SULLIVAN — Graduates, staff and alumni of Sumner Memorial High School each talked about the pride they have in their school and the special place it holds in the community at graduation on the evening of June 7.
Madeline Bierman, who graduated magma cum laude and was one of 53 Sumner seniors to receive a diploma, said the school “serves as the heart of the community.” She recounted how her grandparents met in the gym decades earlier.
Superintendent Michael Eastman, who worked as a student teacher at Sumner 25 years ago, said the school made an impression on him from the day he started.
“From the moment I walked through the door, I knew there was something special about this school,” he said.
With a smaller number of graduates than many schools, Sumner was also able to take time to celebrate what makes each of its seniors special.
Principal Ty Thurlow spoke about graduates individually before they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas: what school they plan to attend in the fall and what they intend to major in, or if they plan to enter the workforce (many of them in the fishing industry), as well as what they were known for during their time at Sumner.
Three students were especially cheered by the audience for their decision to serve their country by joining the military: Nicholas Giuffrida (Air Force), Jason Jacobs (Marine Corps) and Lance Rush (Air Force).
“As you can see, you have our gratitude for making that commitment,” said Steven Munger, one of two commencement speakers, after he read their names and there was sustained applause from the capacity crowd in the Clint Ritchie Gymnasium.
Munger, a geneticist with a Ph.D. who works at The Jackson Laboratory, grew up in Michigan. Neither his hometown’s population nor his high school class size was large, though, so he said he could relate to the Sumner graduates.
He acknowledged that his background meant he had to work harder in many cases than his peers from larger, more affluent communities. They tended to have connections and more opportunities available to them, he said, but that did not stop him from achieving success.
“I’ve been brought here to show you that it is possible to overcome those circumstances and achieve your dreams,” Munger said.
The other speaker at the June 7 ceremony was Ellsworth Police Detective Dotty Small, a “very proud graduate of Sumner Memorial High School” who got her diploma in 1974. She mixed humor and serious advice in her remarks to graduates, offering them what she called “Dotty’s Top 10 Suggestions.”
The suggestions included being financially disciplined and responsible, not being afraid to fail, and respecting others as well as yourself. Like Munger, she told graduates they should not feel as if they have to know exactly what they are going to do, at this point, for the rest of their lives. Small noted she did not become a police officer until she turned 30, after working previously at Dunkin’ Donuts and as a pharmacy aide.
“You see how this progresses?” she joked. “Donuts, drugs, cop.”
She encouraged students to pursue what they are passionate about and to also be honest with themselves what they are not passionate about.
“If you are interested in history, but don’t like children, don’t become a history teacher,” she advised.
Following the commencement ceremony, Sumner’s Class of 2018 headed to Camp Beech Cliff for Project Graduation — an all-night, alcohol- and drug-free party, where they were able to share one final experience as a class.