Karen Smith of Waterville, fourth from right, sits with classmates Wednesday night before graduating from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education in Waterville. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Her mother’s death last September was the impetus for Karen Smith, 54, to go back to school.

But the prospect was daunting.

“At first, I was so nervous and scared and had a bad attitude,” she said. “I wanted to give up before I even started.”

Smith of Waterville spoke Wednesday night before a crowd of about 100 family members, friends and staff members who turned out to witness her and 25 others graduate from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education in ceremonies outside Waterville Senior High School.

Karen Smith, 54, of Waterville graduated Wednesday night with a high school diploma from Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education. She gave a moving speech about fulfilling her late mother’s dream that Smith would return to school. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Smith had quit high school many years ago. She then got married, had three children and time marched on. Although her mother always urged her to go back to school, Smith never seemed to have the time.

She was living in Pennsylvania and after her marriage of 31 years ended, she became a single parent. Her mother, who lived in Maine, became ill and Smith moved here to be with her. Smith said she spent every day by her mother’s side until her mom died last fall.


“I didn’t care anymore about anything,” Smith said in an emotionally charged speech. “My doctor said I had to get into something to keep busy and focus on myself. I did a lot of thinking. My mom’s dream was for me to get my high school diploma, so I decided to do it.”

Smith’s aunt, Rhonda Dunbar of Winslow, pushed her niece to return to school and accompanied her to the adult education office to sign up.

“She had the desire and she just needed someone to walk her through it,” Dunbar recalled after congratulating Smith on receiving her diploma Wednesday night. “They welcomed us, and it was all systems go from there.”

Smith said that after meeti

ng her teacher and other staff members, she felt as if she had known them for years. All her fears dissolved.

“The support is unbelievable,” she said. “After a few weeks, I couldn’t wait to go to class. And now that it’s almost over and I am graduating, I don’t want it to be.”


Smith said it was not easy holding down an evening job  — she works at The Two Cent Pub in Winslow — and getting up in the morning to go to classes, but she did it and is stronger for it.

“I thank my teacher, Paula Raymond, for putting up with me, because I think I gave her a run for her money,” Smith said to laughter from the audience.

Dunbar and her husband, Ron, said they are proud of Smith.

“Oh, my gosh — over-the-moon proud,” Rhonda Dunbar said.

About 100 friends and family members turn out Wednesday night for the Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education graduation, held outside Waterville Senior High School. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education serves students from Belgrade, China, Oakland, Rome, Sidney, Vassalboro, Waterville and Winslow.

In addition to Smith, Hannah McLean and Sonya Wilson gave student speeches, and class member Jordan Winkley served as emcee, welcoming the crowd and introducing speakers.

The keynote speaker was adult education instructor Karlene Additon-Strout. National Adult Education Honor Society Committee members Linda Davis and Brenda Holt presented awards to McLean, Winkley and Elizabeth Burns.

Hannah Bard, director of Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education, offered remarks, as did Waterville Public Schools Superintendent Eric Haley and Carl Gartley, superintendent of Regional School Unit 18, based in Oakland.

Along with Smith, Winkley, McLean, Wilson and Burns, the graduates are: Jared Barker, Rachel Bertone, Brandy Boivin, Malea Bouchard, Grace Brown, Ryleigh Brown, Aliyah Colon, Kaydan Doughty, Brice Edgerly, Destiny Eldridge, Colby Lawler, Ian Lemieux, Benjamin Levasseur, Savannah Nadeau, Kalli Perkins, Micayla Pilla, Tyler Quirion, Dylan Rodrigue, Jorge Santiago, Isaiah Witham and Gianna Workman.

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