AUGUSTA — Shyanne Durand marched into the Kennebec Valley Community College graduation Saturday cradling in her arms the motivation behind furthering her education: Her 2-month-old daughter, Scarlett Turner.

Durand, like many of her fellow graduates, hopes to use that new degree to secure a job that provides some securities, like health insurance.

Saturday’s event was the Fairfield college’s 53rd commencement. A total of 369 graduates received their degrees during exercises at the Augusta Civic Center.

Durand and her mother, Tina Durand, doted over Scarlett on the eve of Mother’s Day while waiting for the pomp and circumstance to begin. By the end, she would be celebrating graduation with a certificate in phlebotomy in hand. And with it, Durand hopes to secure a job, with health insurance, at a doctor’s office close to their Freedom home. It’s a celebration she didn’t want to do without her daughter.

Phlebotomy program graduate Shyanne Durand, left, hugs her mother, Tina Durand, and her 2-month-old daughter, Scarlett Turner, before the Kennebec Valley Community College graduation Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“She’s my greatest accomplishment,” Shyanne Durand said of Scarlett, before changing her diaper in time to march into the Augusta Civic Center ceremony. “She’s what pushed me to do this.”

Aubrey Slater of Waterville, the community college’s student of the year who graduated with an associate in science degree in nursing, was one of the graduation speakers. She said community college students are some of the most resilient people there are, having “dealt with the constant battering of life” to overcome their struggles and graduate.


“I know we are more than our struggles, during my time at KVCC I had my own share of struggles,” said Slater, who said her daughter was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer just before her first semester in the nursing program. She said the complicated nature of her daughter’s treatment caused her to seriously consider dropping out many times,  but she kept pushing toward her degree.

Aubrey Slater, a graduate of the nursing program and recent John LaPointe Leadership Award winner, gives the student speech Saturday during Kennebec Valley Community College’s graduation ceremonies at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I know I am more than just my struggles, and so are you,” she told the crowd. “When the pathway forward seems bleak and unknown, just take the next step, even a small step forward is progress. We are more capable than we can imagine.”

Slater has a job lined up with Redington-Fairview General Hospital in Skowhegan.

Keynote speaker Jermaine Moore, founder of The Mars Hill Group, a firm that consults with New England businesses and other organizations offering professional development with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion training, shared three “nuggets of wisdom” with graduates. Moore urged them to learn to listen, which he said will positively impact every aspect of their lives, and to value “your why, over your what.” He reminded them to focus on their purpose in life, and to be authentic and genuine.

He told the graduates that everyone has gifts and talents, and should pursue those things they do well, better than most others do them, and leverage those gifts as much as they can.

Most graduates wore traditional mortarboard caps with their graduation gowns, though roughly 20 graduates of the school’s electrical lineworker technology program marched in donning their yellow hardhats.


Culinary arts graduate Lyric Laffin talks Saturday about the baking-related crochet ornaments her mother made prior to the start of Kennebec Valley Community College commencement exercises at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Lyric Laffin of Burnham, a graduate of the culinary arts program, had her black mortarboard decorated with food times that were crocheted by her mom, including a doughnut, cherry pie, brownie and tart. They were secured by safety pins. Laffin said she loves to bake, more so than cook, in part because baking is more scientific and precise. For her, it is less stressful than cooking.

It took her two years to get her culinary arts degree. She had spent three at Husson College studying entertainment, but said she switched to culinary arts because she thinks the job prospects will be better than they would be in theater. She plans to move to New Hampshire and seek a job baking, potentially for a supermarket.

The safety pins she wore at graduation held a significance far beyond just holding decorative items on her cap.

Her late grandfather was a truck driver and when Laffin’s mother and uncle became worried about him being away on the road so often, he fastened a safety pin to his clothing, and assured them it was for them. It would keep him safe. Later, at his funeral, family members fastened their safety pins to him.

And so Laffin wore multiple safety pins as she marched Saturday, “to keep him and the rest of my family with me.”


Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.