PORTLAND — Excitement was in the air at the Cumberland County Civic Center Friday evening, as family and friends gathered to watch the graduates of the Bonny Eagle High School Class of 2014 receive their diplomas.

Just like the millions of graduates who have come before them, the beginning of the next step of their lives’ journeys is filled with equal parts of excitement and trepidation.

“It’s bittersweet,” said graduate Katelyn LaBreck. “I saw my brother graduate a couple of years ago. Now, it’s finally my turn.”

Like their counterparts elsewhere, the Bonny Eagle graduates are anxious for their lives as adults to begin.

“I’m looking forward to being able to be free and do what I want,” said Maria Strumph.

There are many things they will miss about high school, say the graduates of Bonny Eagle High School, friends most of all.

The hardest part of leaving school, said Danielle Marshall, “is seeing my friends going out of state for college.”

But while there is a lot to miss, there is also much to anticipate.

In the short term, said Alexander Blake, he was looking forward to Project Graduation, a get-together for graduates that took place immediately following the ceremony, as well as the many parties that will take place through most of June.

“I’m looking forward to welding,” said Kyle Libby, who learned the skill in high school and has a job waiting for him. He said he’s also anxious to “make some money.”

While some graduates, like Libby, they will begin their careers immediately after graduation, others will join the military or pursue further education.

Caleb Bickford plans to do both: He’s going to work right after graduation, but after working for a while he plans to sign up for the Navy to become a diver.

LaBreck said she already signed up for the Navy, for a five-year stint. She hopes to become a doctor, but said she “didn’t want to pay for school.”

Through the GI Bill, a large part of her schooling will be paid for, she said.

Graduate Ashleigh Vickery said she plans to study zoology at Unity College and eventually work in a zoo, while Victoria Cady wants to return to the classroom and will study secondary education at Boston College. Mackenzie Andrews will study nursing at St. Joseph’s College.

During graduation speeches each year, many of the themes of featured speakers are the same: Believe in yourself, follow your dreams, make the most of your life. And although the messages may be the unchanging year after year, rather than being tired and clichéd, the words are life-affirming as they are used to guide generation after generation to continue onward and make the world a better place.

This year, Bonny Eagle Principal Paul Penna used the story of “The Wizard of Oz” as a metaphor for the graduates going out into the world.

He said they are each the lion in the story who is looking for courage.

“Have the courage to believe in yourself,” he said. “When traveling down your own yellow brick road on your journey over the rainbow and the sky turns gray, click your heels, dream in Technicolor and believe and remember there’s no place like home.”

In her humorous message to her fellow graduates, Class President Hannah Ketch said while many of her peers complain they didn’t learn much in school, she said she learned many things at Bonny Eagle like “repeating a joke doesn’t make it any funnier ”¦ don’t drink water from the water fountain because sometimes it’s yellow” and that “ladies are not pants,” according to one of her teachers.

On a more serious note, said Ketch, she learned things like time management, discipline and the importance of hard work.

In addressing the graduating class, she said, through school “You all became great people who will go out into the world and do great things.”

She talked to them about young fictional characters who did great things, like young wizard Harry Porter who at the age of 17 defeated the powerful wizard Voldemort, and Daenerys Targaryen from “The Game of Thrones” who at the age of 13 had her own army and three dragons.

Although these fictional exploits are unrealistic dreams for most high school graduates, said Ketch, many of her classmates “have already done great things,” like members of the football and cross country teams that won state championships and those who will enter the military after graduation.

In closing, she quoted words from a rap song by Drake, and expressed what is probably the most universal sentiment her peers were feeling on graduation night:

“We made it,” said Ketch.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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