LEWISTON — In a ceremony marked with Lewiston pride, 214 high school seniors became graduates Friday night at a packed Androscoggin Bank Colisee.

School Principal Shawn Chabot said 87 percent of the grads are going to college, the military or an apprenticeship program. That’s a testament, he said, to the high caliber of students who make up the Class of 2016.

The numerous academic and athletic achievements of seniors in the past year “turned the heads of a nation struggling with the issue of immigration,” class adviser William County said.

Lewiston High School’s soccer team, which won the first state championship, was made up of largely Muslim students from immigrant families. The win and diversity at Lewiston High, where one out of every four student is from an immigrant family, attracted national media attention.

A film, “One Team,” was made about the team and city of Lewiston.

“Our soccer team shined the light on a city where the economy is growing and the crime rate is plummeting,” County said. As graduates leave Lewiston and go out into the world, some time there may be a voice in them telling them to return.

“Please listen to that voice,” County said. “You have been a big part of the city’s success, and we need you to come home to continue this community’s growth.”

Class President Chandler Cloutier said their graduation marks the start of their self-definition, a time to make their own decisions.

Valedictorian Per Kyle Almquist counted the number of Saturdays that have passed since he was in kindergarten: 616. After graduation, what they’ll remember won’t be what they studied, but friendships they made. For the next 616 Saturdays, he encouraged them to keep in touch with teachers and friends and go out and make new friends.

Salutatorian Alanna Fellows said high school has been great, “but I’m ready to go. Congratulations Class of 2016.”

The keynote speaker was Ian Clough, producer of the “One Team” film about the  soccer championship.

Clough graduated from Lewiston High in 2001. “My class didn’t look anything like the class before me today,” he said. “I could not be more envious.”

He told graduates to look at who’s sitting next to them. “Some of you just started to celebrate Ramadan.” When he graduated 15 years ago, “I couldn’t even tell you what Ramadan was. Most of you know what it is.”

The diversity at Lewiston High School has given them a head start on how to communicate, cooperate and work with others, Clough said.

A big issue on college campuses today is a so-called “safe space,” where students can express themselves without fear because of their sexual orientation, race, cultural background or religious affiliation.

“You know who doesn’t call for a safe space? You guys,” Clough said. “You all have lived your high school years in a safe space without knowing it,” before it was cool.

Whether they’re white or black, Christian or Muslim, like soccer, football, hockey, cheering or track, the Class of 2016 has learned to be open and accepting of one another, Clough said.

“You are not beginning to enter the real world. You’ve been living it already.”

The first two names called for diplomas seemed to illustrate that. The first to receive a diploma was Dalmar Jimale. Next was Per Kyle Almquist.

Clough said he’s lucky to be from Lewiston. So are they.

Years from now when someone asks them where are they from, Clough said to “look them in the eyes, smile and proud say, ‘I’m from Lewiston, Maine.’”

Lewiston High School Class of 2016
 
214: Graduates, including six 11th-graders graduating early
170: Going to college
7: Doing a post grad year attending a one-year school  
6: Going into the workforce or an apprenticeship program
9: Joining the military
22: Undecided or doing a gap year (travel or volunteering)
Song for recessional: “Gonna Fly Now” (Theme from “Rocky”)
About the Class of 2016:
“Individually they are an extremely talented group of students. They’re extremely hard working. Academically and athletically, the seniors have had many accomplishments. What they’ve done for the school has been outstanding.” — Principal Shawn Chabot


 


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