AUBURN — When the Lewiston High School Class of 2020 graduated Saturday morning at The Auburn-Lewiston Airport, the seniors’ achievement was feted with a lot of firsts.

The first masked graduation. The first outdoor graduation. The first graduation that seniors tuned into a radio station to hear, and the first graduation that a mounted bottle of hand sanitizer took a place of prominence beside the stage.

The first graduation held within eyesight of a parked airplane.

Sitting in a car beside his mother, outgoing senior Isaac Atkins, one of 281 graduates, said that for a time he was concerned that he wouldn’t have a chance to participate in any sort of graduation ceremony.

Atkins is going into the Army National Guard as a horizontal construction engineer. Until last week, Lewiston High School didn’t have a plan to hold a graduation in June, and Atkins said he’s shipping out to basic training at the end of the month.


“I was worried that they weren’t going to have a ceremony because they were talking about having one in August,” Atkins said. “I was stressing about that, and trying to get my ship date pushed back.”

But plans came into fruition, and according to Lewiston High School Assistant Principal Jay Dufour, a lot of moving parts came together to make the ceremony happen.

“It was a matter of getting things queued up and ready to go and having people on hold. And with input from the community, from staff and students and committee members, we finally made a choice on the venue,” Dufour said.

According to Dufour, the school already had an open invitation from the airport, which is currently closed for construction.

“The entire team of administrators and some staff members really rolled up our sleeves this week and got things done,” Dufour said.

Val Atkins, Isaac’s mom, said she was thankful that the graduation was taking place.


“I’m so proud. … I think the thing with COVID-19 is that everyone has to adjust. I’m so grateful that we get to have a ceremony,” she said.

Activist Ekhlas Ahmed gave the keynote address. Ahmed is the Ambassador of Education and Executive Director of Chance to Advance, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness of the violence in Darfur.

Ahmed related the graduation of the seniors to the current events and unrest widespread in the country.

“I see America. I see all of us struggling. Not because of George Floyd, no. He was one of many … he was a video sent by God so that we could wake up. Wake up and rewrite history. So class of 2020, you are our authors.”

In his remarks, Lewiston Public Schools Superintendent Todd Finn also agreed that the graduates had a special place in history.

“You are a generation of survivors. Class of 2020,  you won’t be defined as the senior class that struggled with uncertainties about the pandemic. You will be the generation defined by how you rose above this, and found solutions,” said Finn.


Friday, March 13, was the last day the seniors met as a class. In speeches, Fazla Karim, president of the Class of 2020, salutatorian Abigail Levasseur and valedictorian Melina Masseli all expressed sentiments that, though they were robbed of much of what makes senior year special, there was still cause for pride.

According to seniors Abigail Medina and Grace Turner, who performed musical numbers during the ceremony, there was talk about adding graduation to the seemingly endless list of events hosted via Zoom.

“We only had a week’s notice to learn our musical stuff, but I’m really happy we didn’t have to do it over Zoom,” Medina said.

Turner said there was a bit of emotional whiplash, jumping from a three-month break in classes to graduation.

“We’ve basically been on a three-month vacation. I definitely don’t feel like I should be graduating,” Turner said.

Isaac Atkins said this wasn’t the graduation he imagined having. But it was the one he and the Class of 2020 received.

“It’s different. I always thought that I would have a normal graduation in the Colisee. It’s definitely different. This whole time, I just wanted a ceremony, and I guess that’s what we’re getting,” Atkins said.

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