AUGUSTA — As one speaker at Kennebec Valley Community College’s commencement ceremony said, “Commencement, as the word suggests, is a beginning.”

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, a trustee on the Maine Community College System board of trustees, spoke to KVCC’s 375 graduates Saturday morning and reminded them of the importance of their accomplishment.

Students in the graduating class either received an associate’s degree or a certificate.

“This has been your launch pad, where will you go from here?” she said. “Maine presents you with a palette of opportunities and they are waiting for you, including furthering your education and lifelong learning. The degree or certificate is a symbol of your success.”

Interim President Karen Normandin noted at the beginning of the ceremony that three of the students graduating were also still attending local high schools — two who earned their health science certificate and will enroll in the nursing program in the fall and another who earned a welding certificate and will accept a job in Augusta.

The students will participate in their local high school ceremonies, too, during the first week of June. Since 2019, high school students have been able to participate in KVCC courses through a local partnership with the community college and their schools.

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Some of the more popular areas of study represented Saturday were in the health and technical fields, as graduates received associate degrees in nursing and early childhood education, as well as certificates in the health sciences and electrical mineworker technology disciplines.

Commencement speaker Kristina Cannon, the executive director of Main Street Skowhegan, challenged students to consider what roles they can play to strengthen their rural Maine communities.

Cannon suggested volunteering, joining a Rotary Club, or attending a local select board meeting. If local government was not their preferable course of action, she also suggested they could use their new degrees to help local businesses with mentorships.

Her other, easier examples, included attending a local sports game and simply just smiling at people.

“Rural Maine towns are communities at their finest,” Cannon said. “We pull together in time of crisis, but then similarly, we celebrate together when the local team brings home the gold ball. With all that, there’s the negative. Local communities are places to turn to when people need hope, love, support and stability; like when the local family loses their belongings in a fire, the local community is the first to have a spaghetti dinner to help.”

After Cannon’s speech, awards, degrees and diplomas were given out.

As the KVCC graduates embark to their new careers and lives, Student of the Year Kristina Rae Wallaker spoke of her journey and how she escaped an abusive marriage to get to where she is today — receiving an associate degree in electrical technology.

She encouraged the graduates to think of their lives as “chapters” in a book, and when they have a tough time or road block in their way, to look forward to the next “chapter.”

“We should all be so proud — today is a benchmark, the end of a chapter and the start of another,” she said.

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