Houlton Pioneer Times)

The world is complex and filled with shades of gray and compromise, she said, adding that there’s an opportunity to learn something from every single person you meet if you’re open-minded and willing to listen.

“As you leave Houlton High School, embrace the opportunity to become a better version of yourself, whatever that means to you,” Fichter said. “Be proud of where you came from, but let go of the constraints of living in a small town that may have held you back. Meet new people and strive to be more present in the moment.”

Class Salutatorian Natalie DeLucca talked about the influence her grandfather had on her life and urged her fellow classmates to think about who has influenced their own lives.

It is not enough to simply believe that you can succeed. Confidence is only the first step. Ultimate success is the result of sustained hard work, dedication and determination, she said.

Class Valedictorian Kenzie Hodgkins detailed a several-year adventure of secretly placing small plastic ducks around the school.

Growing beyond conformity and fleshing out one’s creative abilities is the ultimate form of strength, Hodgkins said.

“So whatever absurd looks like for you, whether that be ordering chicken tenders at a Thai food place or starting up a conversation with a stranger, do it because you can,” she said. “Be your
most authentic and abrasive self. Y gracias por escuchar.”