Gray Matters - Be happy
Belfast — Some of you may remember reading the observations of Searsport District High School student Mariah Albanese, who wrote the bi-weekly column, "School Scoop," about the happenings in Regional School Unit 20 as part of a year-long school project, during which I had the pleasure of working with her.
A high school junior at the time, Mariah never ceased to amaze me with her ability to write clearly and concisely, and she had a good sense of what kinds of topics make for an interesting story. Throughout that year I came to know her as a bright, curious and engaging young woman who I know is capable of doing all she wants to do with her life.
This past Sunday, as I do every year at this time, I joined hundreds of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings at one of the local high schools to photograph a high school graduation. While graduations are always a nice time of year due to the positive vibe and the feeling of optimism in the air, this year was extra special. That is because I had the honor of joining Mariah's family to wish her well on her big day as she moves on to make her mark in the world.
Prior to the start of the ceremony, Mariah's mom Donna filled me in on all the hard work Mariah had accomplished during her senior year, and about her plans to attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle this fall. With the help of scholarships and lots of planning on Mariah's part, her mom was super proud to say Mariah will have much the costs covered for her freshman year. And to top it off, Mariah won an iPad in a raffle that was held during her recent visit to the UMPI campus, which will surely be a great tool for her to use as she begins her courses in business administration and graphic design.
Sitting there listening to Mariah's mom talk about how much this young woman has grown in just the last year was truly inspirational, as was seeing the joy on the faces of everyone in her family. I was truly honored to be immediately welcomed by this mom, who thought nothing of inviting me to join her and her whole family in celebrating the success of her daughter on graduation day.
And it was quite uplifting to witness Mariah marching into the gym, wearing her cap, gown and a big smile, and with her best friend marching at her side. In the program, I noticed she graduated with the honor of magna cum laude, meaning "with great honor" or "with great praise," a distinction reserved for students whose grade point average falls between 3.50 and 3.74. This young lady certainly had lots to smile about, and I hope her graduation day will be counted among one of the best days of her life. I know mine was.
I know Mariah is one of the lucky kids who has had lots of support from her family and friends, which I am sure contributed to her successes during her high school career. I am also sure she's heard this sentiment about a hundred times since Sunday afternoon, but I want to again extend Mariah my best wishes as she moves into young adulthood and begins pursuing her own professional interests.
After the ceremony was over, I met up with Mariah to get a photo of her with her whole family while she proudly displayed her new diploma. As we said our good-byes, Mariah and I agreed to keep in touch. That's very cool.
Based on what I know about this girl, she will be just fine, and I look forward to hearing about all of her new accomplishments.
Mariah is one of many seniors who graduated across the county this past weekend. I may not have had the chance to get to know them all as I did Mariah, but my wishes for each and every one of them are the same.
To all of them, I say find your passions and pursue them. Do not be afraid to make mistakes; you can learn so much from them — I know I have. Work hard, but never forget to save out some time for yourself and the people you love.
I think that last one might be the most important thing to remember, because I feel like it is the easiest thing to forget after you get caught up in the hustle of school, career, starting a family and paying the bills. I still have to remind myself to do that from time to time, and I am thankful that I have a nine-year-old son who keeps me on my toes in that regard.
The rest is up to each and every one of you, members of the Class of 2014. As is the case with Mariah, I can only extend my hopes that all of you will maintain those treasured friendships you forged while in school, and that you will meet new people who encourage you to be yourself, too. Live your lives to the fullest every day. Never let fear of failure stop you; instead, let it be the fuel to drive you to places you may never have thought possible.
Most of all, wherever you end up and whatever you do, I hope you will all be happy.