At Merrill Auditorium in Portland on Sunday, speakers urged Gorham High School graduates to be involved, unafraid of failure and to raise the bar.

Family and friends of 185 graduates nearly filled the 1,900-seat auditorium for the two-hour ceremony. The graduates marched in to “Pomp and Circumstance,” played on the organ by David Wallace, father of graduating senior Nicholas Wallace. The Gorham High School Chamber Singers sang the National Anthem, while two men from the Gorham Fire Department presented the colors.

Mary Johnson gave the valedictory address. She spoke of the years classmates have had together. She said each student in the class is the best at something.

She said what makes the class so beautiful was its flaws. “The lesson I’ve learned is love myself – blemishes and all,” Johnson said.

Johnson said choices would define who they were. “If you fall, fall hard and pick yourself up,” she said.

Johnson said her class would be spreading across the world. She sang her last line. “Someone is on your side, no one is alone.”

Following her address, Johnson and fellow senior Sammie Francis sang “For Good” by Stephen Schwartz.

Adam Lord, salutatorian, spoke of “all nighters” and sports along with memories and the friendships. “Knowing we made a difference in someone’s life is better than any piece of paper,” he said.

Involvement marked the 2005 graduating class. Class President Joshua Lortie said more than two-thirds of the class participated in extra curricular activities, and 40 percent were involved in multiple activities. “Let’s continue to stay involved,” he urged his classmates.

Guest speaker Bill Nemitz, a newspaper columnist, gave a 10-point guide for their lives. He likened life to a roller coaster ride, which is sometimes up and sometimes down. “We all have to ride the roller coaster,” he said.

Nemitz told them to not be afraid. “You cannot live in fear,” he said.

He encouraged the class to explore the world but to return home to Maine. “Go away but come back,” he said.

His guide also included hanging “on tight” to friends and keeping families close. Nothing is more important than family, he said.

In closing, he said there would be times when they would have no control over situations. “Drop what you’re doing, grab your car keys and head for Beals,” he said, getting applause.

Scott Caulfield spoke on behalf of the faculty. He said that they would fail many times and succeed many times. He said they should court failure and drive to succeed. A track coach, he urged graduates to move up the crossbar, likening life to pole-vaulting. “You have to be able to risk failure to capture your dreams,” Caulfield said.

Diplomas were presented, while cameras flashed from around the auditorium. Making the presentations were Principal John Drisko, Assistant Principal Saundra Gnidziejko, Class Advisor Gordon Strout, Superintendent Ted Sharp and School Committee Chairman Marie South and Nemitz. “There is no group with whom I’d rather graduate,” said Strout, their class advisor who is retiring as a teacher.

The presentation of diplomas was followed by a senior chorus rendition of their class song, “Change the World” by Eric Clapton. Then, officers led their class in turning their cap tassels from left to right.

For the seniors, graduation is a time of joy and sadness. Senior Sarah Kramer said the year went by way to fast. “I’ll miss seeing everyone,” she said. “It’s happy but sad.”

The graduation was stressful for many seniors, as friends would soon part. Before the ceremony, Kramer stood outside with a handful of tickets looking for family members in a long line of people waiting for doors to open to the auditorium. “I’m very hungry. When I’m stressed out, I get hungry,” she said.

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