Lisa Riley and Sam Messana of South Portland’s Kaler Kooks team. Contributed / Maine Department of Education

South Portland’s Kaler moves to cook-off finals

South Portland’s Kaler Kooks was one of two Maine teams that advanced to the final round of the 2021 Maine Farm to School Cook-off. The finals competition will be held May 5 at the Maine Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom in Augusta.

Kaler Kooks will face off against the Whitefield Wildcats team of Sheepscot Valley RSU 12, which serves students in the towns of Alna, Chelsea, Palermo, Somerville, Westport Island, Whitefield and Windsor.

The Maine Farm to School Cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. The sixth annual competition is organized by the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team.

Students awarded internships

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced that Caleb Robinson, a Falmouth native, and Paige Rinaldi, of Freeport, have been awarded spring internships in her Portland Constituent Services Center.


Robinson is a sophomore at Boston University, where he is majoring in public relations. He is a member of the sailing team and the investment club. Following graduation, he plans to pursue a professional career in sailing and hopes to compete in the 2028 Olympics.


Rinaldi is a freshman at the University of Southern Maine, where she is studying nursing. She is a member of the lacrosse team. After graduation, Paige plans to become a nurse anesthetist.


“It is always a pleasure to give students an opportunity to serve the citizens of our state,” Collins said.

SMCC announces commencement speaker

Quang Nguyen, a Southern Maine Community College alumnus who now has a successful career as a business entrepreneur and financial advisor, will be the featured speaker at SMCC’s 74th commencement, to be held virtually May 16.


Nguyen moved from Vietnam to Maine in 2007 to attend SMCC and graduated with a business administration degree in 2010. He now runs his own financial practice in Falmouth and two retail businesses in the Portland area.

“Quang’s story of moving to Maine with limited English skills and excelling at SMCC and in his business pursuits after SMCC is an inspiration to all of us,” SMCC President Joe Cassidy said. “His resilience and positive attitude will resonate with our graduates and open their eyes to the opportunities around them.”

When Nguyen departed Vietnam at the age of 18 in 2007, he bought the wrong plane ticket and landed in Portland, Oregon, rather than Portland, Maine. From that inauspicious arrival in the United States, he shined at SMCC, graduating with high honors. He has enjoyed continuing success as a business entrepreneur.

Nguyen has also given motivational talks at local TEDx events, including one at SMCC in 2016, delivering a message on the power of having a positive attitude and pursuing one’s passion. He said SMCC provided him the skills he needed to launch his career in business.


“Looking back,” he said, “SMCC was the jumpstart to my American dream.”

Dollars for scholars

Applications are now being accepted for several Maine Community Foundation scholarships.

The renewable Patriot Education award supports graduates of a Maine high school who are enrolled part time or full time in pursuit of a business degree at a Maine college or university. Preference is given to those with a demonstrated interest in personal and commercial insurance professions. To apply online, go to

MaineCF offers two types of Adult Learner scholarships, which support non-traditional students. A degree-seeking scholarship is awarded for two- and four-year degree programs and certificate courses. The deadlines are June 15 and Nov. 15; the application can be found at

The second scholarship supports credential/certificate programs of less than a full semester, with a rolling deadline of the first of each month. Applicants must meet one of the following criteria: be over the age of 25; work full time; have dependents other than a spouse; be financially independent; not have received a standard high school diploma or have delayed enrollment in college for a reason other than a gap year. See for more.

The Laurendeau Fund provides renewable scholarship support to young women who are graduating seniors from high schools in Maine pursuing post-secondary education in science or engineering at a four-year university. There is a preference for applicants demonstrating an interest and/or actively participating in their Franco-American heritage. The deadline is also June 1 through

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