The new Westbrook High School graduates are urged to surround themselves “with people who are going to be there for you.”

The Westbrook High School class of 2015 was remembered as a group that “stuck together” through everything.

In front of hundreds of family and friends Saturday, June 6, the group of 130 students sat together on the Merrill Auditorium stage one last time before receiving their diplomas.

Just before 6 p.m., when the processional to “Pomp and Circumstance” began, class marshal Everett Prairie looked nervous but proud as he waited for the go-ahead.

After the students sat on stage, Gabriella Latini, the senior class president, welcomed families to the ceremony. Latini said that while students have been counting the days toward graduation, she is now also sad that it has arrived.

“It means leaving friends that inspired us, and teachers who have been our mentors,” she said. “Tonight, take everything in, because this is the last time we will ever be gathered together in one place as the class of 2015.”

Latini and fellow classmate Olivia Esty also paired to sing the national anthem, which was met with loud applause.

Jim Violette, the president of the Westbrook School Committee, offered advice for the graduating class, which also included his son, Greg, the salutatorian.

Violette also mentioned the recent shooting death of Trey Arsenault, who graduated from Westbrook High School last year. He praised Derek Breunig, a member of this year’s graduating class, who helped raise money for Arsenault’s family.

“You helped a family and community come together during this tragic event,” he said.

Violette urged students to continue to learn, take advantage of opportunities, and volunteer after high school. He also encouraged the graduates to listen before arriving at an answer or decision.

“You don’t have to have all the answers,” he said. “Listen to your peers, your teachers, and your parents.”

He went on to tell students to trust in their support system of family and friends.

“Your journey begins tomorrow, and always remember, your friends will be there for you, your teachers will be there to help you continue to learn, and your family will be there to support you no matter what happens,” he said.

Honor Essayist Emily Thornton reminded her fellow students of how much time they have spent in school over the past 13 years, but now have the opportunity to make their own life decisions.

“What will you do to make your life more fulfilling,” she asked.

Greg Violette said each student has experiences in school, both good and bad, that “make us who we are.”

Violette gave a “Top 10” list of lessons he’s learned while in school. These included, “Always take the time to thank people who help along the way,” “surround yourself with people who are going to be there for you,” and “remember your roots – the blue blaze is an eternal fire that will burn inside of us no matter where we go or what we do. As a community, we’ve always come together during good times and bad times.”

Cassadie Gallant, valedictorian, told her fellow students that she is proud of how their class interacted. She said that as the smallest class in the high school, students could get to know one another.

“We supported each other in ways I didn’t see other classes doing,” she said. “We were always there for one another, and I hope that’s something that will continue for the rest of our lives.”

Gallant said graduation day is filled with mixed emotions.

“Goodbyes are here now, but hellos are right around the corner,” she said.

Westbrook High School Principal Jon Ross closed the speeches by also giving some advice to the graduating class. It was the fourth graduation Ross has seen as principal, and he thanked the staff members at Westbrook High School for their role.

“I see you every day, side by side with our students. You mentor, support, and challenge,” he said.

To students, Ross said to “use social media in a responsible way.”

“If your grandmother wouldn’t approve of it, don’t put it out there,” he said to laughter.

He also told students to make their own path, and in his final piece of advice said, “Don’t let the big world out there change your positive and warm outlook.”

Westbrook High School new graduate Hannah Harmon raises her cap to the air in an effort to say “We did it!”Class Marshal Kaitlynn Hutchins gets ready to lead her fellow classmates into Merrill Auditorium for Westbrook High School’s graduation ceremony. She says she is excited to start classes in the fall in the goal of becoming a teacher.Friends, family and fellow Westbrook High School graduates wait for everyone to exit Merrill Auditorium Saturday to begin the celebrations.Westbrook High School students are eager to hear their name called and get their diplomas as a symbol of all the hard work they have done over the past four years.Gregory Violette, salutatorian, reminds classmates to “do good stuff” during his Westbrook High School graduation speech.Photos by Heather BartlettNew Westbrook High School graduates Hanna Harmon and Abigail Jensen have been friends for years and can’t wait to see where life will take them.Westbrook High School students Olivia Esty and Gabriella Latini lead everyone in “The Star-Spangled Banner.”The Westbrook High School senior class gets people moving in their seats with their performance of “Back Home” on Saturday during graduation ceremonies at Merrill Auditorium in Portland.Photo by Heather Bartlett

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