Graduating Thornton Academy seniors prepare to enter Hill Stadium on Sunday. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

SACO — Thornton Academy’s graduating Class of 2019 were encouraged to find their passion, take risks and pause for a moment to see what the great outdoors can teach us.

Three hundred and eighty students graduated Sunday at a commencement ceremony held at Hill Stadium in Saco.

Faculty speaker and science teacher Josh Delcourt told graduates that many lessons can be learned from the natural world. These lessons can be easy to miss in today’s busy world, in which people are frequently glued to their phone or other electronic device.

“Honestly, the Maine woods are full of subtle messages if you take a moment to notice them,” said Delcourt. “As a teacher and student, I’ve always felt that the forest is the ultimate classroom.”

People can learn a lot from the state tree, the eastern white pine, he said. The white pine has evolved to grow slowly in the undergrowth of the forest for years, waiting for its opportunity to be bathed in direct sunlight and take its place in the upper canopy of the forest, he said.

“These pines are classic examples of those whose path to the sun was slow and steady,” he said. “If those pines could speak, their advice to our graduates may be to work hard and stay patient, but when your opening comes, seize the opportunity.

Class Valedictorian Mary Halle said that every student graduating will take a different path after high school; some will got to college, others a vocational training program and others will dive straight into the workforce after graduation. She told her fellow students to remember they all had something unique to offer the world and they should pursue their passion as they take the journey to adulthood.

She demonstrated this by talking about her two grandfathers. One left school in ninth grade to help run his family’s lumber yard, and in his lifetime has operated numerous successful businesses. Her other grandfather went to college and law school and became a successful attorney.

Thornton Academy graduates march to their seats at Sunday’s commencement ceremony, held at Hill Stadium. LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

“Each of my grandfathers have had drastically different paths, but both have enjoyed personal success by following their passions,” Halle said.

Class Speaker Natalie Ben-Ami encouraged her peers to take risks. Ben-Ami said she had wanted to try out for a part in a school play since she was a freshman, but didn’t do it until she was a senior because she was too nervous. She said she finally got the courage to try out as a senior because she knew she’d be upset with herself if she graduated school having never tried out.

She spoke of the nerve wracking experience of trying out and waiting to see if she was chosen. Ben-Ami got a part, and it took a lot of hard work, but she and her peers successfully put on a production and working through the frustrations and stress paid off.

“Live outside the box. Live for change and challenge yourself,” Ben-Ami said.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be reached at 780-9015 or by email at [email protected]

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