FITCHBURG -- As Principal Christine Battye has battled cancer, one mantra in particular has helped to get her through the hard days -- being grateful for something small every day.
That was the message she presented to North Middlesex Regional High School's graduates June 6, when the school's 241 graduating seniors turned their tassels in a ceremony at Fitchburg State University.
"The way to find joy in life is to find something every day to be grateful for, even something that seems like the smallest, most insignificant thing. Express your gratitude," Battye said.
Battye said that she felt a particular connection to the Class of 2014, because they were the first class that she had been with every step of the way during her four years as principal.
She concluded her speech by passing on a piece of advice her mother gave her as a child.
"Not every day will be a good day, but something good happens everyday. And I challenge you to notice it when it does," she said.
In front of a packed crowd at FSU's Recreation Center, diplomas were awarded after a series of speeches and musical performances from the NMRHS choral program, Concert Band and American Sign Language class, who signed "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Of the school's 241 graduates, 138 received at least one scholarship, and many students received several. Lisa Clark was the class valedictorian, and received her diploma first.
Standing ovations were given to two graduates -- Samuel Heller, who could not accept his diploma in person because he was serving in the United States Marines, and Matthew Richards, a special-education student who Superintendent Joan Landers said inspired her speech, as well as all of his classmates.
Landers said that Richards' positive qualities were infectious, and inspired those all around him in a multitude of ways.
"I have witnessed this to be true because the Class of 2014 displays perseverance, strength, courage and the power of a smile," Landers said.
Those qualities, she said, have manifested themselves in the academic, athletic, artistic and philanthropic achievements of North Middlesex students.
"I have watched you grow academically, enrolling in classes that challenge you and lead you to accomplish your hopes and dreams. I have witnessed you set high expectations for yourself and others. I witnessed this class bring school spirit and pride to a new level at NM, acting as a catalyst to renew belief in our educational system," Landers said.
Student speaker Alexis Regopoulos urged her classmates to learn from their mistakes. If she had not done so, she said, she would never have become Student Council president, an experience she credits with being one of the best of her high school career.
"Class of 2014, I don't want you to settle for good enough," Regopoulos said. "Don't be afraid to fail. You need failure in order to learn, in order to succeed. Failure is humbling, and it makes triumph so much sweeter when you know what it took to get to that point."
Student speaker Marissa Amichetti, also the class salutatorian, reminded students to acknowledge those who have helped them to succeed.
"Never forget who you are, and where you came from. Never forget how you got to where you are today. And most importantly, never forget those who helped you along the way, because without them, we would not be the people we are today," Amichetti said.
Follow Chelsea Feinstein on Twitter and Tout @CEFeinstein.