SOUTH PORTLAND – “Everywhere I look, I see construction,” said Jackson Beck, valedictorian of South Portland High School’s class of 2013, as he took the mic to deliver his address during graduation ceremonies Sunday, held under bright skies on George Martin Memorial Field.

From his vantage point, a half-finished high school loomed over Beck and his 193 classmates, and he ticked off evidence of the $47.3 million renovation project, from the halls and stairwells, to the parking lot and grounds.

“I see all this and I think of how the school I visit down the road will look very different from the school we shared the last four years, and sometimes it’s unsettling,” he said. “We associate so many memories with the building – the good, the bad, the ugly.”

Beck recounted some of those memories, in the classroom and on the athletic field, from the rush of new discoveries to the dread of scrambling to turn an assignment in on time – experiences shared by all high school students everywhere, and yet somehow unique to this time, and this place for this one group of graduates.

“All this leads me to believe that old building or new building, any future at this school, will feel very different without the people who made our high school experience what it was, and that’s all that really matters,” said Beck. “When we graduate, we don’t say goodbye to a building, we say goodbye to each other.”

And, Beck noted, construction for him and his peers will continue, in their hearts and in their minds, for the rest of their lives, each person an unfinished project, always in motion.

“As we do so, we may begin to distance ourselves from the things that made the last several years particularly worthwhile,” he said. “We shouldn’t. Make every effort to hold on to the people, memories and lessons that mean something to you right now.”

That may not so hard as it seems to students at the doorstep of a new phase in their lives, at least according to the advisers whose job it was to help shepherd the class of 2013 to graduation day.

“I feel like each class is special in their own way,” said class adviser Hope MacVane, who teaches chemistry. “What’s special for me is watching them grow over the four years and they seem to have really grown together in that time.”

“I think that they are all really good friends. They seem united,” agreed MacVanes’ fellow adviser, photography teacher Nela Alvarez.

Still, a new chapter does beckon.

Beck has been accepted to Yale University and leads a class in which 118 of the graduating seniors, 61 percent, are moving on to a four-year college. According to high school career assistant Julie King, another 56 graduates plan to enroll in a two-year college, Southern Maine Community College being the predominate choice, while eight expect to transition directly into the workforce. Another eight have “other” plans, or else remained undecided at the time of the annual senior survey, while none have enlisted in the military, she said.

“This is one of the three best days of the year for me as school board chair,” said Rick Carter. “The opening day, the retirement for the teachers and graduation represents the beginning of the journey.”

The end of the journey was particularly meaningful for Carter’s fellow board member Sara Goldberg. In one the perks of board membership, Goldberg got to step in for Principal Jim Holland and present a diploma to her daughter, Ruby, who is torn between post-secondary in early childhood education at Southern Maine Community College and pursuing a path at Kaplan University preparatory to becoming a paralegal.

“This is huge, it’s a very emotional day,” said Goldberg. “I’ve known most of the kids in this class since they were babies, so this is pretty special to me.”

Asked what makes the class of 2013 stand out, Goldberg said, “They seem really motivated as a group to being green and doing a lot for the environment. They’re really techno-innovated. They are really smart with their technology. It really amazes me how much they know how to do.

“I expect to see a president or something come out of this class,” said Goldberg. “There a quite a few who are really, really talented. But then, really, every kid in here is remarkable.”

In her speech, honor essayist Keirstan Field recounted the stress she felt trying to balance her responsibilities to others, from school, to work, to friends and family. Touching on Goldberg’s expectation of great things, and Beck’s admonishing that there will always be construction in their lives, Field cautioned here classmates to never lose sight of what matters most.

Recalling words of wisdom from her stepfather this past year, which she said was the best advice she’s ever received, and which she will hold with her every day going forward, Field said: “What matters most is not whether you fulfill the expectations others hold for you, but whether you fulfill your own expectations you hold for yourself.”

The South Portland High School class of 2013 celebrates the end of commencement ceremonies, and their high school careers, Sunday on George Martin Memorial Field. Staff photos by Duke Harrington

Honor essayist Keirstan Field delivers an address entitled “What Matters Most” during graduation ceremonies for the South Portland High School class of 2013 on Sunday. Staff photo by Duke Harrington
Class President Ryan Ely, left, and valedictorian Jackson Beck lead the South Portland High School class of 2013 onto George Martin Memorial Field for commencement ceremonies June 9. Staff photo by Duke Harrington
Class President Ryan Ely
Robert Jordan gets a hearty handshake from Rick Carter, chairman of the School Board, moments after collecting his diploma during commencement exercises for the South Portland High School class of 2013 on George Martin Memorial Field. Staff photo by Duke Harrington

With Superintendent Suzanne Godin looking on, Zoe Trout gets a congratulatory handshake from Rick Carter, chairman of the School Board, moments after collecting her diploma during commencement exercises for the South Portland High School class of 2013 Sunday on George Martin Memorial Field. Staff photo by Duke Harrington
Class marches inJackson Beck, valedictorian of the South Portland High School class of 2013

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