WALES — Inspired by a school motto, “Failure is not an option,” Sarah Desjardins told graduating classmates that, really, failure is inevitable, but it’s the aftermath that counts.

“We need to take our failures and learn from them and grow from them and become better people,” she said Friday, recounting her valedictorian address.

Desjardins spoke Monday night as Oak Hill High School graduated 89 students in a ceremony at the Augusta Civic Center. Eighty-seven students marched. Salutatorian Jessica Roberts also spoke.

Chris Jones, class president for the last three years, served as master of ceremonies.

“Some of us were excited it was over, some were thrilled we made it,” said Jones, 18, of Litchfield. He’s headed next to the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston.

After they walked across the stage, Jones said he told students he was as proud of them as he was proud of himself.

“I remember I didn’t want high school to begin, I was so comfortable in middle school,” he said. “Freshman year went by and I loved it. Ever since it just went by quicker and quicker and I enjoyed every moment of it.”

The seniors took a class trip in May to The Forks, to whitewater raft and hike. They ended their high school experience with Project Graduation at the Alfond Center in Waterville.

“They were a unique class, a wide range of interests,” Oak Hill Principal Patricia Doyle said. As freshmen, they numbered 125. The class size shrank as parents moved away in the poor economy and after the Brunswick naval base closing, she said. Between 50 and 60 percent of the new grads plan to go to college.

Desjardins, 17, of Wales, said graduation marked the end of a personal goal: Having the top grades in her class all four years. It took hard work, often balancing homework and sports. She’s off to Simmons College in Boston, to the honors program, studying to become a nurse practitioner.

“Graduation was very rewarding,” she said. “That was the part where you could just breathe out and it’s all done. A lot of (high school) was pretty good memories. Now that we’ve been out for a couple days it’s slowly sinking in (that it’s over), but not totally.”

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