POLAND — At one point not so long ago, students of Poland Regional High School Class of 2023 were lowly freshmen who depended on their older peers for guidance and inspiration. 

These days, it’s this class very providing the inspiration, and on their last days at the school, the graduating students took pride in that fact. 

“Through our time and experiences here we all have grown in ways that we once thought were impossible,” class President Brady Martin said. “We have become the leaders we once looked up to … Our class leadership has led to many successes like the best football record in school history, outstanding softball season, and many achievements in track and field as well as amazing drama productions and concerts. The school spirit in our class also made dances and winter carnival enjoyable and memorable. Although our school has had high expectations, I believe our class’s leadership raised the those expectations.” 

A total of 113 students from Poland, Minot and Mechanic Falls graduated from the school Friday night.  

Brady Martin, president of the Poland High School Class of 2023, addresses the crowd Friday at commencement ceremonies at the school. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“The road ahead will not be easy,” Regional School Unit 16 Superintendent Kenneth J. Healey told them, “but it is filled with endless possibility.” 

As they prepared to leave the school behind, many of them recalled how close the class became over the past four years. It’s the kind of class, they noted, where everybody knows everybody. 


“This community is quite tight,” Salutatorian Nicholas Garey said. “We know each other’s names, conversations, and we have cheered each other on. Nearly everyone I know has had a conversation with most other students. That cannot be said about most schools across the nation, for this class is one of a kind. One that is passionate about what we care about and one that has brought lots of change to this school environment, and overall environment of the tri-town area. 

“This class alone has lots of academic genius, outstanding athletes, talented musicians, and the hardest workers I’ve seen that show what we can do when we care, when we never stop grinding,” Garey said in his address. “Through our hard work, this class has matured a lot over the last fours years. Working hard has enabled us to understand one another, understand how to help each other grow into what we are today. Being here has let us explore new paths, meet new people, change the paths of our lives to where we are today. All of us have worked hard to find our place in this world, and has guided us to tonight.” 

Salutatorian Nicholas Garey approaches the stage Friday to address the audience during Poland Regional High School’s graduation at the school. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Valedictorian Emma Moreau reminded her classmates that graduation is both an end and a beginning. She encouraged them to savor it before wandering out into the world to what comes next. 

“This is a marker in your lives as the day you all completed your first journey,” she said. “This is the day when we all celebrate pushing through the hardships and come out the other side with smiles on our faces, ready for the future. This moment, right now, will be the only one like it. This is your only graduation with these peers, witnessed by these teachers, friends, and family who look at you with such pride as they do right now. So soak it in. Remember to appreciate anyone who has had an impact on your success, and supported you in your failures.” 

Keynote speaker Linda Grimm is a 2004 graduate of the school. She described to the graduates how she had originally planned to go into politics and then somehow ended up a published author and a federal contractor who writes for NASA. 

For the class, it was a reminder that the future is uncertain and that even the best-laid plans have a way of changing over time. 


“No matter what you plan to do in your life, don’t let anyone tell you that there’s only one path to get where you’re going,” Grimm said. “I think this is a big misconception among many new graduates, and some people get really stressed trying to figure out the ‘just right’ path. Myself included. I remember agonizing over which internships to apply to or accept when I was in college because I convinced myself that whatever decision I made would basically determine what I had to do for the rest of my life. Not true. 

Anabell LaChance, left, and Kendall Erwin share a smile Friday before the Poland Regional High School Class of 2023 processional at the school. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

“Some people will progress step-by-step in their careers and stay with one company or in one industry,” she said. “But others change jobs multiple times, they go to work for themselves, they take a break from the workforce. You might even find yourself in a situation where you have to take one step back before you can move forward again. All of that is OK. You have to find the right path for YOU.” 

Around the area, even some local businesses were fired up about the graduation, including the Little Brick Pub in Mechanic Falls, which took to Facebook to congratulate the graduates, including two of its employees, Alyssa Hart and Dana Ludlow. 

“It has been a long journey and these students are moving on to their next adventures in life,” the pub owners wrote. “Many memories have been made, they have persevered through the trying and difficult times, they have worked hard and here they are, they did it, they are saying goodbye to the lives they’ve known for the last four years of high school and embarking on the next journey.” 

The Class of 2023, like other graduating classes this year, began their high school careers under the weird rules and annoying disruptions of a pandemic. 

They came through it together, as one unified group of students, became a kind of theme as the graduation ceremony brought an end to their high school days and marked the beginning of their advances into the future. 

“This class never left anyone behind,” Garey said. “We supported those we care about so we can all succeed, working hard to make sure nobody was left working alone. Together, we started high school. Together, we end high school. Together, we struggled. Tonight, together, we celebrate our hard work and achievements.”

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