LEWISTON — Students held a recognition of those lost and signaled hope for the future at the Lewiston Colisee on Sunday afternoon as Leavitt Area High School celebrated it’s 115th commencement.

Valedictorian Brianna DeGone of Turner stood at the ready before marching, sporting her Key Club, National Honor Society, class treasurer and volunteerism accolades on her gown.

“I’m going to UMaine in Orono for bioengineering,” she said, unsure of her goals beyond her undergrad work, “I might do premed but I don’t know yet.”

Class Co-President Clay Rowland of Turner waited across the other side of the Colisee with his classmates. Among his decorations for the day were a Daughters of the American Revolution pin and his state championship football ring.

Rowland said he plans to attend Colby, where he will major in biology premed and hopes to continue to play football.

It was a hectic week for Rowland, who said, “It’s been nuts; I don’t think I’ve slept more than six hours in a while.”

One striking similarity in Rowland and DeGone’s robes was a theme echoed across every robe in sight — handmade ribbons of various hues and decoration inscribed withe the letters “SB.”

The answer rested in the hands of a young woman carrying a large portrait of another young woman. Shayla Lapierre wanted to make sure her friend, Sarah Bernard, marched with her class.

The young woman of the ribbons and the portrait of the Leavitt class of 2014, passed away from cancer on May 14, according to Lapierre.

As “Pomp and Circumstance” played on, Bernard’s smiling portrait made the march with her friends and classmates.

The salutatory speech by Isabel Smith recalled Bernard, as well as the names of other Leavitt students who never got to march.

She began with Madison Daigle, a 17-year-old from Leeds who died when his car flipped over in 2010.

Brandon MacDonald, who died unexpectedly in August 2012.

Xavier Fuentes of Turner, who was killed at night last March in a hit-and-run that has yet to be resolved.

“They were taken from this world entirely too early,” Smith said. She said that even though she was never close to any of those lost, the lesson of “keeping life in perspective” will follow her.

Smith recalled recently when her vehicle broke down and, facing a heavy repair bill, she and her family spent a ruined evening with each other thinking about the car.

“Just that morning, Sarah Bernard was taken from our community, leaving behind so many people who loved and appreciated her.”

Later, Smith said, she wondered why her family was letting a car ruin their night when a family lost a loved one and many lost a friend that morning.

“What we should have been doing,” Smith said, “was enjoying and appreciating each others company on a day when another family couldn’t do the same with their daughter.”

Smith urged her classmates to put life in perspective and hold on to the things that will last, like family and friends.

DeGone, in her valedictory speech, urged her classmates to follow their changing dreams, citing Stephen Colbert as saying, “Thankfully, dreams can change. If we’d all stuck with our first dream the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses.

“So whatever your dream is right now,” DeGone said, “if you don’t achieve it, you haven’t failed and you’re not some loser. But just as importantly, if you do get your dream, you’re not a winner.

“If we had all stuck with our original dreams,” she said, “there would be no engineers, no physical therapists and no pharmacists among the graduates today.”

She urged her classmates to embrace each failure just as much as they would a fulfilled dream.

“Failure doesn’t measure our defeats just as great success doesn’t measure our greatness,” DeGone said. She went on to list the aspirations of her classmates after graduation and the steps they have taken toward those goals.

“So thank your parents and our teachers and the faculty of Leavitt Area High School for getting us all to this point,” DeGone said. “We’ve been guided and educated in order for all of us to be here today.

“Each and every influential person in our lives deserves a ‘thank you’ for all they’ve done — but the rest is up to us.”

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