Gorham High School graduates were urged Sunday to do what they love and be thankful.

“Passion is always contagious,” valedictorian Emily Mason-Osann told her fellow students during commencement ceremonies Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, where 186 seniors received diplomas from Principal John Drisko. “Do what you love with passion and gusto,” Mason-Osann exhorted.

She urged her classmates to be good examples. “I challenge you all to teach people something by the way you live,” Mason-Osann said.

She told her classmates to evaluate themselves and to be aware of changing problems and situations. Be open to new solutions, she said.

Kelsey Wilson, salutatorian, thanked parents, siblings, relatives, teachers and administrators. “Two of the most meaningful words are ‘thank you,'” Wilson said. “Do not forget to thank the people who got you here.”

Faculty speaker Kenneth Templeton led the class in a group thank you and also encouraged the graduates to “do what you do” with love. “It’s not just about you,” Templeton said, “It’s about sharing your passion, sharing your love.”

“Our time has come and I know we are ready,” said James LaMontagne, class president, in his speech.

After the ceremonies, Craig Belhumeur described graduation as “very big” for his family. His aunt and uncle traveled from Massachusetts and grandparents from Rhode Island for the exercises.

Belhumeur has been accepted at Providence College in Rhode Island. After writing a letter to a coach, Belhumeur has already been named a manager of the basketball team. “I’ve been a longtime Friar fan,” Belhumeur said.

Gorham senior Lelyned Bowley has joined the Navy. He’ll leave July 12 for boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill. He joined for four years to continue his education and see the world, “I’m very excited,” Bowley said.

Bowley has been accepted for an 11-week Navy “A” school after basic training and he wants to be a machinist mate on a surface ship. “Going right into the world – no buffer,” Bowley said.

The military follows high school for Joe Martin, too. Martin has enlisted in the Coast Guard and leaves in October for basic training in Cape May, N.J.

“It’s just another step,” Martin said about graduation. “I’m excited and looking forward to my future.”

Gorham graduates will miss family and friends but are looking forward to new challenges. “It’s kind of bittersweet,” Belhumeur said.

That echoed the feelings of other classmates. “It’s finally over. It’s a big relief,” said Ora Freeman.

“The last day of school I cried,” said Freeman, who plans on furthering her education. “I’ll miss my friends.”

Leaving friends and high school behind isn’t easy. “It’s bittersweet,” Bowley also said. “It’s the end of something.”

Like the others, Brietta Hopkins said she would miss friends and teachers. “I’m definitely excited to go on to college,” said Hopkins, who has been accepted at the University of Southern Maine.

Graduation was emotional for families of graduates, too. “Nearly all the mothers have been crying,” LaMontagne said.

Two graduates marked the occasion in a special way. Harmony Ray and Megan Douglass decorated tops of their graduation caps with their names, the class year and artwork.

In concluding the ceremony, the seniors sang their class song, “Here’s to the Night.” Then, LaMontagne led the class in switching tassels to the right side of caps before they marched off the stage.

Before the exercises, Drisko praised the character of this year’s class.

“They’re a great group of young people,” Drisko said.

Cutline (Gor graduation 12) – Valedictorian Emily Mason- Osann of Gorham High School speaks at graduation exercises Sunday while Kaci Gallant and Lee Bowley listen.Cutline (Gor graduation 16) ?Gorham seniors file past Principal John Drisko in graduation exercises on Sunday. Cutline (Gor graduation 17) – Gorham seniors sing their class song. From the left are Jessica Ernest, Katie Vanderburgh, Kelsey Wilson, Sally Patterson, Emily Mason-Osann, Mariel Roy, Andrew Wojtal and Jessie Hawkes. Cutline (Gor graduation 19) ? Gorham High School graduates Emily Mason-Osann, valedictorian, and Mariel Roy were among 186 seniors receiving diplomas Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland. Cutline (Gor graduation 7) ? Gorham seniors Harmony Ray, left, and Megan Douglass rejoice before graduation exercises Sunday at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.

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