LEWISTON — As the Lewiston High School Class of 2010 graduated Friday night, speaker Travis Roy sat on the stage in his wheelchair, looked at the graduates and made a confession.
“Lewiston is not my favorite place" he said. "There's a reason for that.”
“I played hockey my whole life," Roy said. "I played Lewiston Youth Hockey, Lewiston High School, 30, 40, 50 times. But never once in my hockey career did I ever beat a Lewiston hockey team.”
The graduates laughed and applauded.
“I don't know if you were supposed to cheer at that,” Roy mused.
He was chosen to deliver the keynote at the ceremony in the Androscoggin Bank Colisee. He grew up in Maine playing hockey achieving a Division I scholarship to Boston University. In 1995, 11 seconds into his first game, an injury left him paralyzed.
Roy went on to graduate from BU, and became an author and speaker. He offered the students two incentives for their future: to challenge themselves to see how good they can be in whatever they chose and to have pride in themselves.
“Listen to your voice in the back of your head. That voice will guide you in the right direction,” he said.
Roy also talked about love. Love of family, friends, community and the importance of sharing that love.
Before leaving in the morning, “let your parents know you appreciate them, you're aware of the sacrifices they've made,” he said. Tell your family and friends how you care for them, including classmates. “There's a good chance after graduation there'll be people you'll never see again.”
Valedictorian Rebecca Spilecki described graduation as an act of moving from one life into a new life with new people. Salutatorian Jennifer Bergeron told classmates to be happy, that being happy is a choice, an attitude.
There was no shortage of smiles and happiness from the 238 graduates and those watching them.
Before they marched in, graduate Andy Pulk's face was beaming.
“It's exciting. I'm glad it's over,” he said. “I had an awesome time.”
“I'm definitely on top of the world right now,” said Jacob Tanguay, heading off to the University of Massachusetts in the fall. “I'm ready to leave, but I love this place.”
Somali native Nimo Mohamed said she was nervous and excited. Graduation “is very important," she said. "I'm so glad to be graduating and get on with my life.” She plans to attend the University of Maine to study nursing.
“I always wanted to be out of high school, but now that it's over, I'm scared,” she said with a smile.
In the audience, Denise and Tony Pratt looked for their grandson, Zach Pratt, the third generation in their family to graduate from Lewiston High. Denise graduated in 1965; Tony, in 1962. “I'm excited that he's going to college,” the grandmother said.
After the last student received his diploma and the graduates sat down, the audience rose and gave them a standing ovation.