Bishop Robert Deeley sits for a photo with the 2019 graduating seniors of St. Dominic Academy before graduation on Thursday. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

AUBURN — Vanessa Bussiere remembers her first day at Saint Dominic Academy, arriving as a painfully shy young lady who was vividly aware she was the new girl in school. The concept of graduation seemed so vague and far off, she could barely imagine it.

Flash forward four years and there she was, up on the stage to give her salutatorian address and musing about how fast the time went by.

“We made it to the night we always thought was too far away,” Bussiere said, “but not without all the laughs, cries, late-night study cramming, rants, endless talks about food, or numerous jokes.

“Thank you to my friends for always knowing when I needed an escape or comedic relief or a quick ice cream trip and for becoming my family. These simple moments have defined us. Class of 2019, we are spirited, proud, intellectuals, innovators, champions, saints and leaders.”

As St. Dom’s graduated 38 students Thursday night, Bussiere was not the only one to marvel at how quickly the high school years go by.

Class Marshall Alexandra Hammerton keeps a steady beat with her baton as St. Dominic Academy’s Class of 2019 files into the gymnasium for graduation on Thursday in Auburn. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

“I can’t believe it. I still feel like I’m a freshman,” Ryan Davis said. “It doesn’t seem real that I’m going to graduate 15 minutes from now. It’s been pretty amazing.”

“Honestly, it hasn’t hit me yet that I’m about to be a graduate of St. Dom’s,” said Nicholas David Welsh, just minutes before it became official. “If I think back on it right now, it definitely seems like it went by fast, but the moments seemed to last a lot longer. I’m just glad I got to share my experiences with the people around me.”

Davis said he plans to go to Central Maine Community College for two years, before moving on to another school.

Welsh, who teaches rock climbing in the summer, is headed to St. Michael’s College in Vermont, where he will study and work as a firefighter.

If the students sensed that the years had passed quickly, just imagine how their families felt. In her valedictorian speech, Emma Theriault mused that her grandfather had graduated from the same school 49 years ago. Both of her parents graduated 25 years back.

“Who knows?” Theriault said. “Maybe in 25 years it will be us sitting where these esteemed alumni are sitting, watching a future generation graduate, perhaps even our own children. And every generation will say, ‘It seems like just yesterday.’ This is the power of this moment. It simultaneously touches upon our past, present and future. It is reflective of what was, is, and will be our legacy.”

Ryan Davis, second from left, chats with Nick Welsh before the start of St. Dominic Academy graduation on Thursday night in Auburn. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

In his address, St. Dom’s President Donald Fournier pointed out the graduating class’s many accomplishments, from state athletic championships to scholarships and other individual achievements.

In addition to that, there were the philanthropic endeavors and acts of selflessness — like the 14 members of the senior class who gave up weekends in a yearlong effort to raise money for Mission Mississippi. And the 4,120 hours of volunteer work the senior class logged at 24 nonprofit institutions and schools across Lewiston, Auburn and the Augusta area.

“You graduates have valiantly and with great commitment carried on some of the proudest traditions of St. Dom’s,” Fournier said.

Yet Theriault, in her valedictorian address, stressed that the class was also wise enough to know that these accomplishments alone don’t tell the whole story of who they are.

“The Class of 2019 as a whole has established our legacy at St. Dom’s in many ways,” she said. “We demonstrated our dominance in air band, winning all four years. We won four state championships in boys and girls hockey and field hockey, not to mention the individual championships won in track, gymnastics, cross country and skiing. However, we are not just defined by our championships and our physical prowess. We take pride in who we are as people, not just our stats, trophies and banners. We recognize our failures are just as important as our successes because they help us persist and overcome.”

There were speeches and prayers, the diplomas were handed out and, like that, it was over. The night, like the past four years, passed quickly.

“Looking back on the four years I’ve spent at Saint Dominic Academy, I can truly say it was like no other,” Bussiere said.

“The friendships that were made, relationships that were built with teachers and staff, academic and athletic endeavors that were achieved, as well as opportunities that were given and much, much more all have provided me with a foundation. A foundation of personal growth and understanding, a developed spiritual life, a deepened connection with family and friends that became family and, finally, a strong academic life.”

Before the students were ushered out of the school and toward their individual lives, Fournier had just a few more words to help prepare them.

“Congratulations,” he told the graduates, “and get ready to change the world.”


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