Principal Shawn Chabot reported that 82 percent of the graduating class is enrolled in a degree program, four percent will serve in the military, and 32 are going to work or pursue personal dreams.

Speeches during the ceremony reflected the diverse men and women in blue and white caps and gowns. While many grew up here, others were born in England, Congo, Spain, Ethopia, Kenya, Somalia, Russia, Hungary, Chad and other countries, Superintendent Bill Webster said.

“Lewiston is a place that attracts those seeking the American dream,” he said. Many graduates will leave Lewiston for college and other opportunities, but eventually, they may feel Lewiston pulling them back.

“Remember, you have a home,” he said.

Class President Muna Mohamed thanked everyone who helped them — teachers, guidance counselors, friends, custodians and lunch staff “who do a tremendous job taking care of our school and students, the families we all come from.”

Each graduate has a story, Mohamed said. Growing up, she felt like she didn’t belong.

“I was too Somali for American kids, too American for the Somali kids,” she said. Eventually, her community, her classmates, helped her not only accept her identities, “but leverage them to make a positive change in my community.”

She asked classmates to “continue to affirm humanity everywhere you go.”

Salutatorian Julian Smedley paid homage to Lewiston and “the role it played in our lives.” In the past 14 years, Lewiston has been lucky to receive Somali immigrants, to give residents a taste of a diverse world. Today, the city is one in transition.

“Lewiston is making a comeback,” he said.

When Valedictorian Aaron Bissonnette came to the microphone, he gave the audience a scare by unraveling paper (his speech) so long that it fell to the floor.

“Just kidding,” Bissonnette said to laughter.

His speech was a “Mad Libs” game, in which he asked classmates to fill in the blanks of sentences in his speech. When he read their words, he did air quotes.

“High school has helped us gain the tools to succeed in life,” he said. With those tools, “all of you can accomplish ‘slimy’ things. Have a ‘moist’ night, and I wish you all a ‘yellow’ goodbye,” he said to applause and more laughter.

Keynote speaker Tim Wilson, director of Seeds of Peace, said he knows graduates won’t remember much of what he was about to say. They want to turn that tassel, “jump up and say, ‘I’m out of here.’”

He told them in February that he lost his adopted son, who died at 46 after fighting cancer for three years. Life is short, Wilson said.

“You can be part of the problem or part of the solution … keep in mind, you only have a short period of time,” he said. “Don’t waste a minute.”

His mother used to look at him and give a long pause. It stood for “you’ve done well. It’s time to go on. Amen,” Wilson said. “And amen to all of you.”

Graduate Norah Schlax, 18, said four years of high school did go fast.

“Tonight, you realize, ‘Wow. It’s over,’” she said.

She plans to go to Clarkson University in New York and major in business. She wants to get involved in the nonprofit sector.

Jeremy Cairns, 18, plans to go to Bates College, study pre-med courses and become a doctor. Graduating “is a really proud accomplishment for everyone,” he said. “It really paid off, as you can see here with all our graduates.”

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Class facts

216: Graduates in the Class of 2015

171: Going to college (two- or four-year programs)

6: Going to attend certificate program

7: Joining the military

32: Going into the workforce or taking time off before continuing education

Class song: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds

How the class will be remembered: “The legacy they’re leaving is they’ve really made people think,” Assistant Principal Don Ferrara said. “They weren’t afraid to ask questions. There are many students walking across the stage Friday night who have overcome very long odds to get there.”


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