by Will Tuell
Machias Memorial High School bid adieu to the school’s forty-three graduating seniors on Sunday, June 4, as family, friends, and the school’s faculty watched on from a packed gymnasium for the annual rite of passage. Graduates spoke to the challenges of going to high school in the COVID era, the hands-on education they received while at Machias, and the enduring nature of friendships they have formed as they head into the world as adults.
Following a standard processional and a video montage of seniors as babies and graduates, Class President Hayley Bishko welcomed a packed audience to the ceremony, both lamenting the swift passage of time, and looking forward to what the future may hold for her and her classmates.
“When we were younger, all we wanted to do was grow up, and now we are officially grown up,” Bishko said. “Somehow, that happened, and we didn’t even realize it was happening. It is hard to believe that we are closing this chapter of our lives and turning the page to a new one. How fast these thirteen years flew by – especially the last four years of high school. These past four years have given me many cherished memories, some that will last a lifetime, including endless laughing and countless hours cheering in the student section [of the gym] more fondly known as the Dog Pound…At the same time, I am both excited and a little nervous about the lives we’ll be starting. We won’t be together anymore. We will meet new people, make new friends, and figure out how we’re going to do this adult thing, but we will always rely on what we learned while we were together.”
During her remarks, salutatorian Jaida Case encouraged classmates to find the “little things” that make life special as they venture out into the world.
“I would love to tell you that my high school career was exciting and wonderfully eventful, but it wasn’t. We’re leaving high school today, and I have a feeling that as much as I would like to tell you that the next step will be full of excitement is probably not true [either],” Case said. “In life, there is going to be parts of your day that are not enjoyable, but it is important that you find something that makes you look forward to your day…With that said, I would like to thank my friends, the faculty, and most importantly, my family for supporting me through high school.”
Co-valedictorian Jacey Barabe touched on how the COVID pandemic shaped her and her classmates’ time in high school, noting that while high school may not have gone to plan, they have survived it and learned some important life lessons in the process.
“Our experiences were different from what we planned on,” Barabe said. “But instead of sinking, we swam. We adapted to the challenges we faced, and we grew. We grew up [faster] than most of us probably would have wanted, but because of the challenges we faced, we are more prepared than any other graduating class. The Class of 2023 will continue to rise above the challenge and succeed within the world we create. And even though we didn’t get our picture-perfect ending, the sequel is yet to come.”
Co-valedictorian Sierra Colbeth took the opportunity in her speech to reflect upon the lessons staff and faculty at MMHS taught her, echoing Barabe’s sentiments concerning the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for my family, my friends, my teachers, the lessons I’ve learned, and the memories we’ve made. There are many memories, both good and bad, because of COVID. These memories range from [remote] classes to having lunch at home base,” she said. “While it’s had its fair share of ups and downs, this year has been amazing for many reasons. The bonds I’ve made are tight, and my teachers have helped me along the way. I won’t ever forget them or what they taught me. For example, Mr. Black taught me about confidence and loyalty. Ms. Paprocki helped me face my fear of public speaking; Mrs. Reynolds taught me to learn just for the sake of learning; Mrs. Chutter helped me with my college [applications]; Mr. Lenke taught me to never give up on things…Mrs. Lee has a saying that ‘You should try it; you can always paint over it if you don’t like it.’ Now I know this can’t be directly applied to life because paint won’t fix everything, but almost everything can be fixed with time and effort.”
MMHS graduates include George Albee, Maggie Allen, Jaydin Anderson, Jacey Barabe, Pepper Beal, Hayley Bishko, Jordan Campbell, Jaida Case, Sierra Colbeth, Ian Conlin, Kaiden Demarest, Devin Dionne, Nicholas Drake, Gabriel Dudley, Benjamin Falvey, Shane Feeney, Emily Fletcher, Chandler Floyd, Ethan Foss, Kaiden Gaddis, Jenna Gallant, Riley Gardner, Kaitlyn Guptill, Jakob Haynes, Gracelyn Henderson, Kolby Henderson, Kristen Holland, Sienna Ingalls, Cody Jones, Ethan Libby, Kaylin Marie, Caden Morris, Kayden Morris, Jonathan O’Donnell, Aidan Preston, Tori Preston, Chloe Savage, Summer Sizemore, E.J. Smith, Elisha Sternberg, Skyler Taylor, Samuel Wallace, and Sky Weaver.