Grads stir memories, raise aspirations at Topsham elementary school

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TOPSHAM — The Mt. Ararat High School senior class took a walk down memory lane June 10, visiting their old elementary schools and greeted by throngs of young students.

Two days before graduation, members of the Class of 2016 met at several School Administrative District 75 schools, including Williams-Cone in Topsham. As they queued in the lobby, clad in crimson caps and gowns and white scarves, kindergartners through fifth-graders excitedly lined the hallways with colorful signs they made to greet the graduates.

SAD 75 Superintendent Brad Smith, who with Assistant Superintendent Dan Chuhta cheered the young men and women, joked with the students that he’d lost their transcripts, and they’d have to repeat their senior years.

Bree Candland, senior class advisor, said she’d heard of a school in Texas doing the elementary school march, and it was suggested SAD 75 follow suit. SAD 51, based in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, was among other Maine districts to do the same.

“We’re collecting a lot of (Mt. Ararat) high school seniors … who went to Williams-Cone or just feel like participating in this walk-through,” Carmen Caterina, senior class president, explained. “We’re going to walk through the halls and hopefully get some high fives and some smiles from the elementary school kids here, in hopes of showing them that this is who they can be in a couple years.”

The seniors got plenty of both, as the children chanted “M-T-A! M-T-A!” in honor of Mt. Ararat. Bemused adults gently hushed the chanting as young and older students alike gathered in the gym.

Candland in an email Monday praised Williams-Cone teacher Debbie Dunn “for her stellar coordination of such an incredible, sweet, and overwhelming reception from the elementary students. We were truly touched and completely caught off guard by how special this event was to all of us.”

“It just felt so surreal,” senior Bronwyn Caswell-Riday said Monday. “Being back in the school that started it all, right as it’s all ending, was a really bittersweet thing, and it was amazing and overwhelming to see the excitement and support of all the kids and teachers there. I’m really glad I had the opportunity to participate.”

One memory that surfaced for Caterina was how she and her fellow fourth-graders misspelled college as “collage.”

As the teacher corrected them, she recalled, images of high school and college flitted through her mind, concepts that at the time seemed light years away.

But now, the rising freshman at Bowdoin College acknowledged, “It’s really right around the corner. It’s making those many years just so compact.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Sharley Moreland, right, and Meghan Murphy lead Mt. Ararat High School graduates through a very welcoming Williams-Cone Elementary School in Topsham June 10.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.