Joseph Wright, Nursing Alum

After graduating high school, I joined the Marine Corps at 18 years old. My patriotism and family tradition of military service played a large role in this decision. I began my service as an 0331-infantry machine gunner, later becoming an infantry unit leader while serving as a Marine Security Guard at embassies abroad. I also instructed combat and combat marksmanship.

I chose to attend SMCC because it had a reputable SMCC Nursing program and because I appreciated its presence of older, non-traditional students. As student in my late 30’s, I didn’t want to be the only one my age in a classroom, and I wasn’t at SMCC.

In 2020, I received my associate degree in Nursing at SMCC. I have since been accepted to the University of Maine Fort Kent online RN to BSN program. I have been a nurse for almost four years and currently work with post-operative integrated managed care patients. My goal is to obtain my BSN and rise into higher positions in my field.


Kyle Verrill, Business Administration Alum

After graduating from high school in 2008, I joined the Army to fulfill my lifelong dream of serving in the military. During my time in the Army, I served as a Military Police.

When it was time for me to transition to civilian life, I decided to attend SMCC. I was fortunate to have the assistance of SMCC’s Director of Veteran and Military Student Services, who was integral in guiding me through the college process. I received much-needed support and advice when I was unsure of my next steps, and I ultimately decided to pursue a degree in Business Administration.

Thanks to the guidance and support I received, I completed my associate degree in 2017 and went on to earn my BA in Business from the University of Southern Maine in 2019. I am now the Manager of MaineHealth’s Corporate Supply Chain and Distribution. My goal is to continue advancing my career and pursue an MBA.


Amy Manning, Culinary Arts Alum

I entered the Navy on July 24, 2001, after graduating from high school that year. I wasn’t ready for college and wanted to see what the Navy could offer me. I was a Culinary Specialist during my four years in the Navy.

My husband and I moved to Maine and I still had GI Bill money I needed to use up before it expired, so I chose to attend SMCC. I had a hospitality degree from another community college and wanted to add a culinary degree to go with it.

I enjoyed my classes and professors at SMCC. I still keep in contact with one of my professors. He has been a great mentor. I started working at Windham Middle School as a kitchen helper during school. I completed my internship and was able to graduate from SMCC with my Culinary Arts Applied Science degree with High Honors in May 2016.

From December 2016 to June 2022, I had the honor of serving as the kitchen manager at Windham Primary School. In recognition of my hard work and dedication, the Maine School Nutrition Association awarded me the title of 2022 Manager of the Year for Maine.

I have been the kitchen manager at Windham Middle School since June 2022. My responsibilities include providing meals to approximately 600 students every day at WMS.

My future goal is to continue to increase my participation and provide meals to students.


Jason Quirk, Fire Science and EMS/Paramedicine Alum

After graduating from high school, I was unsure about what I wanted to do, so I joined the Coast Guard to help figure out my career path. I served as a 2nd class Boatswain Mate and held the positions of coxswain and boarding officer. My responsibilities included driving boats and leading boarding teams to inspect recreational and fishing boats.

I selected SMCC because, even after leaving the Coast Guard, I desired to pursue a career in public service. SMCC’s program depth allowed me to obtain Fire Science and EMS/Paramedicine degrees.

In 2014, I earned my Associate in Applied Science Degree in Fire Science and secured a full-time position with the Portland, Maine Fire Department over a month before graduation.

I decided to pursue the EMS/Paramedicine degree at SMCC in 2015 because it was clear the program was the best around. A deciding factor in returning to SMCC was my positive experiences with SMCC’s Director of Veteran and Military Student Services. In 2017, I earned my Associate in Applied Science Degree in EMS/Paramedicine.

Since my time at SMCC, I have remained with the Portland Fire Department for over nine years.


Benjamin Henckel, Precision Machining and Manufacturing Alum

At 19 years old, I decided to join the Navy. Initially, I had planned to work on cruise ships to explore the world, but a friend suggested the Navy as a better option. During my service, I worked as an AME (aviation structural mechanic). Still, I mainly served as an AO (aviation ordnance man), repairing small arms, loading missiles, and assisting with countermeasures on MH-605 and HH-60H helicopters.

After leaving the Navy, I attended SMCC as it was close to home and seemed like a good first step. I first became interested in 3-D printing with the help of an SMCC instructor, which led me to the Precision Machining & Manufacturing program. In 2021, I earned a CNC Machine Operator certificate and then my Precision Machining and Manufacturing associate degree in 2022. I’m currently a junior at the University of Southern Maine, studying Technology Management to earn my bachelor’s degree.

I received Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) through the Post 9/11 BAH (GI Bill®) which provided me with some financial security while I determining which path I wanted to pursue while enrolled in college.

I feel fortunate that I am still connected with SMCC faculty, who were incredibly kind and helpful, through my current employer, Arch Additive. The company is a leading precision medical manufacturer in Portland, Maine. I’m a Lead Technician and also manage some facility tasks. We use industrial 3D printers to make implants out of titanium.


Whit Cole, Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Alum

Coming from a small high school where not many planned to serve, I wanted to step up and saw the Army as an opportunity to fulfill the ‘protector’ role I had always envisioned myself in. After joining the Delayed Entry Program during my Junior year of High School in 2000-2001, I left for Basic at Ft. Benning, GA, just three days after graduation. I served in the Army for ten years, primarily in the Infantry, where I held various positions, from infantry team and squad leader to master and light and heavy machine gunner. I completed two tours in Iraq, with the 2005-2006 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) and the 2008-2009 125th SBCT Alaska.

At 30, I decided to pursue a college degree in Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration to utilize some of the skills I had learned in the Army. I found a solid veteran community at SMCC, which helped me adjust to civilian life. I am grateful that many of my instructors were also veterans, which made it easier for me to understand their teaching styles. After two years of hard work, I received my associate degree. The following year, I received a plumbing certificate and graduated with high honors.

While at SMCC, I received the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship, making me the first veteran in the HVAC-R program to receive this award. I also received two Leader of the Pack awards from Student Life. With the help of SMCC’s Director of Veteran and Military Student Services, I created the first microgrants for veterans. We raised grant funds through bake sales that helped five veterans with book supplies through the Veterans Student Group at SMCC.

Since graduating from SMCC, I have worked for three different HVAC-R and plumbing companies, including Warren Mechanical, fellow SMCC alum Lairds HVAC and Riverside Mechanical. I install heat pumps under my own company and I work with college peers to service and install many different types of equipment.

In the future, I plan to expand my company by bringing in peers from SMCC and providing support to veterans looking to enter the trades. I want to assist veterans returning to school by giving them the opportunity for employment while supporting them in their educational journey and helping them transition to civilian life.


James LeBlanc, Culinary Arts Alum

I went to college for a year first before joining the Army/Army National Guard. Honestly, I joined the military on a whim. I was drifting a bit and said, “Why not?” While serving, I was a wheel mechanic, among many ‘unofficial’ jobs.

I went to college twice before coming to SMCC. I decided to attend SMCC because they had an excellent culinary program, and I wanted to open my own restaurant eventually. It was a crazy dream, but I pursued it.

I was in the National Guard for most of my working career, so it was easy to transition to the college workload. I received the Associate in Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts in December 2018 and graduated with High Honors. I spent four years at a restaurant, working my way up from part-time prep cook to interim head chef. Now, I work at the Maine Veterans Home as a cook. I’m not done yet. I still have the crazy dream of opening my own restaurant!