Massabesic Class President Syeira New, front, and Class Secretary Ivalani Callahan lead Massabesic High School’s Class of 2019 to their seats at the start of Thursday’s graduation ceremony at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. (Anthony Lombardi/Journal Tribune)

PORTLAND – As one chapter ends, another begins.

Two hundred and one graduating seniors celebrated years’ worth of commitment, stress and good memories Thursday night as Massabesic High School’s Class of 2019 held its commencement ceremony at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“I’ve never been more proud of anything then I am to be a part of this class,” said Class President Syeira New. “Word on the street is our generation is going to change the world … I’ve spent these four years listening and learning about each and every one of you, and I believe there’s no one better to whip this planet into shape.”

Massabesic graduating senior Noah Perry shares a quick smile with family and friends in the audience toward the start of Massabesic High School’s graduation ceremony for the Class of 2019. (Anthony Lombardi/Journal Tribune)

As a group, Massabesic’s graduating seniors logged more than 12,670 hours – or about a year and a half’s worth of time – of community service. The graduates were accepted into 75 different secondary institutions and several members of the class will serve their country in the armed forces. 

Massabesic High Principal James Hand told the graduates that he’s enjoyed spending the last four years getting to know them, and he looks forward to hearing about their future endeavors. Hand recalled recent incidents, including the class’ trip to Six Flags and being attacked with water balloons by four students in the school hallway just last week, as reasons why he’s adored his time with the Class of 2019.

“It’s not only bittersweet for me, but you can see it’s bittersweet for them, too,” said Hand prior to the ceremony. “It’s their last moments so they’re kind of taking it all in. It gets pretty emotional.”

Crystal Goodwin, who was in attendance to see her daughter, Marissa Goodwin, receive her diploma, couldn’t believe how fast time flies. Even though she’ll miss her daughter when she’s studying elementary education at the University of Maine Farmington, Crystal Goodwin is “ecstatic” for what her child has accomplished.

“It means that she’s moving forward in life and making something of herself,” she said. “She’s heading to a bright future.”

Hailey Champagne, who attended seven schools during her academic career, found out Wednesday night that she’d been selected as one of the recipients for the prestigious Mitchell Institute Scholarship. The $10,000 award will help with Champagne’s tuition at the University of Southern Maine where she’ll be in the Honors Program as she majors in human biology on her journey to one day becoming a speech pathologist.

“Moving high schools is difficult, but I’m surrounded by such positive people here,” Champagne said. “Everyone here (at Massabesic) is so positive, and I’ve made great friends who I’ll have the rest of my life. This is just a start. I’m honestly really excited – I made my family proud.”

Graduate Katie Castle also made her family proud by the perseverance she’s shown in life. At 7 years old, Katie Castle almost died from meningitis, said her mother, Sarah Castle. Next year, Katie Castle heads to Simmons University where she’ll compete in swimming and lacrosse.

“She’s a fighter,” Sarah Castle said. “For her to be alive and to grow into this beautiful, young woman that we’re so proud of is great. We love her.”  

One of the biggest laughs of the evening came during the speech of longtime history teacher Kevin Poulin who gave the graduates some invaluable advice.

“Regardless of the robe that you wear, wear it well. Wear it with pride,” said Poulin, who was chosen by the Class of 2019 to be their honored faculty speaker. “Be sure it represents who you truly are and want to be. Don’t try to wear someone else’s robe or a robe that someone else wants you to wear. And, for God’s sake, even though a bathrobe is the most comfortable of all robes, at some point you need to get out of it.”

Massabesic graduating senior Ivalani Callahan applauds her classmates during  Thursday’s commencement ceremony at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. (Anthony Lombardi/Journal Tribune)

Class Secretary Ivalani Callahan coaxed a few chuckles from the crowd with her “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Massabesic” speech that included some helpful tips on how to survive high school as a Mustang: Don’t use the lockers because you won’t be able to fit anything in them anyway, don’t forget to bring a jacket for the commute in between the school’s class buildings and don’t use the small stall in the women’s bathroom near the student parking lot because you might get stuck. 

Callahan also tallied up the number of chicken burgers – more than 700 – she had for lunch during her time at Massabesic High much to the audience’s amusement. It wasn’t just all jokes from Callahan, who was honored during the ceremony with the Faculty Cup Award that’s given to the student who best showcased the qualities of leadership, citizenship and dedication throughout their high school career. She ended her speech with a heartfelt and thoughtful statement to her classmates.

“I hope you continue to find humor in every situation,” said Callahan, who’s attending the University of Maine to study nursing. “I hope you continue to be kind to one another … I hope that you find something to pursue in life with passion … I hope that we are able to radiate confidence and beauty … and I hope that we continue to strive for greatness.”

New, who also served as the class’ honorary valedictorian, made sure the students weren’t the only ones who received recognition on the evening. The track-and-field star, who won the state championship running the 300-meter hurdles in 45.50 in addition to multiple personal and team Massabesic High records, turned to the school’s staff and shared some of the lessons her teachers taught her and her classmates during their time as Mustangs.

“I’m not sure if you all experienced the same thing that I did, but, for me, I didn’t really know who I was (as a freshman),” New said. “You taught us how to voice an opinion, when to stand up, when to back down and, most importantly, how to stick together.”


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