The crowd in Merrill Auditorium cheers on Freeport High School’s graduates as they take their seats on Sunday, June 12. John Terhune / The Times Record

Cheers drowned out the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium Sunday morning, as Freeport High School’s graduation ceremony returned to the Portland venue for the first time since 2019.

“I think that coming back to Merrill is a turning point,” graduate Savannah Tracy said before the event. “It’s nice to be somewhere professional and really nice to celebrate this monumental occasion.”

Freeport held outdoor graduation ceremonies at the Saco Drive-In in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 concerns. The return to Merrill was a welcome step toward normalcy, according to Principal Jennifer Gulko.

“It’s ironic that as we are hopefully heading into a better place with or maybe even and end of the pandemic, they are literally tearing down the Saco drive-in movie theater,” she said. “It may be a sign that we are moving forward after two very difficult years.”

Gulko and student speaker Abbigail Martin recalled creative solutions the community applied to the pandemic’s challenges, including holding last fall’s homecoming dance outdoors on the school’s tennis courts.

While other speakers touched on the pandemic, they mostly celebrated the inclusivity and warmth of the senior class.


“I’ve heard it said we’re the best-looking class in FHS history,” joked class president Andrew Morrissey. “Perhaps our most important quality, though, is our kindness. Friendships connect every part of our grade, and it made me glad to come to school every day.”

Freeport High School graduates line up before marching into Portland’s Merrill Auditorium on Sunday, June 12. John Terhune / The Times Record

“Kindness: that is what sets Freeport apart,” agreed Vincenzo Scicchitano, who spoke about coming to Freeport as a first year after being homeschooled.  “I’ve come to consider the class of 2022 to be my family.”

Family was a major theme Sunday, as students practiced the Freeport tradition of leaving the stage to thank relatives for their support with a flower.

The break, which lasted nearly 10 minutes as some students trekked to the third-floor balcony, was a fitting show of gratitude for a class celebrated for its virtue.

“In a time when full-grown adults can’t find common ground amongst themselves, it is truly inspiring to watch a group of teenagers find it every day in the classroom,” said faculty speaker Jake Willett. “You are the major reason that I decided to remain an educator.”

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