Presque Isle High School celebrates 93 graduates

2 weeks ago

The Class of 2024 bid farewell to Presque Isle High School during a packed graduation ceremony Saturday afternoon.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins gave the keynote address, reflecting on her Aroostook County roots as she encouraged the new graduates to take with them lessons learned from their own upbringing.

She started with a humorous nod to the longtime friendly rivalry between Presque Isle’s Wildcats and her native Caribou’s Vikings.

“Many of you may be aware that I graduated from a certain high school not far from here. I assure you, I come here today not as a Viking but as a neighbor,” she said, indicating her blue and white outfit and drawing laughter from the crowd.

While seniors are celebrating the milestone of graduation, they may also have mixed emotions she said. 

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — June 8, 2024 — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins speaks to members of Presque Isle High School’s Class of 2024 during graduation on Saturday, June 8. (Paula Brewer | The Star-Herald)

“I know the feelings you may be experiencing as you take a step into adulthood,” she said. “Can you, coming from a community in northern Maine, be successful? Can you measure up? But time and again, I’ve seen how the qualities of character developed right here are a real advantage.”   

Resilience, the County’s unsurpassed work ethic and a spirit of working together are among those qualities, she said. 

This class entered high school in the midst of a global pandemic, met those challenges with determination and proved that they can bounce back, Collins said.  

She recalled that one of her first jobs was picking potatoes. Her mother told her that no matter how hard the work was, she couldn’t quit because the farmer was depending on her. 

“Our tradition of staying on the job until it’s done will serve you well,” she said. 

Collins named a number of Presque Isle High School graduates who followed their dreams and made their own mark: Gerald Williams, Class of 1925, who became a decorated pilot in World War II; Jessica McClintock, Class of 1946, fashion designer; Paul Plissey, Class of 1983, high school athlete and now famous as singer/songwriter Ellis Paul; and John Cariani, Class of 1987, renowned actor and playwright.

Problems are best solved through cooperation and civility, she said, and encouraged the class to remember that the community will always support them.

“Everyone will know the strength of this community through you,” she said. 

Music was provided by the Presque Isle High School Concert Band. Summer Sponberg sang “The Climb.” Class President Amelia Donovan and class speaker Morgan House shared memories and messages of encouragement.

The top five academic achievers of Presque Isle High School’s Class of 2024 hold the plaques they received during graduation on June 8 from Principal David Bartlett. From left are Abigail Hebert, 2nd place; Wyatt Young, 5th; Gavin Dunleavy, 4th; Reagen Deschene, 3rd; and Hunter Chandler, 1st. (Courtesy of Terry Sandusky)

Principal David Bartlett presented the school’s traditional academic achievement awards to the students with the five highest grade point averages. Recognized were Hunter Chandler, first place; Abigail Hebert, second; Reagan Deschene, third; Gavin Dunleavy, fourth; and Wyatt Young, fifth.

Bartlett encouraged students to persevere, celebrate their differences and lift others up with compassion.

“Greatness is not confined to the pages of history books or on the screen in blockbuster films, but is within each one of you,” he said. “It’s not a destination, but a journey of endless self-discovery, growth and contribution to the world.”

Bartlett was joined by SAD 1 Superintendent Ben Greenlaw and SAD 1 school board chair Lucy Richard to present diplomas, after which students turned their tassels marking their new status as graduates.