SMCC graduates listen to commencement speaker Deqa Dhalac, the mayor of South Portland and advocate for the immigrant community. Contributed

Southern Maine Community College awarded nearly 1,200 degrees and certificates Sunday when hundreds of students were joined by family and friends at the college’s 75th commencement.

In all, 1,102 students earned 1,170 degrees and certificates during the past academic year, with hundreds receiving their degrees during Sunday’s graduation ceremonies at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Those numbers represent one of the largest graduating classes in SMCC’s 76-year history.

Students in the Class of 2022 came from across Maine, 20 other states and 33 foreign countries. The average graduate age was 28 with the youngest graduate being 19, and the oldest being 70. More than 10% of graduates – 123 students – were members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Forty graduates had a perfect 4.0 grade point average at SMCC, and 66 had a GPA of 3.95 or higher.

“We were excited to hold our first in-person commencement ceremony since 2019,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy, who presided over the ceremonies.

“With the resilience and dedication our students have shown, we know they will continue to make their mark on the world as they further their education and advance their careers. This is a time to celebrate what has been accomplished and look toward the future with hope.”


The keynote speech was delivered by Deqa Dhalac, the mayor of South Portland and the first Somali-American mayor in the U.S., who is an advocate for the immigrant community.

Hundreds of this year’s graduates from SMCC’s applied technology, business and information technology, liberal studies, health sciences, public safety, and other programs are entering or have already entered the workforce. Among them is Marcus Alcantara, who started at SMCC in the Culinary Arts program after losing his job as a bartender during the pandemic.

Alcantara opened his own restaurant, Paper Tiger, in Portland while taking classes at SMCC. “I had always dreamed of opening my own restaurant, but never had any experience in the kitchen. The support I received at SMCC has been pivotal in helping me open my own restaurant. The connections I’ve made have been and continue to be essential to my success.”

Hundreds of other graduates are continuing their education at public and private four-year schools, both in Maine and out-of-state.

Douce Bahati Namwira is a Business Administration graduate who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She started her journey toward earning a degree after learning about SMCC through Merrymeeting Adult Education center where she received her HiSET diploma. “I came to SMCC looking for a good and affordable education, and that’s just what I found. I loved how nice, helpful, and welcoming everyone at SMCC was.”

Namwira has been accepted to 4-year institutions including Bentley University. She plans to continue her education and earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

Mohamed Jama, who is another Business Administration graduate and is originally from Somalia, came to SMCC because he knew it was an affordable option. “The pandemic was hard, but I didn’t want to take a break because I knew if I did I might not return. SMCC had flexible online classes and tutoring was always available when I needed it. I cannot say enough good things about SMCC.”

Jama plans to work while continuing his education at nearby University of Southern Maine. He hopes to one day open his own business in Portland.

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