Newcastle’s Lincoln Academy conducted a physically distant graduation ceremony, adhering to state public health guidelines, on the William A. Clark Field on Friday, June 5.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the school to get creative in order to conduct its 142nd commencement exercise and allow all 126 students to walk for graduation.
Commencement speeches were recorded and released on LA’s YouTube channel and the graduation ceremony was broadcast live on Facebook from 2 until approximately 5:30 p.m. Friday.
LA spokesperson Jenny Mayher masterminded the complex logistical plan to hold 10 “mini-graduations,” one for each student adviser group, in order to adhere to state guidelines banning gatherings of more than 50 people.
Each adviser group of 12-15 students gathered separately at St. Patrick’s Church, about 20 minutes apart, to arrange a vehicle procession down Academy Hill Road to LA’s campus.
Every student rode in a vehicle with family members, exited the vehicles 6 feet apart and wearing masks, then lined up in front of the turf field to receive their diplomas.
Family members and friends along for the ride stood by the cars to observe the ceremony and express their support. Many cars were adorned with decorations, signs, and noisemakers to aid in the celebration.
The front of one car was even covered with a giant surgical mask, a tongue-in-cheek reference to the pandemic, and there was at least one motorcycle in the graduation procession.
Speakers played music as the students filed into the area.
Students then removed their masks, walked across the field as their names were announced, and stretched to grab their diplomas from a student adviser at a safe distance and receive congratulations from Head of School Jeffrey Burroughs.
Eleven students graduated from their homes through FaceTime. The students’ advisers held a cellphone with each student’s headshot attached to the top of the phone so these students could still graduate with their peers.
The students in each adviser group then assembled in a large chevron formation to flip their tassels from right to left and throw their caps in the air, before departing to parade through the Twin Villages.
Spectators gathered along Main Street in Newcastle and Damariscotta to congratulate the class of 2020.
For the shortened virtual graduation speeches, Burroughs spoke first and later presented the Linda Jean Metcalf Award to Jojo Martin and the Achievement Cup to Ellie Matthews.
The co-salutatory address was given by Aiden McCullen and Benji Pugh and the valedictory address was given by Quinn Straus.
Burroughs spoke to the difficulties of the coronavirus situation and urged the students to stay strong.
“If you have learned one thing from your time here at Lincoln Academy, I hope that it is to find your community and participate in it. To take steps to make the world around you a better and more just place for your friends, your family, and your fellow humankind,” Burroughs said.
McCullen, who started at LA as a sophomore, expressed his thanks for the warm welcome he received from everyone at LA.
“All of our next steps are also frightening, but I’m not worried about the Lincoln Academy Class of 2020. The care that you showed me is inherent in you. I’m confident that soon you will be the ones to warmly welcome a new student to your campus, or a recent graduate to your workplace, because you did it all for me here,” McCullen said.
Pugh talked about the adjustments required to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, but said he believes LA has prepared students to face these and any other challenges.
“The honest truth is that this difficulty won’t end soon. More than ever, our transition to the greater world will be more stressful and melancholy, but I can think of no group better fit for this challenge than all of you,” Pugh said.
Valedictorian Straus then spoke to the strong support he received from students and faculty alike at LA, reminding everyone that teachers are also essential workers, like grocery or health care workers.
“While the incredible uncertainty that surrounds our current situation may make any sort of cohesion difficult, I am confident that the spirit of our amazing class will live on in all of your future accomplishments,” Straus said.
To watch the speeches, go to tinyurl.com/y76tpxxt.