BIDDEFORD — When Student Council President Brooke Bailey took the podium and faced her fellow graduates of Biddeford High School at Waterhouse Field on Sunday, she stood at a threshold.

While excited to seize the reins of adulthood and her own future, she carried with her a weight of memories poignantly culminating in that one moment, as she shielded her eyes from the sun in front of bleachers overflowing with family, friends and well-wishers.

“How do you sit there and write a brief speech for everyone you’ve been in school with for the last 14 years?” said Bailey. “All I can say is, ”˜It’s our time.’ … Just let it sink in that we made it. We made it.”

To be precise, 173 of them made it, and in grand fashion. At the close of ceremonies, graduates tossed their caps in the air amid confetti and dance music, finally able to share the moment with their loved ones.

But first came plenty of reflection ”“ not all of it from the students.

Sunday marked the first BHS graduation for Principal Jeremie Sirois, who took the school’s helm this past fall. Addressing the graduates, Sirois ticked off a litany of the class’s accomplishments, ranging from athletic titles and the restoration of “Tiger pride,” to those that touched him more personally; students, for example, helped him to curb his addiction to Diet Mountain Dew.

“Frankly, I’m gonna miss this class,” Sirois told his graduates. “You’ve made my transition to BHS a seamless one, and welcomed me with open arms. I thank you for that.

“Whatever you chose to do, you did it with grace and class,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to replace you.”

Biology teacher Mandy Cyr was chosen as this year’s guest speaker, and began her time on stage with a nod to a now-common 21st century practice: Turning her back to the audience, Cyr used her cell phone to fire off a couple of “selfies” ”“ quick self-portraits, essentially ”“ of herself with the expanse of graduates seated behind her, smiling and flashing peace signs.

“I don’t know when I’ll have this honor again, so I wanted to preserve that,” said Cyr.

This spring marks 20 years since Cyr herself graduated from high school, and when she was 17, she said, she envisioned a certain life for herself. Eager to “take on the world,” Cyr initially wanted to pursue a career in business and make oodles of money, thinking that course would provide her with the happiness she sought.

“I was pretty ego-centric,” said Cyr. “It was all about me, and only me.”

As she grew older and lived life, her dreams changed. Looking into a sea of young faces, Cyr said that’s OK. Dreams can change; what matters is that the choices we make bring us closer to the life we desire for ourselves, she said.

“Twenty years later, I’ve been able to reflect upon my life,” said Cyr. “I love my job. I love what I do. It makes me happy. Though my life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would … I finally found my happiness. And someday, you will, too.

“Seize this opportunity to find your happiness.”

For graduate Nathan Grapes, happiness means pursuing a career in designing marine technology. But on Sunday, he didn’t allow that dream to distract him from the moment.

“It feels amazing ”“ just the fact that I’m done with school,” said Grapes. “I can go and do whatever I want with my life now.”

Jasmyn Grady was simply grateful to have arrived at the finish line.

“It’s been a struggle,” said Grady, “and I’m finally done.”

Kirsten Daley viewed the day as bittersweet. While she has plans ”“ studying for a year at the University of Maine before moving out West and joining the Peace Corps ”“ she expressed gratitude in her teachers for believing in her.

“There’s a lot of really dedicated people here making sure we’re getting a good education,” said Daley.

In her remarks, salutatorian Amber Mondor admitted that she never really liked high school. But despite that, she said, she wasn’t so much excited to leave as she was to focus on her goals for the rest of her life.

“Take what happens to you and turn it into a positive at this moment in your lives,” she said.

Valedictorian Danica Lamontagne, meanwhile, used the success story of Walt Disney to inspire her classmates, drawing on his initial failures, and perseverance in the face of them, as valuable lessons.

“We’re all different people … (but) most of us have an idea of what we want, and more importantly, what we like,” she said. “I don’t think you can make that influence on the world unless you’re doing what you love.”

Lamontagne called on graduates to “write the happy endings to our own unique stories.”

Senior Class President Ryanne Desjardins struck an optimistic note, expressing confidence in her class’s ability to seize the future.

“Every one of you is unique and beautiful,” she told her classmates. “I have no doubt that your individual dreams will come true.

“It’s been a great ride with you. I can’t wait to see all the places we’ll end up.”

— Staff Writer Jeff Lagasse can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 319 or [email protected]

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