Portland High School handed diplomas to 191 Class of 2016 graduates Wednesday morning at Merrill Auditorium – the school’s 195th commencement.

The ceremony included remarks by Interim Portland Superintendent Jeanne Crocker, live music performed by students, the presentation of awards and diplomas and addresses by students.

Valedictorian Chessa Hoekstra told her classmates that their experiences at PHS – from personal connections to the state basketball championship in February – form “a mosaic” of moments that will stay with them all their lives. “This time defines us now and will shape who we become in the future,” she said.

Hoekstra said the school’s diversity also is a vital part of the mosaic. Students at Portland High have come more than 40 countries and speak more than 20 languages. The school for the first time provided simultaneous translation of its commencement in the most common languages spoken by students’ families to those who requested it.

Salutatorian Brad Ravenelle urged students to “not get lost in the pursuit of glory but rather seek to be remembered as the best of men and the best of women.”

Ahmed Mohamed recited a poem about lifelong learning titled, “Always Be A Student.” He also quoted a Somali saying, which he translated into English as, “Where there is no knowledge, there is no life.”

The awards given to graduates included the prestigious Brown Memorial Medal. The silver medal was established in the 1800s by Portland businessman J.B. Brown to honor his son, and 10 of the medals are awarded at graduation, five to outstanding female students and five to outstanding male students. This year’s winners were Chessa Hoekstra, Brad Ravenelle, Hannah Eglinton, Nicholas Stasium, Merritt Ryan, Benjamin Freedman, Bailey Ruesch, Ryan Donaldson, Cecelia Botting and Jonah Bradenday.

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