Bangor High School seniors Silvia Davids (left) and Emma Youngblood (right) share a smile while waiting to receive their diplomas during Sunday's graduation ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center.  Credit: Kathleen O'Brien / BDN

More than 270 Bangor High School seniors graduated on Sunday in a largely maskless ceremony that marked a return to normal after two years of altered commencement ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Principal Paul Butler said restoring the graduation ceremony to the Cross Insurance Center, where the high school typically held its commencements before the pandemic, made it feel like a ceremony they could enjoy fully.

Though COVID-19 was still on some graduates’ minds, the pandemic that disrupted the education of students across the country makes up only a portion of the Class of 2022’s high school experience.

A total of 272 Bangor High School seniors graduated in the Cross Insurance Center on Sunday after two years of altered commencements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: Kathleen O’Brien / BDN

Last year, Bangor High School held its graduation ceremony outside on the school’s soccer field and students were allowed to bring only four guests.

In 2020, the school held a drive-thru graduation ceremony in which graduates lined up in cars and hopped out one at a time to get their diplomas from school officials.

On their first day of freshman year, class president McKayla Kendall said she and her classmates “walked through the doors of Bangor High School with preconceived notions of what it would be like.”

Although they got to experience essential high school milestones like prom, standardized tests and spirit week, Kendall said they didn’t anticipate spending a portion of their high school years in a pandemic.

The Bangor High School Class of 2022 throw their mortarboards in the air to celebrate the end of Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Kathleen O’Brien / BDN

“We weren’t prepared to live day-by-day not knowing when our lives would go back to normal, and though we aren’t out of the woods just yet, we were successful in making it here today,” Kendall said.

Simon Socolow, who was chosen by his classmates to deliver a speech, said graduation is time to reflect on how far the graduates have come, and what they’ve endured, over the last four years.

“Four years ago, we started together — now we finish together,” Socolow said. “As a class, we experienced the unprecedented turbulence of COVID-19 and its slew of related side effects: remote school, quarantine and general uncertainty.”

Bangor High School graduate shares a congratulatory hug with a family member while she waits for her turn to receive her diploma. Credit: Kathleen O’Brien / BDN

He encouraged his classmates to consider what they want to accomplish in their lives, and how they want to change the world with the gifts they’ve been given, before they go their separate ways.

“Realize how much potential we have,” Socolow said. “Facing the great challenges of our time — climate change, pandemics, fighting for democracy — is a duty, a destiny or an opportunity, depending on how you look at it. We are poised to change the world.”

Bangor High School senior Simon Socolow addresses his classmates during Sunday’s graduation ceremony at the Cross Insurance Center. Credit: Kathleen O’Brien / BDN

Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect name for the Cross Insurance Center.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled McKayla Kendall’s first name and Simon Socolow’s last name.

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Kathleen O'Brien

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...