AUGUSTA — When he marched on stage in a yellow hard hat on Saturday, Jonathan Grant took his final steps toward advancing in what has become the family business.
For four straight years, a Grant man has completed the one-year electrical lineworker technology certificate program at Kennebec Valley Community College after working in a family electrical company.
Two of Grant’s brothers and a cousin now work for On Target Utility Services, a Gardiner-based company that provides services for utility companies regionwide.
And while Grant, 23, of Belgrade, the latest graduate, has a job offer in New Hampshire, he hopes to land in Gardiner, too, within a few months.
“It helped me a lot, having my brothers tell me what I was getting into,” he said.
Grant was one of about 400 graduates at the career-focused Fairfield college to receive degrees at the school’s commencement ceremony Saturday morning at the Augusta Civic Center. According to the college, its enrollment has grown more than 20 percent in the past 10 years, to about 2,300 students as of last year.
The commencement’s keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the school has “opened the doors of opportunity” since its first graduation ceremony 44 years ago.
“Some of you came here directly from high school; others came here from the workforce. You might be the first in your families to earn college degrees. Perhaps you are going on to a four-year college,” Collins said. “Whichever category you fall into, you are here today because you all have demonstrated a determination to secure a bright future.”
Timothy McDonald, of Madison, a nontraditional student and father of six graduating with an associate degree in precision machining technology, falls into the second category.
After working a number of odd jobs over many years, he’s going on to pursue a career as a machinist and was named the college’s student of the year.
Shawn Moody, a trustee of the state community college system and owner of Moody’s Collision Centers, a chain of Maine automobile-repair shops, told students that their education gave them a leg up on him. Moody started his business on a $6,000 loan in high school and never attended college.
“To every one of us who have overcome our own challenges, be they financial, medical, academic or social, we did what needed to be done and we have made it here,” McDonald said in his speech. “Take a little time today to be proud of yourselves.”
“You work with your hands, your head or your heart,” he said. “Follow that passion. That’s where that passion comes from: your heart.”
Grant said the certificate program prepared him well for a lineworking career, but now he’s getting restless and is ready to join his family members on the job.
“I’m just excited about working,” he said.