by Colin Hickey
In a school year that took place during a pandemic that claimed the lives of millions worldwide, class valedictorian and president Luke Buck on Thursday night gave thanks for the relatively normal education he and fellow seniors experienced in their final two semesters at Messalonskee High School.
“First, I want to thank [RSU 18 Superintendent] Mr. Gartley for all the work he did to make it possible for us to be in school five days a week in person this school year,” Buck said. “Having a traditional in-person education benefitted countless students, myself included, and was truly a highlight of this past year.”
Buck expressed his appreciation in front of hundreds of family, friends, teachers, and administrators assembled at commencement to cheer the 149 members of the Class of 2021 at the Augusta Civic Center.
The valedictorian also thanked Messalonskee administrators and staff for their efforts in enabling students to remain in school through the vast majority of the school year.
Messalonskee was one of the few high schools in the state that managed to provide a five-day-a-week in-school experience for most of its students.
Most other high schools opted to have a hybrid format, typically with an even mix of online and in-school learning.
A year earlier, Messalonskee was forced to hold its graduation at the Messalonskee Performing Arts Center in a far more fractured fashion given the pandemic at that time put severe restrictions on the number of people who could assemble in indoor venues.
Signs of the pandemic remained quite visible Thursday night. Graduates and well-wishers alike wore masks throughout the ceremony – the exception being when graduates went on stage to accept their diploma.
Still, the ceremony in many ways stayed true to tradition. Buck in addressing his classmates urged them to seek happiness and said the recipe for doing so is to have a purpose in life, to have friends for love and support, and to make a positive impact on one’s community.
Class salutatorian Taryn Drolet had words of advice as well, ones he kicked off by confessing that he “did not want to be salutatorian.”
He went on to explain that his motivation in school instead was to pursue what mattered to him – in Drolet’s case a career in video game design – and encouraged his classmates to do the same.
In keeping with graduation tradition, seniors also offered a final parting gift to principal Paula Callan, one that most every graduate contributed, one by one, as they crossed the stage.
Buck, realizing most in the audience could not see the tiny gift, revealed that they dropped off acorns in honor of Callan, whom Buck said told her office staff, “She feels like a squirrel running back and forth” because of all her graduation duties.