AUBURN — You know it’s going to be a lively graduation when the superintendent channels author Robert Fulghum and the salutatorian quotes Dr. Seuss. 

St. Dominic Academy graduated 27 students Friday night, gathering friends and family for a ceremony in the school parking lot on Gracelawn Road. 

Inside the school, it was a familiar scene in the minutes before the ceremony commenced. Students gathered in groups, taking pictures from every conceivable angle to commemorate their big night. 

“We did it,” one young lady said to another. 

“Yes, we did,” came the reply. 

Teachers and school officials snapped photos and uttered last-minute pep talks before the students marched outside to collect their diplomas. 


Salutatorian Isabella Sonia McMillen told her fellow classmates that in preparation for her speech to the graduating class, she scoured the internet looking for that perfect quote to sum up their four years. She settled on a quote from famed children’s author and illustrator Dr. Seuss. 

Saint Dominic Academy seniors Eleanor Russell, left, and Cezarie St. Jean laugh together Friday night in the school cafeteria in Auburn before the start of commencement. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I believe Dr. Seuss encapsulates the Class of 2022’s past and future journeys,” McMillen said, “in the quote ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.'” 

The students should smile when they thought of the support of teachers and school staff, McMillen told them. They should smile when thinking about family and friends. 

“And, finally, we can smile at ourselves,” she said. “We made it!

“Through everything our class has faced over the years, we are here today celebrating our accomplishments,” she said. “We can be proud for what we have achieved, individually and as a group. Collectively, we have worked hard and — no less important — have shown charity to each other and the rest of the Saint Dom’s community. We have performed an amazing freshman air band, gained independence and knowledge of God during retreats, worked through all the challenges of remote learning, and demonstrated to all lower grades the importance and influence a group can have when based on respect and a close bond.  

“Perseverance, kindness and joy,” McMillen said, “have brought us together, culminating in today’s celebration. These traits will carry us into the future, where we will continue to shine, and to smile, at what has happened and what is to come.” 


Valedictorian Kathleen Rae Dean also had plenty to say about the school air band competition, as well, but mostly she talked about teamwork — how the class always stuck together, in good times and in rough ones. 

And it was that way, Dean said, from the very start. 

“When we arrived for the first day of high school, we found that our lockers were all the way at the end of the academic wing,” she said. “For the rest of the year, we could often be found all clumped together down there in solidarity. From the very beginning, it was clear that our class had a natural inclination toward unity. Even when classmates left the school, we remained united. We have identity; individually and as a class. And although our individualism is powerful, our love for unity is what defines us.” 

Dean also had a lot of say about COVID-19 and how it wrought havoc on the day-to-day lives of the students. But before the pandemic, there was the school’s sophomore retreat and Dean recalled it as a time of great change, for herself and for her classmates. 

“Sophomore retreat was a major turning point for our class,” she said. “For many of us, that retreat has become more important in our memory as we look back on it. That was the last time we were able to be together before our entire world and the rest of our high school experience changed. Today isn’t all that different from our sophomore retreat. Once again, there is a very good chance we won’t see one another for a long while, and we are being launched off into unknown territory.” 

Saint Dominic Academy principal Alanna Stevenson, right, smiles Friday night as she leads seniors out of the school for the beginning of commencement exercises at the Auburn campus. At left is senior Eleanor Russell. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Where McMillin channeled Dr. Seuss for her speech, school Superintendent Marianne Pelletier plucked some thoughts from Robert Fulghum, author of the bestselling book “All I Really Need T0 Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” 


The lessons found in that book, Pelletier said, will serve the graduates well. 

And there are a lot of lessons to be found there.

“Share everything,” Pelletier began. “Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don’t take things that aren’t yours. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and play and work every day some.  

“Take a nap every afternoon,” Pelletier continued, “and pray always. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.” 

Not long after those words were uttered, 27 students officially graduated from Saint Dominic’s to go off to their uncertain futures. Two years ago, they were separated by a pandemic, Dean had observed in her speech. Now they were being separated by a graduation. 

“But there is a beauty to goodbyes in the Class of 22,” she said. “Just like how the night is always darkest just before the dawn, so too our class grows closer together just before we part. Despite being separated, we came out stronger and more unified on the other side of COVID, and the same will be true in the years after graduation.”

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