SMCC awards more than 1,000 degrees at 73rd Commencement

Southern Maine Community College awarded more than 1,000 degrees and certificates Sunday during a virtual ceremony marking the College’s 73rd Commencement.

In all, 1,022 students earned 1,050 degrees and certificates during the past academic year. Graduates were recognized during a pre-recorded graduation ceremony that was presented in a YouTube video made available through the SMCC website.

Students in the Class of 2020 came from across Maine, 17 other states and 31 foreign countries. The youngest graduate was 17 years old, and the oldest was 64. Nearly 10 percent of the graduates – 99 students – were members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

This year’s graduates have shown resilience and grit while completing their studies during the COVID-19 pandemic, said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. Because of the coronavirus, students had to finish their in-person courses online and the College was forced to cancel its in-person commencement that had been scheduled in May at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

“I have no doubt the experience of recent months will shape the lives of our graduates and make them stronger when facing the challenges that they’ll encounter throughout their lives,” Cassidy said. “The College is immensely proud of our 2020 graduates for their perseverance and success. Let’s remember this day for all it means. And although we couldn’t be physically together for this graduation ceremony, we are all in this together.”

Cassidy presided over the ceremonies, with the keynote speech delivered by Chris Newell, a Passamaquoddy tribal member and Executive Director of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor.

Among this year’s graduates was Liam Woodworth-Cook, who is transferring to Emerson College in Boston for its Writing, Literature and Publishing program. Woodworth-Cook earned a degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in English, was active in college organizations and was named SMCC’s Student of the Year.

Coming to SMCC has given Woodworth-Cook the confidence and skills to dive right into the program at Emerson and succeed, he said.

“Graduating from SMCC marks the next step to continue my education at Emerson,” he said. “It is both an end point and a beginning point to prove to myself that I can do it and go farther. That’s why I came to school, to push myself and see what I had to give.”

While many graduates are transferring to baccalaureate colleges and universities, those from SMCC’s trade, public safety, health sciences and other programs are entering the workforce. Issiac Hooper was hired at the Gorham Fire Department several months ago, even before he earned his degree in Fire Science this spring.

Becoming a career firefighter has been Hooper’s goal since he was young growing up in the small Maine town of Lyman, where his father was a fire chief. For the past two years, he has worked and lived at the Gorham Fire Department as a live-in student, gaining real-life experience while studying at SMCC.

“If it wasn’t for SMCC’s live-in program I don‘t think I would be working full-time in Gorham; it gave me a foot into the right place,” he said. “And it gave me some friends that will be there for me for the rest of my life.”