Senior class speaker Samanthak Thiagarajan speaks at Bangor High's graduation on Sunday. (David Marino - BDN)

More than 200 Bangor High School students graduated on Sunday in a ceremony that highlighted the difficulties they faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the opportunities ahead for the Queen City’s newest crop of graduates.

The ceremony, held on Bangor High School’s soccer field, felt little different than pre-pandemic celebrations for one of Maine’s largest high schools. Most students were able to bring four guests to the large outdoor ceremony.

Many of the day’s speeches focused on resilience and overcoming adversity, with many of the speakers highlighting what the class had gone through in the COVID-19 pandemic.

For senior class speaker Samanthak Thiagarajan, high school was a tumultuous time, that while filled with opportunity, was daunting for freshmen like himself. Even after he moved on from what he described as his awkward freshman year, adversity was common. But the time was meaningful.

“We always remember those days when we got four hours of sleep, hit every red light on Broadway and slipped on ice in the student parking lot,” Thiagarajan said. “But each of those events contributed to our growth: how we think and act.”

This graduating class had also experienced the adverse effects of the pandemic, Thiagarajan said, and will go into a world beset with problems, including racism, climate change and economic inequality.

“I hope we can use these experiences to approach these problems in new and innovative ways,” Thiagarajan said.

Senior Class President Dylan Gerrish’s speech highlighted the importance for students to remember to live in the moment and be proud of what they have accomplished. Don’t let yourself get down when you feel you haven’t landed your ideal job or car, Gerish said, but be happy with what you have.

“Instead of waiting to get there, enjoy the fact you are here,” Gerrish said.

Shortly before handing out diplomas, Principal Paul Butler said students had shown great courage as they dealt with the effects of the pandemic, from the impact on social relationships to the changes in schooling.

“You turned something good into something that had turned momentarily, but not irretrievably, bad,” Butler said.