WELLS — On a beautiful, breezy afternoon at Warrior Field, 107 seniors became graduates of Wells High School, members of the Class of 2014.

To kick off the commencement exercises, Wells Police Chief Jo-Ann Putnam, standing in for Town Manager Jon Carter, presented a special acknowledgment to Principal Jim Daly, noting the school’s achievements and high accolades.

A surprise to Daly, Putnam said the school was being congratulated by the town and board of selectmen due to its stellar reputation: ranking sixth among high schools in Maine and earning an “A” grade on the state Department of Education’s recent assessment.

In accepting the acknowledgment, Daly said it could not have been done without the support of parents, faculty and the students themselves.

“I’m very proud of this school,” Daly said.

For his speech, Daly said the process of writing it is always a challenge, but this year, he was inspired by the many veterans sharing their stories about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, as 2014 is the 70th anniversary.

One story, he said, stood out in particular. It was a man who told of arriving on the beach at Normandy and seeing a wave of men in front of him shot down as they exited the watercraft. The man said if he could just get to the bulkhead, he knew he’d be safe. Somehow, he made it, but looking back, he saw many men in the water, and returned to help ”“ putting his own life at risk. It was reported that man saved 30 other soldiers, Daly said.

To the graduates, he said, “My hope for this class is that you have that type of courage.”

Continuing the theme of courage was commencement speaker Julia Clukey, a U.S. Olympian who competed in the luge in 2010 Winter Olympics.

Clukey told the students her own story of believing in herself and following her dreams. At age 17, after training, competing and winning competitive events, Clukey said she had set her sights on a new goal: taking the fourth spot on the national luge team. Her coach was hesitant to agree, but Clukey pushed ahead, training, sticking to a strict diet and maintaining her health. In the end, she surprised even herself by taking the No. 2 spot on the team, she said.

“What I learned, is that how far I go and how big my dreams are is only up to me,” Clukey told the students. “There is absolutely no limit to what you can do.”

She reminded the Class of 2014 that they won’t always succeed ”“ as she knows; Clukey missing qualify for the 2014 Olympic luge team by a 13,000th of a second.

“Life is like the luge, with many peaks and valleys,” she said, adding that they must be willing to take the chances. “Life is short and opportunities are rare. Now is your time to shine.”

Valedictorian Cassidy Healey also shared some of her advice with her classmates during her speech. She spoke about spending many nights and weekends at home studying and putting in that extra effort to get the best grade, sometimes obsessing over the tiny details. All that obsessing likely wasn’t necessary, she said, and looking back, it’s taught her that personal growth is more important than just “growing your GPA.”

They have much time ahead for personal growth, she said, as “the best is truly yet to come.”

— City Editor Robyn Burnham Rousseau can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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