BAR HARBOR— There were cheers and tears in the packed gym at Mount Desert Island High School on Sunday as 117 members of the class of 2018 received their diplomas.
It was the school’s 50th commencement ceremony.
The commencement speaker was Max Mason, a member of the MDI High class of 2013 who earned a degree in sport management and economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
After working for a year in player development in the Baltimore Orioles organization, he realized his heart was in education. He returned home last winter and now is an ed tech and coach at Mount Desert Elementary School.
Mason told the class of 2018 that in preparing for his commencement address, he asked his second-grade students what advice he should impart.
One student wrote, “Believe in someone.”
“That is so powerful,” he said. “It is so much easier to navigate life when you approach it from the mindset that we all have redeeming qualities, we all have good within us,” Mason said. “I challenge you to find that within yourself and within others you value. Everyone has something to offer.”
Another of his young charges suggested that he tell the graduates, “If you stay bright, you will stay happy.”
“Quite literally, if you are bright and cheerful, others tend to reciprocate, creating a pattern of uplifting and feel-good moments,” Mason said. “I also take this idea as a challenge: Challenge the mind. Be a lifelong learner.”
A third young student wrote that he should tell the graduates, “Smile every day.”
“Maybe there’s real value in turning to your inner second-grader,” Mason concluded, “Maybe there’s real value in believing in someone. Maybe that starts with yourself.”
The two student speakers at graduation were Emerson Jeffery, selected for the honor by the senior class, and Owen Mild, chosen by the faculty.
Jeffery said he struggled to figure out what sage advice he could offer his classmates, given his youth and relative lack of life experience. But then he realized, “You don’t need more experience than someone else to give them advice, you just need different experience.”
He drew from his experience in high school theater productions for one piece of advice: “Everyone should do theater at least once in their life. The roles don’t change you; they teach you who you are and who you can become.”
Much of Mild’s address was a stand-up comedy routine. In thanking the teachers, he said, “We will never forget how much effort you put into teaching us things we’ve already forgotten.”
But seriously, he said, “Over the last four years, we’ve had the privilege of developing relationships with and learning from the best teachers around.”
Addressing his classmates, Mild said, “Imagine the change we could make in this world, the change that we need and want. This class is teeming with activism and leadership that without a doubt has the ability to make this change happen.”