Meredith Harthorne, left, salutatorian of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School’s Class of 2024, leaves the podium Saturday during the commencement at Donald Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris. Harthorne admitted that the book that resonated most with her throughout high school was “The Monster at the End of This Book,” a tale of Grover, the Muppet character from the TV series “Sesame Street.”  Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

PARIS — Salutatorian Meredith Harthorne admitted to fellow graduates and others at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on Saturday that the book that resonated most with her throughout high school was Jon Stone’s “The Monster at the End of This Book.”

From the time she was 6, every day closed with reading the children’s book with her parents. She said she knew how the book ends and could recite it page by page. Yet, each evening she would be caught up in the the angst and dread of Grover, the Muppet character from the TV series “Sesame Street,” who is horrified to learn there is a monster at the end of the book.

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School secretary Meagan Marcoux, right, and Assistant Principal Tara Pelletier ensure diplomas are in proper order ahead of Saturday evening’s graduation ceremony in Paris. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

“I would be anxious and sweating, only to suddenly remember everything was just fine in the end and there was NO monster,” Harthorne said. “At the time I did not fully understand the message in this book but I loved the story. I could relate to Grover. I was Grover.”

Admitting that throughout childhood she had been satisfied to live in her comfort zone rather than seizing challenges, she told those assembled at Gouin Donald Gouin Athletic Complex how, as she started her freshman year, she resolved to seek opportunities that were not comfortable.

“With every new situation and struggle that I worked through, I grew as a person,” Harthorne said. “I found that as I reached goal after goal, the monster never appeared. Countless stressful situations came and went … I realized that the distress I allowed myself to feel was the true monstrosity! I finally recognized I had been Grover.

“I know I’m done worrying about the monster at the end of the book,” she said.


Harthorne wrapped up her remarks and summoned her best friend, Valedictorian Madelaine Miller, to the podium to speak. But Miller did not come only with words. She presented Harthorne with a Grover doll to sit in the chair beside her.

“Here we can see that Grover is not the monster that we all create in our heads,” Miller said. “He’s actually quite lovable.”

Miller continued with the theme of overcoming internal monsters that can threaten a person from achieving goals. She recounted the stress of learning multiplication tables in fourth grade only for math to become her favorite subject. She confessed the guilt she felt as the pitcher in a sophomore playoff game when the opposing team won because she allowed the batter to walk when bases were loaded.

What helped her hold her head high that day, Miller said, was seeing the incredible support the team had off the field. Vikings spectators traveled two hours and easily outnumbered the home crowd to cheer them on.

“I will never forget that moment, but more importantly that in the Oxford Hills we can count on community support to help us keep the monsters at bay,” Miller said. “This is something that I took for granted until then, but now I will always appreciate it.”

Like Harthorne, Miller is stepping into the next chapter of her own story.

“Over the past four years I, too, have planned, analyzed, and overthought just about every aspect of my life,” she said. But although enrolled at Bates College in Lewiston this fall, Miller said she will prioritize the experience over specific studies and tracks, and going in with an undeclared major.

“For the first time in my life, I am starting something without a plan, and I am incredibly proud of that,” Miller said. “I’m working not to stress about my future, and let it unfold the way that it’s meant to.”

Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School class marshals Saige Winslow and Dakota Morgan direct seniors Saturday during the processional at Donald Gouin Athletic Complex in Paris. The Class of 2024 numbers 220. Nicole Carter/Advertiser Democrat

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