AUBURN — After graduating from high school three years ago, Theo Record didn’t look like he had a successful college career in front of him.

He didn’t get into Southern Maine Community College. He had trouble with reading comprehension on his entrance exams.

But in May Record found himself not only graduating with an associate degree in computer technology, but an award-winning member of Central Maine Community College’s Class of 2009.

Record, 22, of Freeport and formerly of Auburn, was the recipient of CMCC’s “Against All Odds Award.” When told he won, Record said, “I thought, ‘Why me?’ I felt like someone else deserved that award.”

The award letter credited him with being a hard worker, thoughtful, caring and studious. He shared the letter with his grandmother. “She cried.”

Record faced some personal and academic barriers. Growing up he moved around a lot. At age 17 he moved in with his grandmother.

His trouble with reading comprehension stems from childhood problems with his ears. His ears were filled with fluid, which impacted how he heard words, how he pronounced words and how he learned.

“It was like I was under water all the time. I was able to hear, but not the correct sounds,” Record said. “I didn’t have the enjoyment of reading.”

He learned more easily from seeing and doing rather than reading. In high school “I never took the SAT or the ACT.” But he discovered he had a knack for computers. Without training he seemed to understand what was wrong and how to fix the problem.

CMCC staff credit him with helping his grandmother around the house, spending weekends mowing or raking the lawn. While a student he always worked. At his Freeport Congregational Church, he served as a Sunday school teacher and youth leader.

When he didn’t get into Southern Maine Community College, word got around at his church. Paula O’Brien, who attended the same church and was director at a student program at CMCC, decided to help.

O’Brien encouraged him to apply at CMCC. Before he took his placement exam, she tutored him on his reading and vocabulary, as did another instructor. With help “I was able to bring my points up,” he said. “I passed. … It was like a joy when I got in.”

As a college student, and as someone who hadn’t enjoy reading, “I got all the help I could get.” When not in his computer technology classes, he got tutoring from other students in the college’s “TriO’s One Success to Another” program. He shared his computer skills by tutoring others.
While a college student, he worked 40-plus hours a week at two jobs.

On campus he was eager “to do the little things, helping folks carry equipment out to their cars, filling in at the last minute when a student worker fails to show up to work,” reads his award letter.

Compared to other students, reading and college work came harder. “I basically had to put my nose to the grindstone,” Record said. “It was either read or get out of college.” He said he was determined to get a degree. “I wanted to finish college before moving on.”

These days he works in the warehouse for VIP in Lewiston and has his own computer repair business, Busy Bee computer repair ( “I build computers, refurbish, take out viruses, anything that needs to be done. I go to the person’s home.”

He hopes to grow his business, someday having it in its own building.

His route to college “was awkward,” he said with a smile. His advice to others, “push yourself. Follow your heart. Just do it.”

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