Families gather outside their cars to watch the Freeport High School graduation ceremony at the Saco Drive-In Sunday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

Freeport High School’s 145 seniors celebrated their graduation at the Saco Drive-In theater Sunday, the second consecutive graduation ceremony the school has held at the theater under the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senior Emma Rankins sings an original song as graduates gather before the stage Sunday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

“We never thought we’d have a second graduation at a drive-in movie theater, much less have it with a stage and have it livestreamed so people at home can watch and celebrate with us,” Principal Jen Gulko said during opening remarks to the graduates and their families. “Technology from 1939 and 2021 coming together to make this night even more unique than ever.”

Though the COVID-19 pandemic was on the forefront of everyone’s minds Sunday night, students and faculty alike commended the newfound maturity the graduates possess — a hard-earned by-product of the pandemic.

“Our senior slogan states: ‘While some have a story, we have history,” said class president Jane Dawson. “I would argue that despite the hardships and isolation, we’ve learned that maturity doesn’t always come with age, and accountability is what determines our character, our voices and our futures.”

Class president Jane Dawson speaks to her classmates during their ceremony. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

In his speech to the graduates, Freeport High School social studies teacher Hank Ogilby spoke of sacrifices the “Greatest Generation” had to make during World War II, and other great generations before and after. He said the commonality between these generations is they were forced to “adapt, work and change your behavior, not to suit individual needs, but to serve the larger needs of your community and nation.”

Based on this criteria, Ogilby argued the graduates are part of a new great generation because over the past 15 months, “you’ve often had to put your needs and wants secondary to the greater good.”

“You’ve often had to act in ways that protected the health and safety of others,” said Ogilby. “You’ve had to sacrifice and put aside many of the dreams and joys of life, be it a sports season, prom, or maybe family and community traditions that you’ve grown to love.”

Senior Noah Langley said while the pandemic brought near-constant challenges and changes, “there are still many highlights.” He said many graduates entered the workforce, became politically active or fought for social change, determined to make what they could do count.

Families get settled as the Saco Drive-In lot fills with cars in the dwindling daylight Sunday. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

“When we were sent home last spring, it was tough but it gave us time for ourselves and growth,” said Langley. “With all this time created by the pandemic, many of us took the opportunity to work.”

Although the pandemic took over the latter half of their high school experience, Gulko urged the seniors not to let it overshadow their happy memories and triumphs from the last four years.

“Let both what you’ve lost and what you’ve learned from this pandemic shape who you are,” said Gulko. “Along with the days of Zoom, Google Meet, masks, social distancing and so much hand sanitizer, remember the friends you’ve made, the teachers who influenced you, the teammates who supported you, the fans that clapped for you, and the millions of small moments that the days of COVID-19 cannot and will not take away.”

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