Southern Maine Community College awarded nearly 1,200 degrees and certificates on May 22 when hundreds of students were joined by family and friends at the college’s 75th commencement.

Southern Maine Community College graduates listen to commencement speaker Deqa Dhalac, the mayor of South Portland. Courtesy photo

In all, 1,102 students earned 1,170 degrees and certificates during the past academic year, with hundreds receiving their degrees during 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 years old with the youngest graduate being 19, and the oldest being 70. More than 10 percent of graduates – 123 students – were members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

This year’s graduates have shown a commitment to academic excellence even while completing their degrees and certificates during a pandemic, said Southern Maine Community College President, Joe Cassidy. 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,” Cassidy said in a news release. “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.”

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


According to the college, 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. He credits a large portion of his success to the skills he learned at the college.

“I had always dreamed of opening my own restaurant, but never had any experience in the kitchen,” said Alcantara in an email. “The support I received at Southern Maine Community College 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 Southern Maine Community College through Merrymeeting Adult Education center where she received her Hiset Diploma.

“I came to Southern Maine Community College looking for a good and affordable education, and that’s just what I found. I loved how nice, helpful, and welcoming everyone at Southern Maine Community College was.”


Namwira has been accepted to prestigious four-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 Southern Maine Community College because he knew it was an affordable option. While at SMCC, he found the flexibility and support he needed to succeed.

“The pandemic was hard, but I didn’t want to take a break because I knew if I did I might not return. Southern Maine Community College had flexible online classes and tutoring was always available when I needed it. I cannot say enough good things about Southern Maine Community College.”

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.

Southern Maine Community College graduates listen to commencement speaker Deqa Dhalac, the mayor of South Portland.

Town & Country FCU makes contribution to Meals on Wheels


Town & Country Federal Credit Union marked the beginning of May’s designation as Older Americans Month by making a contribution to Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program. The contribution will provide nearly 500 meals to older Mainers in Cumberland and York counties.

Town & Country FCU marked May’s designation as Older Americans Month with a contribution to the Meals on Wheels program serving Cumberland and York counties. Pictured at the Southern Maine Agency on Aging’s Biddeford headquarters, from left, are Jon Paradise, SVP of Town & Country FCU, Megan Walton, executive director of SMAA, and Linda Halleran, community outreach manager at Town & Country. Courtesy photo

In presenting the contribution at agency’s headquarters in Biddeford, Jon Paradise, SVP of communications, marketing and community outreach, said, “We understand that food insecurity is a very real issue for thousands of older Mainers, and Older Americans Month is an ideal opportunity to support and highlight efforts that help ensure older Mainers have access to meals. One of the credit union’s signature initiatives is our ‘Local Helping Local’ program, which is about making a difference and supporting our communities, and reducing food insecurity is an issue that is a core part of this program.

“As the second oldest state in the country, food insecurity among older Mainers is only growing with the state ranking 12th in senior food insecurity and the highest among Northern New England states. With rising food and fuel costs, that number is only increasing so we felt compelled to help now.”

Megan Walton, executive director of Southern Maine Agency on Aging, accepted the contribution. “We are thrilled to have the support of Town & Country FCU,” she said. “Please know that Town & Country’s donation will go directly toward ensuring that older adults in southern Maine have access to healthy, nutritious food. Town & Country’s generous $3,500 gift will provide hundreds of meals for our community’s most vulnerable citizens and provide homebound older adults with connection and reassurance in a time of uncertainty. This contribution comes at a critical time.”

Rotary Club welcomes new members

The South Portland-Cape Elizabeth Rotary Club recently welcomed new members Kiley Wilkens-O’Brien, Bill Lohrman, Bob Hanson, Jeff Gabrielson and Regan St. Pierre.

According to a Rotary news release, “Our clubs are the heart of Rotary. At meetings, members catch up with friends, hear what’s happening in our communities, share plans and exchange ideas for creating lasting change. You’ll meet interesting people from your community and around the world. And you’ll tackle local and international issues that are important to you and your club members.

“You might know us from our annual Christmas tree sale in South Portland’s Mill Creek Park, Winterfest, and Bug Light which we maintain. There is also our legendary fried dough sales at Cape Family Fun Day and South Portland Art in the Park. These events, projects and more are some of the ways we serve the community.”

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