Deering High School class marshal and student speaker Patricio Miguel has big dreams to attend the University of Southern Maine and pursue law school.

Miguel, who moved to the country three years ago from Angola, first questioned why he should speak at graduation. Instead, he said, he learned he should be asking why not him.

“Why not us?” he said to his classmates. “Say yes to any opportunity you are given.”

He was asked to lead his classmates as they marched into Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, decked in purple-and-white mortarboards and gowns, from Portland High School’s gym, where the students lined up, to Myrtle Street a short walk away.

“At Deering, it doesn’t matter where you came from, what gender you identify as, or what religion you practice,” Miguel said. “We are all one family, the Rams.”

Deering High School graduated 121 students Thursday morning. Twelve were recognized for their STEM achievements, eight were honored with the Seal of Biliteracy and 21 for their involvement in the National Honor Society.


“All of our stories are significant and different, but Deering unites us together as one to understand each other’s mix-matched, but beautiful identities,” Anja Franck said.

The auditorium was filled with hundreds of people cheering, yelling and clapping for the students. People clung to bouquets of flowers, balloons and noisemakers throughout the ceremony. After students crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, they paused briefly to have their pictures taken.

“On stage it feels like you’re on top of the world,” said Jada Gillian, who now plans to enter the workforce.

Nusrat Ayasin gets a hug from her little brother Easir Ehan, 5, as she walks from Deering High School to Merrill Auditorium for the school’s 149th commencement exercises. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Eliza Denecker, the class salutatorian, spoke about her younger sister, Alice, who died of cancer at 10 years old.

“Her capacity for being present is something I have come to appreciate over time,” she said. “And it’s a quality I admire and aspire to emulate.”

Interim co-superintendents Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend discussed the achievements of Deering’s Class of 2023, including being the first class to do the Science Olympiad, the Trivia Team and participate in a NASA-sponsored satellite mission.


Members of the Class of 2023 also created Deering’s largest and most attended club, the Black Student Union.

Co-principal Alyson Dame spoke of the class’s character and heart briefly before yielding some of her time to the student speakers, a Deering tradition, she said.

“This is a class that has never picked the easy path, that has actively worked to make a diverse community a positive aspect, and not just a passive backdrop, and that has never taken community for granted,” Dame said. “No single voice could do this class justice.”

When the last diploma had been awarded, the Class of 2023 turned their tassels, and some tossed their caps toward the ceiling. They were celebrated with deafening cheers and applause.

Three tiers of family and friends watch as graduates enter Merrill Auditorium for Deering High School’s 149th commencement exercises. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The graduates excitedly exited the auditorium to “Congratulations” by Post Malone. The students were beaming, some with teary eyes.

Celda Mouckala acknowledged the significance of high school graduation.


“I’m feeling great,” he said. “Graduating is that one very special moment in your life.”

Mouckala credits his success and staying on track academically to the school, the staff and his parents. He hopes to continue that success at Central Maine Community College where he will study architecture.

Ahmed Aljashaam said he was excited and is “ready for the next step.” He plans to study automotive technology at Southern Maine Community College.

Myrtle Street, which was closed to traffic, was quickly flooded with people. Many students took the opportunity to pose for photos with family and friends.

“It’s great to see everyone,” said Henry Abbott, who is preparing to study English at Bowdoin College.

Denecker felt overwhelmed as she stood on Myrtle Street, diploma in hand. She plans to study architecture at the University of Miami.


“I feel really proud of us,” she said. “I think we’re all going to do great things.”

Casco Bay High School held its 15th commencement ceremony Thursday evening at Merrill Auditorium. Merrill which has seating for about 1,900, was filled to near capacity to watch 92 seniors receive their diplomas.

Nalli and Townsend welcomed the graduates of Portland’s smallest high school while making note of their accomplishments.

“Your school is our smallest, intentionally so, that teachers can get to know each student more deeply, so it’s not surprising that your ceremony is the most intimate,” Townsend said in his remarks. “We think you all have some sense of just how special your school is, but it’s exciting when other people reflect that back to you.”

Townsend said that Casco Bay High School was featured this spring in a new book titled “Schools of Opportunity: 10 Research-Based Models of Equity in Action.” It was also named in 2019 as a Gold School of Opportunity, the first school in Maine to be selected for making diversity a core strength.

Nalli said Casco Bay High’s graduating class achieved some amazing things during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Twenty-two students earned a Seal of Biliteracy for having attained mastery of English and at least one other world language. One student, Marwa Aslami, earned a seal for proficiency in speaking six languages in addition to English, Nalli said.

“The ability to speak multiple languages is an undeniable asset in the increasingly global world we live in today,” Nalli said.

Nalli said 100 percent of the class has been accepted to college, 36 percent of seniors will become the first members of their families to attend college, and collectively graduates will receive more than $2 million in scholarships and grants.

“Many of you have gotten to this stage while having worked jobs, taken care of family members, acclimated to a new country and language, navigated deeply personal experiences like mental health challenges … and you’ve all been through COVID and the disruption that caused,” Nalli said. “If you are sitting here today and know that you’ve had to manage responsibilities that others may not have seen, know that these experiences have prepared you to persevere and to succeed too.”

Principal Derek Pierce praised seniors for never losing hope during the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Lionel Celestino, the class speaker, made remarks at the graduation ceremony while Ahmed Hassan and Amin Mohamed, class writers, read “Cry of Realization” to the audience. Several students performed the opening song, “We Are All In This Together,” at the beginning of the ceremony.

On June 22, Portland Adult Education will hold its 175th graduation exercise at Merrill Auditorium. That ceremony will begin at 6 p.m.


Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story

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