A Queen song and senior Natalie Potter pointed out, the champions at Wiscasset Speedway Friday night were Wiscasset Middle High School’s Class of 2020. In face masks as the sun set behind an infield full of families and others peeping their car horns and cheering, members sat socially distanced, then walked up onto a stage for their diplomas and back down onto the track, where they turned their tassels.
“Let us all see the checkered flag and take our final lap of high school with pride, hope and the mindset that we are all champions and can handle anything life may throw at us,” Potter told them from the stage earlier as she waved a checkered flag. Waiting on Federal Street later for the graduates’ parade, her grandparents said they liked that part, and were glad her class got to have a graduation.
They didn’t know March 13 would be their last day in the school and they wouldn’t get to hug their friends goodbye and thank their teachers in-person there, valedictorian Kaitlyn Main said in the ceremony. “(Take) advantage of every second you have in this life. Take every opportunity you get, because you never know if you will have it again.
“Tell the people you love that you care about them. Life is just too short to not be honest.” Be courageous and embrace life, she said.
Billy Pinkham described what school staff and his family have meant to him and his WMHS years. Athletic Director-Assistant Principal Warren Cossette helped him feel safe as Pinkham adjusted to the school. Samuel Wenckus’ gym classes kept Pinkham going to school freshman year. And teacher Marija Randall helped students “get to the point we needed to be at” and was always someone he could count on, he said. “(She) helped push me and believe in myself to be who I am today.”
Pinkham said his father has shown him how to overcome obstacles and come out “a better, more positive person. If you were to ask him, he would just tell you that ‘It’s my job.’ Well, so far you have done a great job and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Teacher Prema Long told the seniors they inspired her to be a better teacher and better human, and they can inspire one another because they are magnificent. “I love you all and am so excited to see what unfolds for you next.” Long later clanged a bell as each student left the stage with their diploma.
Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood shared her daughter’s experience in New England College of Optometry Class of 2020, learning via Zoom, which Wood said stands for “zillions of overwhelmingly monotonous meetings.”
She told the seniors they may not have marched across the school stage at graduation, “But you still will become a Wiscasset High School graduate ... Focus on making a difference in your lives and (others’) ... You have everything you need, right here and right now, to accomplish each and every goal you strive to achieve.”
The graduates left the track to Queen’s “We are the champions.” A parade through town afterward, en route to fireworks at the school, had well-wishers holding up signs and balloons, and Liz Palmer her flat Stephen Colbert, for the new graduates, family and school department members, including Wood in a red convertible, and police and area fire departments. Jade Rego’s grandmother Beverly Elwell held a sign Rego’s aunt Christine Rego made. It read in part, “We’re so very proud of you, Jade.”
Several neighbors related to no one in the class came out to cheer. Terri Wells waved so much her arm hurt. “Right now these days it’s a good time to come out and show support for anyone,” husband Peter said.
One of the class advisors, Deb Pooler, said later, she was proud of the class members and proud of their keeping to the mask-wearing and social distancing, with no in-person practices. She added, “I am so glad the community rallied around them and made their graduation so awesome!”
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Lomonte thanked Wiscasset Speedway owners Richard and Vanessa Jordan for donating use of the venue, Cossette for all his efforts making the graduation happen, and others including Long, Larrabee Insurance, Big Al’s, Chuck Thayer, Ames True Value Supply, Wayne and Peg Averill, Maxwell’s Market, Pat’s Barber, First National Bank, Wiscasset Area Chamber of Commerce, Seabasket, Red’s Eats, Deb Pooler, Adriene Fraire, Chris Hammond, Kelly Willey and Bill Pinkham Sr., Hollie Paul, Brion Controvillas, Beth Smith, Andrea Main, Rupert Flood, Charles Cromwell, Stacey Souza and Mary Kay, Wiscasset’s police and fire departments, LVTV, WMHS Boosters, WHS Student Council and all the “amazing WMHS staff that helped.”
At Lomonte’s request, Friday’s ceremony began with a moment of silence. “This past week we lost our dear Connor McLean from the Class of 2019. Many of our graduates and staff have fond memories of him. He will be missed,” Lomonte said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire family at this time.”