Brunswick High School Class of 2021 at the graduation ceremony on Friday. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

“I never want to hear the words Google Classroom, asynchronous learning or Zoom University ever again,” said Brunswick High School valedictorian Luke Cheseldine during a speech in front of 157 of his classmates during Friday’s graduation ceremony.

Shortly after, Cheseldine, along with the other members of Brunswick High School’s Class of 2021, walked across the stage in Bowdoin College’s Watson Arena with a fresh diploma in hand.

Despite the school color-themed orange masks, the graduation and return of the ceremony to the Watson Arena signified another step toward normalcy for the graduating class, as the impacts and restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic begin to subside.

“Simply put, no class before yours – or after – will have had the experiences you have had in just the past 15 months,” said Superintendent Phil Potenziano in his commencement speech. “As you go forward, no matter what you choose to do next, go with the confidence that comes with your experiences this year, and the voice you’ve developed along the way.”

Others who spoke at the ceremony included Brunswick High School Principal Troy Henninger and salutatorian and school board student liaison Tyler Patterson.

“Their success and perseverance, through a global pandemic is an achievement few other classes in our high school and nation’s history can attest; they are resilient,” said Henninger.

Since March of 2020, Brunswick schools have operated through either a remote or hybrid-model in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. In late April of 2021, schools increased in-person learning from two to four-days a week. Following state guidance, Potenziano told the Brunswick School Board on Wednesday that the departments pre-COVID schedule will resume next year and in-person learning will take place five-days-a-week.

Students interviewed before the ceremony expressed gratitude and excitement about taking the next step in life.

“No better feeling — it’s just the stuff we’ve been waiting for since the day we stepped in school,” said graduate Evan Kilfoil. “Pretty much speechless, really, it seems surreal.”

Kilfoil said he will be attending University of Maine at Orono, with plans to study business and play basketball.

“For sure it was, you know, hard — hard to stay motivated because you’re not in front of a teacher, not with your classmates having a good time,” Kilfoil said about the impacts of COVID-19 on the school year.

Graduate Lia Rand, who played tennis at Brunswick High School and will be attending Quinnipiac University to study pre-law, said that she was excited to graduate, and that the moment was surreal. “It hasn’t quite hit yet.”

“Remote learning made it really difficult to learn,” Rand said. “Overall, I think our administrators and teachers did a really good job and did the best they could in these situations.”

Graduate Tyler Andresen, who will be attending University of Maine at Orono in the fall to study engineering, said the class of 2021 will be remembered for its motivation and positivity.

“Its been a fantastic ride, all the ups and downs, it was all worth it,” Andresen said. “I feel bittersweet, I made a lot of good friends and it’ll be kinda sad to not see many of them again but I’ll make more along the way.”

Graduate Victoria Pulver, who will be studying art at University of Maine at Augusta, said also that graduating was bittersweet, but she feels accomplished. Pulver said that her class will be remembered for being strong and fighting through “something so strange.”

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