It was all pomp and circumstance the evening of Thursday, June 16th in the Windham High School Auditorium as 14 of those 18 graduates marched in to receive their high school diploma. Most of the graduates believed they would never see the day or participate in their graduation ceremony. There were few dry eyes as loved ones witnessed their son, daughter, or friend march down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by local professional musician, Don Pride.
Tom Nash, director of Windham-Raymond Adult Ed, welcomed and congratulated family and friends in the audience for their support and encouragement that made the difficult road to success less challenging for the students.
Marge Govoni, chairperson of the RSU14 School Committee followed the director’s statement by explaining this was her fourth graduation ceremony this spring. As she put it, “I’ve saved the best for last.” Why is this the best? Because each student courageously chose this alternative path despite extraordinary circumstances, taking that one extra step to complete their degrees.
Like most traditional graduation ceremonies, this one too came with inductions into the honor society and special awards. Graduates Arielle Blanchard, Qamar Hussein, and Nadezhda Filatova were inducted to the National Adult Education Honor Society, by Cathy Renaud, adult education coordinator. Also inducted were two instructors of adult education Judy Mandile and Carol Strout. A $500 scholarship as well as a Central Maine Community College grant was awarded to Josh Davis.
Graduate, Allison MacFeat was the first student speaker to share her story. She expressed her gratitude for the non-traditional opportunity to graduate high school. During her years at Gorham High, Allison faced many challenges that took her off the beaten track to traditional graduation. The adult ed option gave her the courage, focus, and motivation to reach her goal of obtaining her diploma, completing all educational requirements in three months.
Her speech was followed by student, Josh Davis. Still reeling from the surprise awards he received earlier in the ceremony, Davis sprinkled his grateful remarks with a touch of humor and candor. Due to his own challenges, Davis also fell incredibly behind with his school work and was about to give up on graduating high school. Not only did he believe he would not receive his diploma, but never once suspected he would be a speaker at his own graduation. But the fact is, he did graduate with the help of his big family/friend support group and did so while working double shifts, graduating in less than a semester.
Guest speaker was Aimee Senatore, the executive director of Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, local business woman and life coach. Her inspiring address included suggestions for a successful future filled with passion for life. These four suggestions were: 1. Overcome fears with curiosity. 2. Choose your circle of influence. 3. Embrace the victor in you. 4. Always hold the gift of gratitude within you. She reminded the graduates that no matter what they would choose in life, challenges will always be present and there will always be more to learn. Embracing the four suggestions, will be the catalyst to overcome those challenges and live a courageous life.
Most traditional ceremonies rush the graduates through the line to receive their diploma. However, this graduation was performed with intention and honor. Each graduate was given special attention with a sincere handshake and diploma presentation from Sanford Prince, Superintendent of Schools, followed by a moment of silence and then loud applause as the graduate walked off stage.
A few graduates took time after the ceremony to share pieces of advice. Chantelle King’s only challenge was that she wanted to graduate at a faster pace than the traditional route. She tested out of high school, scoring exceptionally well. It was her personal goal to graduate early and join the Navy. She will be leaving for Monterey, CA in September. Chantelle’s choice can be a reminder to follow dreams in unique ways. Teacher and honor society inductee, Judy Mandile, was once a student herself in adult dd. She now teaches courses in accounting and Microsoft Office and is the owner of Mandile Tax Services, LLC. Her life is an example that we never stop learning and growing. Josh Davis, who suffered from severe depression and faced great obstacles offers this one piece of advice, “The biggest thing to remember when one is about to give up - is to never believe you are out of options.”
Let the 2016 graduates of Windham-Raymond Adult Education remind us that through hard work, perseverance, focus, and courage – we can all overcome our personal challenges and be the master of our own destinies, living the life we love and envision.