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Fort Kent Class of 2020 makes lasting memories with outdoor graduation ceremony

FORT KENT, Maine — The COVID-19 virus took away much in the way of high school memories from graduating seniors this year, but the Fort Kent Community High School Class of 2020 did not allow the virus to steal away with their graduation ceremony. 

Newly graduated Fort Kent Community High School students toss their caps into the air on Friday, June 12. (Jessica Potila | SJVT)

Schools buildings in Maine shut down in March and students began remote learning due to the pandemic. 

But on Friday,  vehicles filled with friends and loved ones surrounded the high school soccer field, where the Class of 2020 held an outdoor ceremony that came pretty close to a traditional graduation event. 

Principal John Kaleta expressed admiration for the 57 graduates for their ability to persevere despite the unexpected challenges of remote learning during the past few months of school.

Senior Zachery Chasse speaks at the Fort Kent Community High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. (Jessica Potila | SJVT)

“The Class of 2020 [treks] through 13 years and seven months of traditional learning and almost three months of remote learning — a feat that no one would have thought possible — and you are all graduating,” Kaleta said. “To many of you the remote learning segment was the most challenging part of your education. It also shows that you can roll with the punches and adapt to changing situations, which is a skill that is important for success in life.” 

“Our country is at a tipping point — a philosophical and social divide has paralyzed our nation,” Kaleta added. “Reason it seems has gone out the window. Many people talk, but few listen. I believe that you are the chosen ones who will restore reason and sanity to this nation. You are resilient, fearless, dignified, positive and are open-minded.”

SAD 27 guidance counselor Catherine Sevigny announced that 73 percent of the Class of 2020 plans to continue their academic education at institutions of higher learning.

Class of 2020 marshal Eden Paradis leads the processional at the Fort Kent Community High School Class of 2020 graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. (Jessica Potila | SJVT)

The Class of 2020 earned a combined total of $439,760 in scholarship money, according to Sevigny. 

The audience cheered with respect for graduate Kevin Bonenefant Dionne who plans to serve in the United States Military. 

Many members of the Class of 2020 also rose to their feet when Sevigny asked who among the class has served as “essential workers” during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Riley Sibley, Emily Ouellette and Zachery Chasse were honor essayists at the ceremony. All three graduated in the top 10 percent of their class. 

Senior Cady Hebert provided a moving rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the Fort  Kent Community High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. (Jessica Potila | SJVT_

“Though each of us have different goals, our support for each other is like a family,” Sibley said of her graduating class. “We revel in each other’s successes and lift each other up when we fall.”  

“Our class has had quite the memorable high school experience,” Ouellette said.  “There are so many negative things that could be dwelled upon, but we need to choose to look for the positive. Our community has grown closer through these troubling times and has shown tremendous support to our class.”

Senior Emily Ouellette speaks at the Fort Kent Community High School graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. (Jessica Potila | SJVT)

Ouellette said the Class of 2020 can endure trying times. 

“We are resilient, hard working and positive thinkers, because CHS has shaped us to be this way.”

Chasse expressed confidence in his classmates’ ability to make a positive difference in the world.  

“We are the next generation — equipment operators, truck drivers, construction workers, athletes, beauticians, artists, businessmen, medical providers, military personnel, educators, leaders, parents and more,” Chasse said. “We are the future and there is nothing anyone here cannot accomplish if they put their heart, mind and soul into it. 

Drone 24 captured this photo of the many vehicles that surrounded the Fort Kent Community High School soccer field during the Class of 2020 graduation ceremony on Friday, June 12. (Courtesy of Drone 24)

We are prepared, we are capable, we are resilient, we are the CHS Class of 2020 and we are ready to take on the world.”

The ceremony was followed by a motorcade of around 100 cars with graduates and their supporters escorted by Fort Kent Police Chief Tom Pelletier around the town and on to a fireworks display in honor of the graduates at Lonesome Pine Trails.

A complete recording of the graduation ceremony is available on the WFKTV Channel 4 Facebook page.

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