Valedictorian Katie Hallee addresses the audience Saturday evening during the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School graduation ceremony at the Don Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris. Brewster Burns photo

SOUTH PARIS — Continuing the two-year pattern of uncertainty the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School Class of 2022 has come to expect, heavy rain swept through Paris on Saturday evening as school staff members wrapped up preparations for the graduation ceremony at the Don Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris.

Organizers found themselves soaked by the storm, but did not surrender to the weather, with neither spirits nor commencement programming dampened by the downpour.

And as the skies cleared and sunshine returned, they took on the extra work of drying hundreds of folding chairs set up for graduating seniors and their families and friends.

Student speakers focused on the memories they forged together and celebrated the support from their peers, educators and community that made it possible to reach the finish line after a dozen years of school.

Katrina Moccia Robinson, center, presents her father, retiring Principal Ted Moccia, left, with an Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School diploma as Paul Bickford, the incoming principal, looks on Saturday evening during the school’s graduation ceremony at the Don Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris. Brewster Burns photo

“Junior year was just something else altogether,” class salutatorian Elizabeth Dieterich said from the podium. “I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say we were asleep for most of it, so, anyways, we had to wake up for senior year.

“Coming out of a year where so many events were stripped from us, I thought our community grew stronger than ever.”

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Senior Lucy Leonard, who presented a welcome speech to those in attendance, drew on the words of Amanda Gorman, who in 2017 was named the inaugural national youth poet laureate and in January 2021 delivered a poem at Joe Biden’s presidential inauguration.

“When this ends, we’ll smile sweetly, finally seeing. In testing times, we became the best of things,” Leonard said.

Class marshals Grace Malo, left, and Thomas Hartnett lead the other Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School seniors into the graduation ceremony Saturday evening at the Don Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris. Brewster Burns photo

Valedictorian Katherine Hallee urged  her classmates to not lose sight of living in the present as they all look toward their futures. She referred to Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot,” where the two main characters wait and wait for something to happen so they may move forward. The men’s plight is not unlike the life of a student she said, repeating daily routines in their quest to reach graduation.

“We should not overanalyze the past,” Hallee said. “We should not stress about the future. Rather than waiting for ourselves, let’s remember our own personal agency. … make things happen for ourselves.

“Let us, now here in this moment, look at each other. Appreciate the people sitting here for the impact they have had on you.”

Dawson Joseph waits for his name to be called Saturday evening during the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School graduation ceremony at the Don Gouin Athletic Complex in South Paris. Brewster Burns photo

Oxford Hills bid farewell Saturday evening not only to 216 graduating seniors but to Principal Ted Moccia, who is set to retire at the end of the month. After teaching and coaching in School Administrative District 17 and serving as leader of OHCHS since 2005, Moccia presided over his final graduation ceremony.

As he presented diplomas to graduates, Moccia received a golf ball from each outgoing senior, tokens as he trades the opening bell at school for days on the links.

Moccia was also surprised when it was announced the last diploma of 2022 would be presented to him. His daughter and class of 2006 graduate Katrina Moccia Robinson was invited to the podium to present Moccia with an “honorary degree,” making it official the man who has became synonymous with the phrase “Once a Viking, always a Viking” will be a Viking for good.


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