CAPE ELIZABETH – A lone, gray cloud hanging over Fort Williams Park on Sunday was the only dark spot in a joyous day as Cape Elizabeth High School students received their diplomas.

The 136-student class, which was filled with graduates headed off to top-tier colleges and universities, the work force and the military, was described by staff and peers as studious, gracious and filled with strength and determination that continued to impress the staff and administrators throughout the students’ four-year journey at the high school.

“I think I speak for the entire staff when I say I really like you and I’m going to miss you,” Jeffrey Shedd, Cape Elizabeth High School principal, said in his opening comments to the class.

Shedd said he tried to think of a way to conjure up exactly what made the class so likeable and in the end, their likeability was summed up when the seniors chose a lunch lady, Eliza Juliano, as their featured speaker at senior night.

“You took the time to see her, to say please and thank you, and to stop and recognize the strength she has that you can learn from,” Shedd said.

The graduating class was marked by many talented students, but each speech given, by both students and faculty members, was marked with thanks to the friends and family that had helped the class get to this milestone.

Individually, Shedd said, the class was filled with diversely talented students, but they were able to help one another along and grow as a student body. The first of many speeches to highlight the strengths of others, Shedd said he hoped his former pupils, like Doug Sewall, a licensed pilot, Madeline Gears, a “4-H rock star” and Austin Petsinger, a woodworking genius, would return to visit and continue to teach others with their incredible talents.

Other student speakers highlighted their peers accomplishments, as well. Seth Dobieski, in his class address, highlighted athletes like Lauren Steidl and Talley Perkins for making social sacrifices in order to keep their grades up and achieve success on the field. Chelsey Whynot read a poem, which highlighted many of her favorite memories and outstanding achievements by her peers like musician Ryan Allmendinger and dance-off champion Dave Brewington.

Winthrop Phillips, an English teacher at the high school, did not give any names, but he did tell a story that highlighted how far the students had come in their four years at the school.

“There was a certain group of boys jumping around like monkeys, and I asked them what they were doing. Rachel Matusko [a graduating senior] looked at me and said, ‘They’re freshmen boys, that’s what they do,’” said Phillips. “They’ve grown up to be a great group of young men and women.”

Phillips went on to say that the students worked very hard throughout their high school careers, sometimes a bit too hard, focusing on the grades. But, he said, he never felt like teaching was lost on the group of students, who had obtained lofty goals in their young lives.

The ceremony ran a bit longer than in past years because of the numerous awards given to the “extraordinary class.”

“We only have a few more left; we normally don’t give out this many,” said Shedds.

Many of the awards were given to students who had found extraordinary strength during their high school careers, both mentally and physically.

Piper Otterbein was awarded a citizenship award in determination and achievement for overcoming her dyslexia and channeling her frustration into creative pieces of art. Alissa Mitchell was also awarded a determination and achievement award, for putting on a brave smile every day, despite a physical condition that gives her severe pain. Aaron Parker was also recognized, for starting college at the University of Southern Maine, while still in high school, despite being non-verbal.

Each speech, award and song was met with resounding applause from the student body.

“We stuck together. It’s a family. We share the best memories, and as part of the [lacrosse] team, we have a strong commitment to each other,” said Adam Haversat, 18, who said he wasn’t quite sure what his best strength was as an individual, but as a class, sticking together through it all really made him appreciate the friends he had made. Haversat is heading to Plymouth State University in the fall.

Madelaine Riker is heading to the University of Pennsylvania, thanks to her strong work ethic. But, she said, it was thanks to her parents, teachers and friends to get her through the late nights and long study sessions.

Many of the graduating seniors said they couldn’t believe it was the end of their high school career.

“Time flies,” said James Hewes, 18, who is headed to the University of Maine in Orono next year. “It seems like just yesterday we were at our eighth-grade graduation.”

The inaugural Cape Elizabeth Education Education Foundation Alumni Award was presented to Cape’s – and probably Maine’s – most famous high school graduate, Olympic gold medal marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson, class of 1976. Photo by Rich Obrey

Class Marshals Daniel Brett and Katherine Miklavic lead the Cape Elizabeth High School class of 2013 through the crowd of families and friends at Fort Williams to the ceremony. Photo by Rich Obrey

Class Marshals Daniel Brett and Katherine Miklavic lead the Cape Elizabeth High School class of 2013 through the crowd of families and friends at Fort Williams to the ceremony. Photo by Rich Obrey

Fort Williams on a sunny spring Sunday is a beautiful venue for a high school graduation. And getting there provides a good test of Grandma’s agility.
Class Marshal Katherine Miklavic leads the female members of the Class of 2013 through Ft. Williams to the ceremony.
CEHS Principal Jeffrey Shedd brings the female members of the Class of 2013 through Ft. Williams to the ceremony.
Olympic gold medal marathoner Joan Benoit Samuelson
CEHS English teacher Winthrop Phillips set the tone for his entertaining and inspirational faculty address by applying sunscreen to his pate after taking the podium and removing his cowboy hat.
Max Barber was one of several students honored during the commencement ceremony with an Excellence Award.

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