More than 200 Portland High School students received their diplomas Wednesday morning during a ceremony in which students were reminded to emulate their role models.

The commencement was among the first of more than 100 high school graduation ceremonies to be held across the state this month.

“As we graduate today from Portland High School and begin to scatter ourselves across the world, one bit of advice for us to follow is this: Start thinking like the person whom you trust and respect,” Monica Reno, the class salutatorian, told classmates, teachers and parents in a packed Merrill Auditorium at City Hall.

“When we make decisions we should think about our role models and consider if they would agree with us,” said Reno, who is enrolled at Wellesley College in Massachusetts for the fall. “If we continue to emulate those who inspire us most … we might develop similar characteristics within ourselves and perhaps serve as role models to others.”

Outfitted in blue and white robes, the members of Portland High’s 193rd graduating class performed popular songs and walked across the stage to accept their diplomas.

Valedictorian Annette Denekas spoke to the class about embracing the unknown as the students head out into the great “frontier.”

“History suggests that future crises and troubles inevitably and unfortunately await us,” Denekas said. “However, triumph is also possible if we are prepared as leaders and we can challenge those frontiers together.

“I have no doubt that everyone on this stage has exactly what it takes,” said Denekas, who will attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

Class vice president Paul Foster gave the keynote address in place of president Charlie Gauvin, who was barred from speaking at the ceremony.

Last week, Gauvin posted a message on a private senior class Facebook page to discourage drinking and driving during “senior skip day.” School administrators objected to parts of his post and canceled his speech. The decision upset some students, and some of them stood and cheered for Gauvin when he accepted his diploma Wednesday.

Deering and Casco Bay high schools will hold their ceremonies Thursday.

Chelsea Diana can be contacted at 791-6337 or at:

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