LISBON — When Laura Craig graduated from high school 20 years ago, she assumed life was linear.

Go to college. Get a job. Pay off student loans. Get married. Have kids.

Happiness, she thought, would follow.

But speaking at the Class of 2023 graduation ceremony Sunday, the former Lisbon High School secretary encouraged the soon-to-be graduates to approach their lives differently and find joy in the unknowns between major milestones.

“Most of life is outside of your control,” she said. “Yes, our choices have consequences, but sometimes choice is just an illusion. Sometimes all you can do is surrender to the uncertainty and trust that you will find beauty on the other side.

“Because happiness is not something to work toward. It’s not a goal to be achieved. It’s all around you every day.”


During her commencement address, Craig, who is now a member of the School Committee, asked the students to pause, get out of their heads, listen to her words and be present.

Because soon, graduation, too, will be just another memory, she said.

On Sunday, just more than 80 Lisbon High School students received high school diplomas. As each student’s name was called, applause, cow bells and good-natured shouts could be heard from family and friends packed into the school gymnasium.

Valedictorian Keenan Ovrebo-Welker gives the welcome address Sunday at the Class of 2023 Lisbon High School commencement ceremony. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

At Lisbon’s graduation, simple traditions illustrate the deep connections within the community. After the presentation of colors by the Lisbon Fire Department, graduating seniors presented loved-ones with roses in a tender display of appreciation. And, when it was time for graduates to shift their tassel to the left, students paired off to turn each others tassels.

This year, the Class of 2023’s motto was a quote from Winnie the Pooh: “We didn’t realize we were making memories; we were just having fun!”

In his welcome address, valedictorian Keenan Ovrebo-Welker pressed his classmates to learn from their mistakes, accept the wisdom they’ve been given and devote themselves to the greater good.


“From my perspective, I’ve seen both a school where someone can be the cream of the crop, yet still be shunned for being a person different from the majority,” he said. “A school where someone can bring the utmost creativity and kindness into the lives around them, yet be suffering in silence. A school where others, no matter their age or rank, can only uplift as much as they are uplifted. And, a school where we can gather in a room together for one last shared memory, but still be longing for the door. …

“I hope we can find peace in ourselves, so that our worth need not be defined by anyone but our own minds.”

Class President Emmanuella Norelus took a lighter approach, asking her classmates to play a short game of “Never Have I Ever.”

“Even putting one finger down shows that we all have something in common,” Norelus said, recognizing her classmates who have turned in assignments at 11:59, pulled all-nighters and showed up to school the next day, failed at something, helped support their families by working through school, and made it through the pandemic.

“You’re tough, brave, determined and resilient,” she said. “It’s as if nothing can crush our spirit, and that is something I love about our class. Coming from all walks of life and having different stories to tell, I’m so happy to share this monumental moment with you all personally.”

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