Two girls are smiling widely posing for a photo. one is wearing academic cords with a graduation robe and cap that has a crown glued on it. She is holding flowers. The girl to her right is wearing a plain graduation cap and holding gold balloons.

From left, Caitlin Pierce poses with Breanna Sprague following Mt. Blue High School’s 51st commencement Sunday, June 13. Sprague, who is attending Smith College for chemistry and chemical engineering in the fall, said it was a nice day to be outside for a graduation ceremony. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

FARMINGTON — After a year defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and remote learning, social distancing and protective masks worn in class, Mt. Blue High School held an in-person, non-socially distanced ceremony Sunday to mark the school’s 51st commencement.

Unlike the 2020 graduation at which graduates sat inside their cars to listen to speeches over the radio and received their diplomas in a “drive-up ceremony,” the Class of 2021 sat together on Caldwell Field with an audience filled with families, teachers and administrators.

It was the first Mt. Blue graduation held outdoors in nearly 20 years. 

The graduation ceremony featured speeches from interim Principal Joel Smith, Class President Kyla Morgan, and Valedictorian Isabelle Decker.

There were also three musical performances by the graduates. Scott Barber and Rachel Spear performed “Happiness is Not a Place” by The Wind and The Waves, Emma White performed “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus and Taegan Heath and Spear performed “For Good” from Wicked: The Musical, accompanied by music-teacher Ethan Wright. 

Smith first took to the stage to welcome the graduating class and their families. 

Smith acknowledged the “mind-blowing” circumstances of being together — maskless — amid the ongoing pandemic, noting it was “the first day I’ve seen the Class of 2021 in one place since March 13, 2020” and that it was Smith’s largest gathering since a student assembly in February 2020. 

Erin Johnson hugs Jacob Smith, obstructed from view, following Mt. Blue High School’s commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 13. Johnson will attend the University of Southern Maine in the fall to study nursing. Smith will be taking a gap year to enter the workforce. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

“At least we’re not on a zoom screen,” he joked. 

Smith commended the graduating class’ “grit” and strong finish amid “challenges great and small.” 

Smith also gave the graduating class four pieces of life advice: “make your bed,” “be kind,” “be grateful” and “believe in yourself.” 

“Don’t settle for being neutral or a little bit negative…Make your words and actions matter by being kind,” he said. 

“As we’ve all learned this year, nothing is guaranteed…be grateful and go out of your way to value the moment. Recognize and appreciate and respect the sacrifices of everyone who has helped you arrive here at your graduation. 

“A positive mindset is more powerful than any momentary display of talent. ‘I can’ is a powerful statement and will become a granite foundation for any endeavor you choose to pursue,” he finished. “In the future when you find yourself in a moment of failure or even catastrophe, count on the lessons you learned here at Mt. Blue…and from your (family) and know that your belief in yourself and your goals and your willingness to work hard will carry you along.” 

In the foreground, high school graduates sit in blue robes and caps. Some of the caps are decorated with phrases, LGBTQ rainbow-flag colors, and personal pictures. In the background, a student in a robe and cap stands on stage speaking into a microphone. Next to the student is an ASL interpreter.

Class President Kyla Morgan speaks Sunday, June 13, before the Mt. Blue High School commencement in Farmington. Morgan spoke of how she and others in the Class of 2021 are shaped by the people in their lives. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal Buy this Photo

Morgan was next to go. She quoted Darth Vader’s “today will be a day long remembered” from Star Wars to exhibit “the spontaneity I try to live my life with” as “I have always unapologetically been myself.” 

Noting that she is “a mosaic of the people who I have met and who have changed my life,” Morgan honored the various friends, family members, and teachers that have shaped her over the years. 

“Though these are my experiences, this is a universal truth, that we are all affected by those around us. The people we have experienced high school with have changed our lives, for better or for worse. We are all mosaics of the people we encounter,” she said. 

Morgan finished her speech by noting the Class of 2021’s “unique” yet quintessential experience that “has given us stories to tell for the rest of our lives.” 

“We have had a challenging last two years, but that was nothing new. We have always had challenges; the challenges seem to follow us around,” she finished. “Regardless of those challenges, here we sit.” 

In the foreground, high school graduates sit facing a stage wearing decorated graduation caps on their heads. In the background, a student walks across a stage in a blue graduation robe and cap holding a diploma. The student is fist bumping a man in a black robe wearing sunglasses. He is surrounded by other school administrators in black robes who are clapping. The stage has a podium on it with the Mt. Blue "cougars" logo on it.

Valedictorian Isabelle Decker fist bumps interim Principal Joel Smith after receiving her diploma Sunday, June 13, during the Mt. Blue High School commencement in Farmington. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Valedictorian Decker was the last student speaker for the morning. She named and thanked the various teachers that “each made a great impact on (her) life.” 

Inspired by advice from her father, Decker named a lesson for each year she spent in school from kindergarten to senior year. 

Decker said she “learned to color inside the lines” in kindergarten, to “treat others how you want to be treated” in second grade, that “change is inevitable” in the eighth grade,” to “never take a hug for granted” in 11th grade in which the pandemic started, and to “color outside the lines” in 12th grade. 

“I hope all of my fellow students have learned to color outside the lines as well. Great things don’t come from doing what is expected,” Decker finished. “By forging our own paths we can achieve far more than anyone could imagine.” 

Following the speeches, 142 students received their high school diplomas and two received an international student certificate of attendance. Of those students, 65 are pursuing a two or four-year college, three are continuing their education, one is enlisted in the Air Force and 39 are entering the workforce. Additionally, 22 graduated Cum Laude, six Magna Cum Laude, and three Summa Cum Laude. 

Mt. Blue High School’s Class of 2021 exits Caldwell Field, some hand in hand, after the school’s 51st commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 13. Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

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