PORTLAND – As an infant, Rachel Miller survived a rare and potentially deadly immune-system disorder, Deering High School’s valedictorian told the class of 2010 at Thursday’s graduation ceremony.

Her life today is nothing short of a miracle, she said, thanks to a bone marrow transplant, made possible by a donor she affectionately calls “Uncle D,” and 300 blood transfusions, each made possible by an unknown donor.

Miller advised her classmates to find the place where their passions and the needs of the world collide, to be the miracle that someone is waiting for.

“Seek to play a role in someone’s miracle,” Miller said. “A simple task can save a life. Small actions can accomplish great things.”

Diplomas were presented to 257 Deering High graduates at the Portland Exposition Building. They included posthumous diplomas for Guy Kitoko and Farhad Maharov, two class members who died in recent months.

Kitoko was killed in a car accident in September. His mother, Synforose Rugema, received a standing ovation as she walked to the stage to accept the diploma for her late son.

“It makes me believe that they haven’t forgotten him,” a tearful Rugema said before the ceremony.

The audience had a similar response when Jamal Ismayilov accepted a diploma for Maharov, whose father, Ruslan, lives in Delaware. “He was glad that his son would be remembered and said thank you very much,” Ismayilov said after the ceremony.

Student musicians and singers performed “The Maelstrom,” by R.W. Smith, and “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by Journey.

Sarina Selleck, the class salutatorian, said Deering High’s class of 2010 will be remembered for its willingness to try new things and embrace diversity, especially with students from 24 countries.

She recalled a class trip to China, when she and other students joined people who were practicing the ancient art of tai chi in a public park. The students had trouble keeping up with the complex and fluid movements, she said, but they had fun and the Chinese people seemed to appreciate their effort.

It was Principal Ken Kunin’s fifth and final graduation at Deering. He has resigned to pursue new opportunities in public service.

Superintendent Jim Morse said during his opening remarks that Deering was “blessed with (Kunin’s) stewardship” for the last five years.

Kunin urged the class of 2010 to form a “web of caring” for those they hold dear and those they may not yet know.

Kunin said that’s what his grandparents and others did for him and his brother when their parents were killed in a plane crash when Kunin was 2 years old. That web of caring sustained him when he struggled in school, rebelled as a teenager and dabbled briefly as a traveling juggler.

As graduates, Kunin said, they now share the responsibility to become part of the web of caring for others.

“I know you are up to the challenge,” he said. 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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