SMCC alumna who overcame challenges to achieve success to be featured speaker at SMCC commencement

A Southern Maine Community College alumna who has overcome challenges to achieve personal and career success will be the featured speaker at SMCC’s 72nd commencement on May 12.

Alyssa Turnbull earned a pre-engineering degree from SMCC and now works as a research and development technician at Jotul North America, a leading manufacturer of cast-iron wood and gas stoves located in Gorham.

When she was studying welding in high school, Turnbull had to overcome a learning disorder while ignoring people who told her welding was the wrong career path for a girl. Instead, she went to work as a welder for Jotul while still in high school and later earned her degree at SMCC to advance her career prospects. She is now working toward a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Southern Maine while working at Jotul.

“Alyssa’s experiences can serve as an inspiration to all of us,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. “Despite the challenges of people discouraging her from choosing her own path, she is enjoying success in meaningful ways. Her story has the ability to resonate with Mainers of all types and open our eyes to the opportunities before us.”

SMCC will hold its graduation ceremony at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 12, at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Turnbull studied welding at the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) while attending Scarborough High School, from which she graduated in 2008. School was hard because she had a learning disorder and people told her there was no future for her in welding, even though she had a passion for it.

But Turnbull, now 29, was determined and told people that she would succeed and even buy her own house by the age of 25. Not only has she advanced in her career at Jotul, but she also ended up buying a home at age 24, is happily married and has no college debt. She earned her degree from SMCC in 2017.

“My general message to people is to be true to yourself,” she said. “If you know who you are and where you want to be, you’ll make it there if you stick to your core beliefs and values.”