Approximately 1,000 people attended Lincoln Academy’s 143rd commencement ceremony to send off the class of 2021 at the Augusta Civic Center on Friday, June 4.
A sound system and video projector screen were set up to allow all attendees to adequately see and hear the proceedings. A livestream was also available for those not in attendance.
Although all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted by the state of Maine, attendees were required to wear face coverings and stay physically distanced as much as possible.
Head of School Jeffrey Burroughs served as the master of ceremonies for the event and introduced each of the different speakers and musical performances.
“The joy I have witnessed in your smiles and the graces of one another this past week has shown me how deeply you care for each other and how your quirky leadership has helped us all come through this together,” Burroughs said.
He said the graduation ceremony marks the first time in the school year that LA students have been able to get together.
Andrew Nery played “Foggy Mountain” solo on his banjo prior to the first valedictory speech by Bao Chi Dang.
Co-valedictorians Dang and Riley Stevenson, who ended the year with the same exact grade point averages, each delivered an address to the crowd. During their speeches, Dang and Stevenson thanked everyone for their support during the highly unusual school year, during which the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to engage in a hybrid schedule consisting of in-person classes and distance learning.
“We managed to persevere together and make it here together,” Dang said.
With a mix of humor and wisdom, Dang urged his fellow graduates to put themselves in other people’s shoes and “do what you love and get better every day.”
“Give much more than you receive as it is essential for building relationships,” Dang said.
Emma Tolley and Brennan Cruz then teamed up for a performance of “Omnia Sol” before Burroughs and Sarah Wills-Viega, director of counseling and studies at LA, delivered various scholarships and awards to high-achieving graduates.
A band consisting of graduates and LA alumni then performed The Head and the Heart’s “Rivers and Roads.” Stevenson played drums with the band and then put her high heels back on before giving her valedictory address.
“I prefer to play barefoot by the way, so it’s not just a heels-specific decision,” Stevenson said, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
“This pandemic has been difficult. It’s been hard to feel isolated and miss out on so many high school rites of passage,” Stevenson said.
She noted, however, that this is not the only difficult challenge the class has faced. During her emotional speech, Stevenson focused on the legacy of her classmate, Isabelle Manahan, who died at 15 in a car crash in Edgecomb three years ago.
“At Isabelle’s memorial, her freshman year advisor Thomas Kothe summed her up far better than I ever could, saying ‘Izzy’s approach was based on the understanding that people are fundamentally good, that the world is an endless source of wonder, and that life should be joyous,’” Stevenson said.
Stevenson urged her fellow graduates to continue to keep Manahan’s spirit of love, joy, and compassion alive in everything they do. She talked about the loss of innocence and struggles her whole class felt having to say goodbye to a beloved classmate “without even knowing it.”
“So, graduates, start now. Keep living like Izzy. Savor the small moments, find your joy, live with compassion, and give your abundance of love whenever you can,” Stevenson said.
Burroughs, along with each student group’s advisor, then conferred diplomas to each of the 112 graduates before the final recessional.