Hunter Gibson, center, greets fellow graduates Friday at the start of the Poland Regional High School graduation in Poland. Bradley Gwarjanski stands at left. Both are National Honor Society members and on the Honor Roll for seven semesters. Gwarjanski was also a member of the National Technical Honor Society. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

POLAND — It was a first on Friday night as senior Class President Alex Emery took on the role as master of ceremonies at Poland Regional High School Class of 2022 Commencement.

Eighty-four graduates from Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland, the communities which make up Regional School Unit 16, received their diplomas.

Each student’s pursuit following graduation was announced after their name was called to accept the diploma from school board Chairwoman Mary Martin and Superintendent Ken Healey.

Abigail Clark expresses some pregraduation jitters to a friend while lining up for the Poland Regional High School graduation. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Their future began in kindergarten and elementary school, according to Salutatorian Izabella Martin where “every step was meticulously planned.”

Martin told the assembly of classmates, family and friends who packed the gym, “Football in a sense, is a lot like school … and the primary focus was to win – we just happened to have a good time doing it.”

But Martin stressed, “Every single player has their own job and must do that job, working cohesively as a unit in order to be successful.”


Martin pointed out forming friendships and bonding with classmates were essential at the start of their educational experience, particularly at recess when “everything had a defined set of rules.”

As they grew older and entered middle school, Martin said, “we began to create opinions of our own and even start calling our own plays,” adding, “because we all know in middle school, we had the answers to everything.”

Izabella Martin leaves her seat Friday to give the salutatory address at commencement at Poland Regional High School in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Martin said, “Regardless of how much preparation and planning coaches do for their team it’s the players who have to decide within themselves to play.”

The real change occurred in high school, Martin noted, where “we really learned, in the whole point to all these years of school, we learned who we are and are slowly figuring out who we want to become.  … It takes clawing our way through all the motions, adhering to all the rules, working our way to the top to make it there.”

Martin, in her final remarks, said, “If we can make it through the craziness this high school experience has brought each and everyone of us, we can persevere through whatever this world throws our way after we walk off this stage.”

Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions,” Valedictorian Willa Galipeau-Eldridge told her peers, “Don’t be held back by your own limitations and fears. Take it from a kid who wouldn’t raise her hand all throughout high school and tensed up when she was called on. Yet, here I am … speaking to all of you.”


Principal Cari Medd welcomes the Class of 2022 to the Poland Regional High School graduation Friday in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

“Emerson was right,” she said, “making mistakes and being incorrect is the part of learning that allows you to grow.”

Galipeau-Eldridge added that teachers had “helped to create an environment where we can learn and make mistakes … they were trying to help build stamina for our future endeavors … the training wheels that our teachers provided to us are coming off, and we are ready.”

She encouraged the Class of 2022 to “make sure to take risks and chances. Say yes to others; you may not have that opportunity again. … Experiment with your comfort zone, reaching out beyond the boundaries.”

Galipeau-Eldridge emphasized, “Don’t hold yourself back from life! Don’t hinder yourself. Take chances. Go on adventures. … Put yourself out there.”

She closed by saying, “Let’s free fall into the unknown together.”

Travel problems due to weather prevented guest speaker Linda (Fecteau) Grimm from attending. Grimm graduated from Poland Regional High School in 2004 and is co-founder of River Horse Communications, a firm specializing in writing and editorial services. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political communication from The George Washington University.


Poland Regional High School graduates sing the national anthem Friday at the start of commencement exercises in Poland. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LiSha Powell, center, gave a welcome address Friday night at the Poland Regional High School graduation, stressing that happiness is a choice. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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