UNITY – Kayla Bubar’s eyes scanned the crowd for her parents, whom she lost among the hundreds of people leaving Unity College’s 42nd commencement ceremony Saturday afternoon.

She saw them under a tree and rushed over, holding onto her cap and gown as she weaved between families and friends greeting her 113 fellow Unity graduates.

Bubar’s parents, Kim and Willis, embraced their daughter in a three-way hug, and the proud Clinton parents beamed with broad smiles that peeked over her shoulders.

“I’m just so proud of her,” Kim Bubar said, after letting go of her daughter, the first in the family to graduate from college. “She’s my little go-getter.”

Unable to stop smiling as he looked at Kayla, Willis Bubar said, “She’s just done so much to get here and I think she’s really going places.”

Kayla, 21, said college has already taken her places she never dreamed of.

While at Unity, she took her first plane trip for a class project in Texas, traveled to Tennessee to help tornado victims and spent an “alternative” spring break in Wales working on energy projects, she said.

She graduated in December and returned Saturday for the ceremony.

The University of Southern Maine has hired her as its food sustainability director, in charge of food choices for dining services on campus, and it’s a career path that would have been impossible without college, she said.

“I always say my opportunities to travel is the one thing that stands out,” Bubar said.

The commencement was the last for Unity President Mitchell Thomashow. He is stepping down after five years of leading the environmental studies college, and encouraged graduates to find new ways to solve global problems.

“You will play an important role in restoring ecological balance to this beautiful and sacred planet,” he said to the class of 2011, members of which are embarking on careers ranging from game wardens to educators.

Of the 114 graduates who walked the stage Saturday, 35 were from Maine.

The goal for Bubar is to promote sustainable food practices, which is tied to her bachelor’s degree in sustainable design and technology. She plans to get her master’s degree online from Boston Architectural College while working at USM.

Thomashow said the college has grown its programs in food and energy sustainability, as well as in other fields, during his time as president. Unity has thrived while environmental issues are at the forefront of the global economy, he said before the ceremony.

“Our students are a motivated and unique group, made up of people who want to make a difference in the world,” he said, watching the graduates line up before the procession.

Unity is continuing its search for a new president, according to college spokesman Mark Tardif.

Commencement speaker Gary Nabhan, an author and sustainable agriculture activist from Arizona, challenged the graduates to help solve the food shortage and other global concerns.

“You can be designers of a whole new relationship between people and the land that we desperately need right now,” he said.