AUBURN — P.J. Mottram did not need all the special instructions to get through the graduation ceremony Thursday night.

One of 600 who graduated from Central Maine Community College, this was not Mottram’s first rodeo, as the saying goes. She also attended the school in 1995-96, earning a certificate in office management. Now, working full time at Harriman Architects and Engineers in Auburn, she came back to get an associate degree in graphic design.

“I hoped that by gaining the graphics skills, it would help me in my career,” the Lewiston woman said. “It definitely did! Although the last three years of attending classes part time, working full time and having a family all at the same time was a struggle and stressful, I thoroughly enjoyed attending classes there. The staff and faculty are wonderful. It is a great choice for someone like me at the age of 40 to be among students of all ages and have the opportunity to gain a degree from a great school in our community.”

The graduation ceremony was held at Lewiston’s Androscoggin Bank Colisee. As always, the building was jammed with people of all ages, with jitters running high. This was, for many, the end of one road and the beginning of another.

“The school was a great start,” said 30-year-old Jamie LaPerriere of Auburn. “They put a lot of effort into helping you succeed and continuing your education, if you know where to look. There’s tutoring, writing advice, transfer fairs. I made a lot of friends that I’ll miss, too. And, of course, I learned a lot of very useful skills that will help me with my planned future career.”

A computer technician, LaPerriere sees a lot of doors opening now that she has a diploma in her hand.

“There were a lot of networking and programming classes and repair classes,” she said. “Pretty much anything you wanted to specialize in, as far as computers go, you could. They made sure you had the basics of all the main things — programming, Web development, networking, P.C. repair — and then had a bunch of electives that went further into specialization.”

The keynote speaker Thursday night was lawyer Ronald Lebel, director of the Skelton, Taintor and Abbott law firm in Auburn.

The student speaker was Carmen Edwards of Auburn who happens to be the college’s Student of the Year.

“This,” she told the audience, “is a wow, wow moment for me.”

“This school,” Edwards went on, “taught me that as long as I keep trying to improve myself, then I will get better at the task at hand. This school taught me that the surest way not to fail is to be determined to succeed.”

Edwards, a human services major, is a 57-year-old grandmother, a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and has consistently earned high honors, Roger Philippon, dean of planning and public affairs, said. She’s worked as a peer mentor and served as Human Services Club president.

For the 10th straight year, Philippon told the audience, the college has set a record for the number of graduates.

“We are proud,” Philippon said, “that we have changed so many lives for the better.”

With college out of the way, work, or more work, in Mottram’s case, looms large for the graduates. Before that happens, some might consider taking a little break to herald in a new phase of life.

But not a very long break.

“I’m taking a few weeks off,” LaPerriere said, “taking a vacation to an anime convention, and then I move to Farmington. I’m planning on continuing my education and getting a bachelor’s degree, but not sure if I want to continue with computer science or shift a little to teaching math and computers.”

Mottram, on the other hand, is already putting her new skills to work on a daily basis.

“One of the highlights of attending CMCC,” she said, “was having the opportunity to design a new logo for Harriman. It was created for a class project, but when I shared the design with the company, they liked it so much that they chose it to be their new corporate identity. I was thrilled and the faculty was also thrilled.

“It was definitely a rewarding experience,” Mottram said. “As far as my plans for the future, well the degree has helped me to gain a promotion and the opportunity to do more of what I love to do in the field of graphics.”

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