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DHS Holds 148th Commencement

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DHS Holds 148th Commencement
Posted on 06/02/2022
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Deering High School held graduation exercises for the Class of 2022 on Thursday, June 2, at Merrill Auditorium. The morning ceremony began with a minute of silence – as requested by class Co-Presidents Jane Charles and Emma Hallee – for the victims of the recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York.

The ceremony also included remarks by Superintendent Xavier Botana and Deering’s co-principals, as well as addresses by students, musical performances and the presentation of awards and diplomas.

“This is Deering High School’s 148th commencement ceremony. Historic Merrill Auditorium is a fitting venue for almost a century-and-a-half of tradition,” Botana told the graduates. “But the setting is only one part of the graduation experience. Being here together and celebrating in community is what makes this day special. And, boy, do you 174 graduates deserve a special day after your very non-traditional high school experience.”

He detailed the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for the Class of 2022 throughout most of their high school experience, and praised graduates for persevering through those challenges and continuing to learn and achieve.

Botana noted that in addition to outstanding achievements in academics, athletics and other activities, members of the Class of 2022 have been accepted by many institutions of higher learning, including elite colleges and universities across the country and in Maine, and have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships and grants.

He quoted abolitionist and author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who lived in Brunswick, Maine, in the early 1850s while writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and sheltering a fugitive enslaved man from South Carolina. Stowe said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you – never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Class of 2022,” Botana said, “you have been swimming against the tide for most of your time in high school, but you never gave up. You’ve demonstrated that you’re prepared and empowered – and have the inner strength – to succeed in the college and career paths that lie ahead of you. I can’t wait to see all that you will accomplish next.”

Co-Principals Dr. Abdullahi Ahmed and Alyson Dame made brief remarks because it has become a tradition at Deering, a student-centered school, for principals to yield their speaking time at graduation to students.

Ahmed said he would give the graduates one final piece of advice: “Make sure you give more than you take. You have a lot to offer this world.”

 Dame recounted a message she received at her own high school graduation in the year 2000: “You, the youth, will solve all our problems.” More than two decades later, the world still has many problems and Dame said she knows now it is unrealistic to expect young people to solve them. But she said graduates can still make progress toward that goal. “You have the strength, ability and intelligence to keep working towards a better world,” Dame said.

Dame delegated the remainder of her time to Emily Cheung, who was the school’s representative to the Portland Board of Public Education last year, among many other accomplishments.

 Cheung said she has become a committed Deering Ram in her time at the school because “Rams are truly built differently.” She said they have two characteristics that make them stand out: “They chase passions and rise to the challenge” and “Rams are on the forefront of social change in the community and beyond.” Cheung, who will attend Yale University this fall, said that although her new school colors will be blue and white, “I will continue to bleed purple.”

 Salutatorian Emily Segal compared attending high school to learning to dance, something she has been doing since early childhood. She said it begins with learning how to move, then learning the fundamentals and finally becoming expert. Segal, who plans to become an architect, told graduates that if  “you put into practice all that you learned at Deering, great things can happen.”

 Valedictorian Balqies Mohamed gave a rousing speech in which she encouraged – and got – frequent audience participation of clapping and cheers.

 Balqies, who will attend Harvard University this fall, credited her parents for teaching her the value of education. She said she watched her father, Co-Principal Dr. Ahmed, work hard to earn his doctorate degree and said her mother is also constantly learning. “My mother has been going to school most of my life,” Balqies said.

She also praised Deering teachers for all they have done for the Class of 2022. “The value of a teacher is unmatched,” she said.

 Balqies said she recently heard a quote along the lines of: “When will we stop applauding people for their resilience and instead change the system to allow them to be vulnerable?”

 She told graduates that the “systems of oppression and power urgently need to be changed” and that they need to raise their voices to do that. “Get used to the sound of your voices,” Balqies said. She said one of the loudest ways they can speak out is to vote.

View the ceremony HERE. See the program.

The Portland Public Schools is Maine’s largest school district, with approximately 6,500 students, and is also the most diverse. About one-third of the district’s students come from homes where languages other than English are spoken—a total of more than 50 languages. 51 percent of the district’s students are white and 49 percent are students of color. Approximately half of PPS students qualify for free or reduced-price school meals.