Proud father?

You could say that.

Minutes before his daughter, Jillian, graduated from Central Maine Community College, Russell DeLallo stood next to her positively beaming.

“I’m absolutely proud of her,” said DeLallo, of Bryant Pond. “I’m way up here. I’m just loving this.”

Jillian, 21, graduated with high honors from the school’s early childhood education program, which her father expects to be only part of her journey.

Jillian Delallo, left, Audriana Dionne, Lisa Gammon and Kenzie Irish share a laugh Thursday evening before the Central Maine Community College graduation at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

“She’ll be going to a university to get her bachelor’s degree in teaching,” he said. “Her mother was a teacher, so it runs in the family.”

Audrianna Shaye Dionne, 21, of Oxford also went through the early childhood education program, befriending DeLallo and also graduating with high honors.

“I think it was really important,” Dionne said, “to make a friend in the program.”

More than 550 students collected their diplomas Thursday night at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee as CMCC graduated its 55th class. The students graduated from nearly two dozen programs — from culinary arts to electromechanical technology.

It was the biggest graduating class in the school’s history.

A graduate waves to special people in the audience Thursday evening at the Central Maine Community College graduation at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

Javier Padilla, 20, was at the Colisee to graduate from the school’s criminal justice program. Already enlisted in the U.S. Marines, Padilla said he hopes to work for the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas when he returns from deployment,

For Padilla, who went to high school at the relatively small Forest Hills School in Jackman, CMCC was the right choice in his path toward a career.

“It was really comfortable,” Padilla said. “It’s a small school in terms of colleges, and that’s what I’m used to.”

Padilla was at the Thursday night commencement ceremony with his mother, Jennifer, who continuously adjusted his cap and gown before the ceremony got underway.

“Pretty proud, yup,” she said.

A graduate thanks her parents from her mortarboard Thursday evening at the Central Maine Community College graduation at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston. Sun Journal photo by Andree Kehn

In his commencement address, Dirk A. Lesko, president of Bath Iron Works, urged the graduates to hang onto what they have gained in school and to never stop learning.

“You need to keep applying that skill for the rest of your lives, because although people say that life is short, you’re probably going to be around for quite a while, so you’d better be good at something,” Lesko said.

“Whether you recognize it or not, the most important thing you’re taking away is that you’ve learned how to learn. When you understand what that means, and you keep applying those skills for the rest of your lives, you’ll have the chance to feel the same way you do tonight, over and over again.”

Lesko said although he loves his leadership position with BIW, his path to that role was not a straight line. He was not always sure his work with the shipyard was a good fit, or whether he was good at doing what needed to be done.

Manage expectations, Lesko told the graduates, and learn from mistakes along the way.

“When you make a mistake, keep in mind that nothing is ever quite as bad, or for that matter quite as good, as it first seems,” he said. “Take the time to understand what you did wrong so you can learn from it and move on. When you’re deciding how to do that, always remember that your integrity is the most valuable asset you have.

“There is opportunity in almost everything, including those things that are the toughest challenges,” he said. “Don’t reject those challenges too quickly. I’ve learned more about myself from the things I wasn’t sure I could do than I did from those things that seemed safer. If you bet on yourselves, others will too. And if you’re willing to work hard enough, there isn’t anything you can’t accomplish.”

After Lesko concluded his remarks, it was graduation time. And as she walked up to the podium to collect her diploma, Jillian DeLallo was smiling brightly, just as her father had been doing most of the night. She had long-range plans and many steps to get there, sure enough. But DeLallo was taking the rest of the night to celebrate this leg of the journey.

“I think,” she said, “I might go have a drink.”


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