Members of the Brunswick High School Honors Chamber Choir perform during Friday’s graduation ceremony.  Jason Claffey / The Times Reocrd

Friday’s Brunswick High School graduation ceremony was not only a celebration for the 156 graduating seniors but for the greater Brunswick community as well, according to Principal Troy Henninger.

“Your community is comprised of ever-expanding, concentric circles of communities, radiating from your innermost circle outward,” he said. “Your community circles influence you as much as you create ripples of influence in them.”

Brunswick High School Valedictorian Hannah Wilkoff speaks during graduation. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

In particular, Henninger addressed the hundreds gathered in Watson Arena at Bowdoin College for the ceremony.

“This innermost community of parents, guardians, siblings and extended relatives is perhaps the one that has had the most profound impact on shaping who you are today,” he said. “When you were sick, they invested time and effort to take care of you. When you had the opportunity to learn a musical instrument, participate in sports or some other activity, they were your strongest advocate.”

In turn, the graduating class gave back, completing 9,576 hours of community service.

“Your class has brought us respect and admiration,” Henninger said. “These are all tangible ripples of your impact.”


Valedictorian Hannah Wilkoff, who is headed to Harvard University to study global economics and business, praised her classmates for overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and going on to win state championships in sports, performing their first live musical with “Footloose” and going to Washington, D.C., to participate in a music competition.

“Look at everything we’ve done, learned and been through in these four years,” she said. “It hasn’t been easy, and all our experiences have been different. But we made it here to this room on this day.

“We proved our ability to adapt. Here we are now, at the other side.”

Salutatorian Amelia Donsbach speaks to fellow graduates. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Salutatorian Amelia Donsbach, who’s headed to Middlebury College in Vermont to study environmental science and wants to work in conservation one day, urged her classmates not to take on too much and become overwhelmed.

“I hope you remember to take that occasional step back and try to make sure you’re pursuing not just achievements but happiness,” she said. “Do not discount the ordinary because it does not immediately grab your attention. What brings you happiness does not have to be big, just something you know you can always turn back to in times of chaos.

“Our futures will be busy as we try to reach our goals and dreams, but it shouldn’t get to the point where you can no longer find joy in what you do. Life is meant to lived, not another task on the to-do list.”


Henninger’s advice to the graduates was to be present and get involved.

“Each of you has some unique, special attribute, way of thinking or profound talent to offer,” he said. “See yourselves as key builders of your community.

“Wherever life takes you after BHS, be an active participant. … Befriend or at least get to know neighbors, colleagues, teammates, dormmates, local and municipal elected officials. Be actively involved in your parishes, religious congregations and civic institutions. Volunteer to help your local Little League or nonprofit organizations. In other words, be the community you want to see in the world.”

Superintendent Phil Potenziano urged students to take care of their mental health.

“It’s OK to ask for help,” he said. “Whether you want to talk to a friend about a personal decision you face or feel that you should connect with a mental health professional about anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns, ask for help.”

He added, “Don’t compare yourself to others or unrealistic images you see on social media. … The sooner you learn to love yourself, the sooner you’re going to find equanimity. You’re unique, you’re special, and we’re all proud of you.

“You’ve accomplished a great deal and we look forward to what lies ahead.”

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