News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, June 14, 2018
Sage advice given to GSA graduates


With hands clasped, the class of 2018 awaits their diplomas.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Jennifer Osborn

Humor graced the stage at the George Stevens Academy Class of 2018’s commencement held on the school’s lawn Sunday afternoon.

GSA graduated 72 students.

First Honor Essayist Yian “Albert” Zhang set the tone for the 90-minute ceremony by describing his younger self’s goals to be an astronaut and then a dictator.

“I was 7 years old and I wanted to become an astronaut,” said Zhang. “They have specially designed and prepared food. This is the first dream I had and when I told adults about it, they gave me a look of admiration and encouragement.”

But, “I learned the stars at night are very far from us,” Zhang said. “So I reevaluated my dream. Eventually I decided I should not risk my life for astronaut food.”

When Zhang was a bit older, he thought money and power were the most important things in life.

“That’s what gave me my second dream, to become a dictator,” he said.

Zhang said his father told him becoming a dictator is a tough job and you need to work very hard. “I did not notice the sarcastic tone of his voice and took it seriously. My teachers at elementary school praised me but did not know I was planning to become a dictator.

“Finally I found what bad things happened to my dictator pioneers,” he said. “But at least I have developed a good work ethic.”

GSA Headmaster Tim Seeley introduced guest speaker Blue Hill Books owner Samantha Haskell, with whom he does business.

Seeley said when he was in Haskell’s shop recently, he realized he had his own bookseller.

“As a nerd of the very first order, that is a very cool realization to make,” said Seeley. “Then I realized, she knows my deepest interests. I told her I hope booksellers have a code of conduct, which includes strict confidentiality.”

Haskell, class of 2005 graduate, kept the crowd laughing while imparting sage advice.

Haskell apologized to her math teacher for flunking sophomore year algebra then described herself as the owner of a successful business who does her own taxes.

“Just kidding, I could never do my own taxes,” she said.

Haskell offered several pieces of advice for the graduates.

“Life is a long string of small decisions,” said Haskell. People have to make as many as 35,000 decisions in the course of a day, she said. “The reality is you just have to listen to and trust yourself in the moment.

“I also think this means you don’t need to have a dream,” Haskell said. “Of course, if you have a dream of being an astronaut or dictator, go for it. I’d be lying if I said I dreamt of being a bookseller. It’s just good small decisions that got us here.”

Haskell gave the example of sitting in her first GSA band class next to Charlie Sichterman, the son of the former Blue Hill Books owners Mariah Hughs and Nick Sichterman. Haskell and Charlie became fast friends. Nick and Mariah ended up giving Haskell her first job.

“The quality of your relationships will affect the quality of your life,” Haskell said.

“Prioritize the chance to learn directly from someone other than textbooks,” said Haskell.

The bookshop owner offered a final piece of advice.

“In the future, when you go home with someone, if they don’t have good books, don’t stay the night,” Haskell advised.

Editor’s note: This is the first story in an occasional collaboration between The Ellsworth American and the The Weekly Packet.


Soon to be graduates await their turns on stage.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn

With hands clasped, the class of 2018 awaits their diplomas.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn

Graduate Isla Brownlow shares the spotlight with GSA Headmaster Tim Seeley.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn

Eleventh grade student Yiqing “Laura” Liu, stands at the podium to translate announcements for the international parents of graduates, many of whom are from China. David Stearns, dean of curriculum and instruction, left, handled Vietnamese translations. Right, Board of Trustees Chairman Samantha Politte and Seeley wait for the next graduate.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn

Blue Hill Books owner Samantha Haskell, class of 2005, offered humorous, yet sage, advice to the graduates during her commencement remarks.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn

One graduate borrowed inspiration from Nike for her “Just Did It” cap.

Photo by Jennifer Osborn