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Congratulations, MHS Class of 2018!

For anyone who wondered whether principal Paula Callan would stick her neck out for students, the Messalonskee High School 2018 graduation Thursday night at the Augusta Civic Center provided ample proof to the affirmative – at least 150 times, departing seniors draped a necklace around their obliging principal’s neck.

Yes, it was a final senior prank, but in metaphorical terms it could not have been more fitting and, in fact, aligned perfectly with the night’s resounding theme.

As salutatorian Alexis Palleschi said in her address, one reason she and her classmates successfully completed their public education is the people in their lives, including school staff, who were willing – if not courageous – to deal with the rollercoaster of children growing up, willing to stick their necks out if you will, to provide assistance along the way.

“We as a class have been through more than we could have ever imagined,” Palleschi said. “These past four years have been filled with up and downs and highs and lows, but throughout the entire journey, for all the good times and the bad, there have been many people supporting every single one of us in many ways.”

Senior Class President Mackenzie Burton in her closing remarks for the ceremony also emphasized the support seniors received from family, friends, and educators.

She spoke, too, of the academic tools, knowledge, good character, decision-making and communication skills students gained through their formal education.

“Thank you teachers for enabling us to learn about the world and more importantly about ourselves,” she said.

While he talked about the “essential skills sets” learned in high school and the importance of accepting support from others, class valedictorian Ben Amalfitano turned to running, a sport he pursued in high school, for his key metaphor.

Amalfitano talked about how development as a runner can be challenging, one that can be “difficult, long, and slow,” but that runners learn to persevere by going through this process and that this alone is an invaluable life lesson.

“The way we approach our goals is as equally important as the end result,” he said. “We must remember to keep a steady pace and not go out too fast. We will inevitably feel like slowing down, quitting perhaps, and we may even have to stop. Yet we get up, and we start again, and we accept that this is not a singular race but rather one in a series of chances to improve.”

Callan in her opening remarks praised the efforts the senior class made to provide support of their own, noting the class amassed 11,760 community service hours, including 800 from C.J. Scamman and 647.5 from Colby Charette, the departing student body president.

“You have fed the hungry, supported hurricane victims, consoled each other during times of sadness,” Callan said, “celebrated the successes of your classmates, laughed, cried, and through it all, you have soared with your heads held high and your sights set on the goals you have set for yourselves…We have watched you grow from a gangling, scared, and often confused freshman to caring, responsible, respectable, young adults.”

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