LEWISTON — In a ceremony marked with smiles and jubilation, Lewiston High School graduated 251 Friday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

Principal Gus LeBlanc said the class gives reason to celebrate. “The Class of 2011 has the highest graduation rate of Lewiston High School classes in over 20 years,” he said to applause.

Of those graduating, 86 percent plan to further their education, with 81 percent entering two- or four-year colleges. Another 3 percent will go into the military. Others will attend prep schools or training programs, enter a trade or go to work, he said.

LeBlanc called the class a special group who’ve been leaders, transforming the school culture in a positive way. They’ve achieved the best academic performance since the state instituted statewide testing, LeBlanc said.

“They have given us belief in the future,” he said.

Class President Tamara Roy said that in their four years of high school, they’ve made millions of memories, but they have many memories and adventures to make as they leave high school.

She recognized former Superintendent Leon Levesque, who became Lewiston superintendent when they were kindergartners. Roy declared Levesque an honorary member of the Class of 2011, and gave him an honorary diploma. Levesque accepted, holding his diploma high.

Valedictorian Jonathan McDonough paid tribute to what he called an exceptional class for making it through four years of balancing acts among school, extra-curricular activities “and of course, Facebook.”

They know what’s important, “like squeezing one more person into the lunch table,” McDonough joked. “In all seriousness, this is a day of triumph, and it belongs to you all.”

Salutatorian Brittany Martin said graduation was the moment they’d been waiting for, a night that followed 12-plus years of learning, discovering and engaging.

Often in the everyday, hectic pace, it’s easy to miss the little things, “the beauty of each day,” she said. Each graduate is moving on to something new, and each has the power to make it incredible, Martin said.

Keynote speaker and veteran Lewiston High teacher Linda Kivas told the class it had accomplished a huge milestone, one that’s been mapped out for them.

“Now you’re on your own,” she said.

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