"Draw inspiration and become your own piece of the world" was the message Salutatorian Hannah Lacasse and Valedictorian Vieno Carter gave to the graduating Class of 2013 at Oceanside High School East.

A total of 153 seniors graduated during a ceremony at the Rockland high school June 11.

Lacasse referenced her experience in Guatemala where she worked with Safe Passage.

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"I came face to face with poverty; where houses aren't homes; where going to bed didn't mean getting into a bed; and where a 6-year-old saves his small snack of a tortilla from school to bring back to his family," she said.

"The hope is what inspired me," Lacasse said, "it was not a joyful inspiration, but a humbling one — one that gave me a purpose and direction."

She advised her classmates to seek their own inspiration and to pay the good deeds they have received forward. "Use your inspiration to impact others," she said.

"Education will never become a stagnant pool, forever showing the same reflection; it will be a flowing stream, upon whose mirrored surface lies diversified and progressive thoughts," Carter read from her grandfather's valedictorian speech of Rockland High School in 1944.

"In order to truly evolve, we must accept education in every form, allowing ourselves to learn and change into what we are destined to become," she said. Carter paralleled the experiences her classmates will have to the way a broken bottle becomes many pieces of sea glass.

"We will start off being a little rough around the edges and rather transparent," she said, "but soon we'll learn the ways of the world. Our edges will begin to smooth a little, molded by the experiences of life."

"Today we break this bottle and begin our individual lives. But no matter the outcome, at any given point in the future, we can look at one another and know that what we once were is still as strong as ever," Carter closed.

Senior Class President Paige Taber spoke of how the changes her class went through two years ago has given them the ability to adapt to change.

"The element of uncertainty that came with Oceanside led to the ultimate learning experience for everyone," Taber said. "During the two years that we have been Oceanside Mariners, we have learned a great deal more than just academics."

She thanked the faculty and administration for "making this learning experience a positive one and helping us embrace all the changes that came with it. Without all the changes, we wouldn't have all the friends, mentors, and memories we have now."

She closed with a quote from Ekhart Tolle, who said, "Some changes look negative on the surface, but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge."

Principal Thomas Forti and Guidance Counselor Chris Blackmon, assisted by seniors Emmaline Waldron and Afton Hupper, handed out diplomas in front a packed house. Of the seniors, 21 are honor graduates — all also being members of the National Honor Society.

Sixty percent of the class will head on to higher education this fall and two graduates will be joining the military. The remaining 58 will be going directly into the workforce.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or by email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.