The unique sound of a steel band playing “Pomp and Circumstance” heralded the beginning of the PUHS graduation ceremony on Friday evening, May 22, at the school gymnasium. Family, friends, and well wishers filled the seats, and as the senior class made their entrance, their faces radiated with excitement and pride. The eight boys and eight girls entered in pairs, led by Valedictorian Grace McGuire and Carlos Mingura, and took their seats, the girls in apricot-colored gowns in front, the boys behind them, in black robes.

This small graduating class was awarded $337,000 dollars in scholarships and awards—a remarkable achievement. High school counselor Rosann Clark greeted the seniors, saying that she had never known such a wonderful group of students. As the ceremony continued, the individuality of this group, and their appreciation of one another, was apparent.

Salutatorian Savannah Foster and Valedictorian Grace McGuire each gave a carefully crafted speech. Savannah recalled how difficult math was for her and how much support she got from her teacher, Gilbert Melanson. Her message was that failure and mistakes are often our best teachers. “Don’t be afraid to fail,” she exhorted her classmates, “and never forget to laugh.” By singling out each member of the class and thoughtfully describing their strengths and character traits, Grace’s speech demonstrated how closely connected this group of young adults is and how much fun they have shared over the years.

Dean Fish, who has a long history of community involvement with young people in the county, gave the commencement speech. After explaining that his high school counselor had advised him not to try to go to college, the rancher with a Ph.D. told the students he had worked hard, gotten some lucky breaks, and found a field of study that he loved. He encouraged them to be grateful, to learn, to set long-term goals, and not to believe that money is the key to happiness. He stressed the importance of good habits, kindness, and hustle. “Dreams are free,” he said, “but hustle is sold separately,”

Following this was a slide presentation, with a narrated visual profile of each graduate, starting with a photo from childhood. Each student’s voice accompanied the images with a short description of his or her favorite things and plans for the future.

There was a short pause in the ceremony when it was discovered that the diplomas were not on stage and had to be retrieved from the office, but this was just a small blip in the otherwise well-planned and -executed evening. When all 16 diplomas had been handed out, confetti rained down, the graduates hugged and jumped up and down, and the audience cheered the class of 2015. PRT congratulates the new grads and wishes them the best of journeys in their lives ahead.