AUGUSTA — Wearing a hard hat like the rest of the electrical lineworker program graduates gathered around him while preparing to march into Kennebec Valley Community College’s commencement, Brian Zwicker smiled as he saw his 5-year-old son, Ryan, approaching him wearing a bright-yellow hard hat that matched his own, only smaller.

Zwicker picked up his son and they both posed for photos with the other lineworker graduates, Ryan high-fiving a couple of them.

Zwicker, of Brownville, knew his son was coming, along with his parents and other family, but didn’t expect him to have the matching hat, which, although smaller than an adult’s, still drooped down over the kindergartner’s eyes.

Zwicker said he hopes his training in the one-year KVCC program helps him land a job as a lineworker with a utility company such as Emera Maine.

“I’m 28 years old, I’ve had a lot of different jobs, and this seemed like a good opportunity for a good career,” he said.

He hopes his son, now in kindergarten, goes on to higher eduction someday, too.

“He’s a really smart kid. His ambition right now is to be a police officer,” Zwicker said. “I think he kind of looks up to me, going to school and getting through it.”

Children made up a sizable portion of the crowd gathered for Saturday’s graduation at the Augusta Civic Center, perhaps in part because of the prevalence of nontraditional students attending classes at the community college while also raising families.

“We know you are a diverse crowd,” Beth Anne Lorigan, a trustee of the college, told the graduates. “Many of you are traditional students, just starting out on your life’s journey. Others have come to KVCC to learn new skills for a new career path. We have heard many of your stories and recognize that a good number of you come from nontraditional backgrounds — that many of you are already in the workforce, have a family and are even raising children. Despite these challenges, you still put in the time. You’ve done the hard work and successfully completed your program of study. And your accomplishments reaffirm our belief that when the people of Maine take advantage of opportunities found right in their communities, they invariably achieve their dreams.”

President Richard Hopper said 417 students graduated from the Fairfield-based college this year, 301 of whom were on hand for the college’s 48th commencement.

Nursing program graduate Lori Cobb, KVCC’s student of the year, likened being a college student to being a duck. From above the surface of the water, she said, swimming ducks may look relaxed, “but underneath it all, we’re just struggling and paddling as fast as we can.”

She said students, and ducks, also might get cold feet when contemplating a new challenge, out of fear of failure. She also said ducks fly in a “V” formation, to help each other stay strong, with the lead duck allowing the others to fly behind it, to save their strength. She said ducks in a pond will gather together to sleep, each with one eye open and facing away from the raft of ducks, looking out for danger.

“Having your ducks in a row is wise, but not having your ducks in a row, from time to time, teaches you to be flexible,” said Cobb, a Knox resident. “I hope you’ll keep one eye open, not for danger, but for opportunities for the future.”

The keynote speaker, Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, who is an adjunct professor at the University of New England and who taught mathematics at KVCC from 1996 to 2005, offered four lessons for graduates: Value your friends, always say “yes” to new opportunities, enjoy life today and speak up for those in need.

She said learning to enjoy life today was a bittersweet lesson she learned from her father, who worked as a general contractor, putting Warren and her sister and brother through college. After working hard his whole life, he was excited to retire and had bought a brand-new turquoise Harley-Davidson, with a license plate that said “Plan B.”

Warren said Plan A for her father was work and putting his kids through college, and Plan B was going to be to have fun. However, she said, he was hit by a neglectful driver and died.

“He never made it to Plan B,” she said. “Which leads to my next lesson: Don’t wait to enjoy your life. Remember each day to live your life to the fullest. Go to the beach on a Wednesday. Go to your kid’s baseball game. Make enjoyment part of your day-to-day life, and not some far-off prize that will never come.”

Hopper presented students their diplomas or academic certificates and said he was proud of all of them and honored to present them with their degrees.

“I’m all that stands between you and your barbecue, or a clean diaper,” Hopper said as the ceremony began to wrap up and graduates prepared to move the tassels on their mortarboards from one side to the other, to reflect that they had graduated. “Graduates, please stand, it’s time to turn those tassels. Congratulations, everyone.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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