The Freeport High School Class of 2020 marches down Main Steet on Tuesday.

FREEPORT — The Freeport High School class of 2020 began their senior year with the devastating loss of classmate Steel Crawford and finished it in the thick of a global health crisis that upended daily life and took away many senior rites of passage. 

But these losses have only made the senior class more resilient, stronger, and close-knit, Class President Maggie Riendeau told her classmates. 

“The path we walked was rocky, full of twists and turns, but it is because of this journey that we are a stronger and closer community… As close as six feet allows us to be,” she said. The class is shaped by their collective losses and heartbreaks, she told them, but they are not defined by it.

About 130 graduates and their families gathered at the Saco Drive-In Movie Theater on Monday to watch a graduation “movie” of pre-recorded speeches and ceremonies before receiving their diplomas. Superintendent Becky Foley called it “one of the most unique” graduations she has ever attended. 

The drive-in graduation deviated from the school’s usual celebration at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium, necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic and the state’s restrictions on gatherings of more than 50 people. The graduation was followed by a parade of students who marched in caps, gowns and masks down Main Street in Freeport on Tuesday.

Freeport High School graduate Rhea Fitzpatrick addresses students and families in a video celebrating the 2020 graduation. Courtesy photo

In a multi-media speech involving a dystopian propaganda-style video, a TikTok Dance and interactive element (honk for teachers, flash high beams for staff, right blinker for sports teams, etc.), senior Rhea Fitzpatrick congratulated her fellow graduates for navigating such a challenging year, calling it one of the “biggest tests of character we have collectively faced in our lives.”


Life will continue to be difficult, she said, but the students and their community will be there for one another. 

After her speech appeared to have ended, Fitzpatrick came back on camera and said it had been a few weeks since she originally recorded her remarks, but she felt compelled to address another pandemic, one “more subtle, more insidious” than coronavirus, and one that has been around for much longer. It can be called many names, she said, such as hatred, injustice, fear or racism. 

The death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis last month, has ignited outrage and protests across the country, with protesters demanding an end to police brutality. 

“When any human being doesn’t feel safe leaving their home, that is a national health crisis,” Fitzpatrick said.

Young people entering the world of adulthood have a moral obligation and “duty to fight this disease,” she said. “We are kind to one another. We listen to one another and we stand up for what is right” and it will be this generation that makes the change the country needs, she added. 

Tim Grivois, the student-selected faculty speaker, said he initially turned down the opportunity to speak, thinking he had nothing in particular to say about the class of 2020. But then the pandemic hit, he started working from home and watched as students mobilized to stay connected with one another, check in on each other and members of the community and create ways to process the changes in their lives. 

The students reminded him “what it means to be a community,” he said. 

“I didn’t think I had anything to say about you, but now I have everything to say about you… You are going to be the generation that builds us back up,” Grivois said.

Comments are not available on this story.