FARMINGTON —  Four years spent nurturing more than 150 students at Mt. Blue High School and guiding RSU 9 through a multi-year, $65 million campus-building project ended Saturday for departing Principal Monique Poulin.

She had one last 90-minute session with 165 seniors, and then sent them off into the world with diplomas to experience “the new awesome,” as senior Noah LePage said in his graduation speech.

“It’s my favorite day of the year,” because graduation celebrates 13 years of education, said Poulin, who took a job as Skowhegan High School’s principal.

After heading outside following the commencement ceremony, several graduates and their parents re-entered the school and sought out a teary-eyed Poulin to hug, thank and wish well in her next endeavor.

The ceremony began at 11 a.m. with processionals of school and district officials, the seniors, and a welcome from Poulin before a performance of the Mt. Blue Voices, one of Maine’s premier high school vocal groups.

Class speaker Hailey Mealey shared a story about her five-hour plane trip to California earlier this spring.

While getting out her sketchbook to doodle during a flight, Mealey said she met a passenger from Germany who shared her life story about meeting family responsibilities and sold all of her belongings to buy a plane ticket to San Diego.

“She was broke, she had nothing to look back to, no belongings, no home, nothing, and was on her way to California to start a completely new life at the age of 76,” Mealey said.

“I could not believe that I could learn so much about a complete stranger in just five hours. I am beyond enlightened and inspired, and I absolutely admire her bravery.”

Mealey said the experience made her realize the three things that she’s learned to live by in high school: infinity, beauty and bliss.

“Some of the most important things in life are infinite — love, friendship, happiness, art, time, family, life. My new German friend proved this to me,” she said.

“You never know where you’re going to end up and who you’re going to end up with,” Mealey said. “So be brave! Eat foreign food, talk to weird people, learn to do something that you think you’d never like, and always explore new music.”

Mealey also urged her classmates to find beauty in everything despite “all of the ugly scenes” in the world.

“Look at them, accept them, fix them!” she said.

She defined bliss as the “high rush of energy” she gets when she finishes artwork.

“I honestly believe that this feeling is the first step to a better world,” Mealey said. “What we’re doing is scary. We’re leaving everything that we’ve known for the last 13 years to go start an entire new life.”

In their joint speech that followed, Salutatorian Anja Nordstrom and Valedictorian Hanna Deon continued Mealey’s theme, urging their classmates to be brave and outgoing.

LePage acknowledged their accomplishments and endurance during the school construction years, all the while being “a singularity of awesome.”

“And now we have to move on,” he said. “We have to leave these halls behind, dust off our thesauruses, and try to find a new definition for awesome. That’s weird. And hard. I mean, seriously, scarily difficult.”

He added, “The adults in this room can attest to this: This is the new awesome. … As much as this whole adult thing may scare us now, we will grow into it and learn to excel in it. It’s just a matter of construction, something that we’re used to.”

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