SOUTH PORTLAND — Southern Maine Community College awarded more than 1,100 degrees and certificates May 16 during a virtual ceremony marking the College’s 74th Commencement.
In all, 1,073 students earned 1,109 degrees and certificates during the 2020-21 academic year. Graduates were recognized during a pre-recorded graduation ceremony, available on SMCC’s YouTube channel. Students in the Class of 2021 came from all 16 counties in Maine, 15 other states and 36 foreign countries. The youngest graduate was 17 years old, and the oldest was 59. Nearly 10 percent of the graduates were members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.
This year’s graduates have shown extraordinary resilience and fortitude while completing their degrees and certificates in the midst of a pandemic, said SMCC Joe Cassidy. Twenty-three graduates had perfect 4.0 grade point average at SMCC, and 48 had a GPA of 3.95 or higher.
“Despite all of the challenges of the past year, this is one of our largest graduating classes ever,” Cassidy said. “Our graduates have distinguished themselves, and now is the time to celebrate their achievements while looking forward to their ongoing success as they begin their careers or continue their education. Our graduates can go anywhere from here.”
Cassidy presided over the ceremony, with the keynote speech delivered by SMCC alumnus Quang Nguyen. Nguyen moved from Vietnam to Maine in 2007, earned a business administration degree at SMCC in 2010, and now has a successful career as a business entrepreneur and financial advisor.
Hundreds of this year’s graduates from SMCC’s applied technology, business and information technology, liberal studies, health sciences, public safety, and other programs are entering or have already entered the workforce. Among them is Colby Roy, who was awarded a degree in precision machining & manufacturing and already has a job at a machine shop in Arundel. Having a degree in hand will open doors in his career, he said.
“I can make more money now that I have a degree and I can basically work anywhere I want,” he said.
Hundreds of other graduates are continuing their education at public and private four-year schools, both in Maine and out-of-state.
Oliver Walker, who earned a degree in liberal studies with a focus in art, is transferring to Maine College of Art, where he was awarded a prestigious scholarship that will cover a large portion of his education costs there. Walker credited SMCC with serving as a launch pad to reach his goal of becoming a concept artist, creating illustrations that convey ideas or themes for use in films, video games, comic books and other media.
“All the teachers I met and took classes with were some of the best people I’ve ever met,” he said. “I’ve also learned to do things because you’re passionate about them, not just for a grade. That’s a big thing I’ve gotten out of SMCC.”
Southern Maine Community College is Maine’s largest and oldest community college. Founded in 1946, SMCC offers courses at its South Portland, Brunswick and online campuses, and at community satellite locations throughout southern Maine. SMCC has among the lowest tuition and fees in New England and offers more than 45 degree programs.