Kristin Higgs, center, takes a selfie Thursday with fellow graduate Jessica Anderson as Caleb Frisbie, left, sneaks into the photo. Central Maine Community College held its graduation commencement at The Colisee in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Kristen Higgs got by with a little help from her friends. 

So did Jessica Anderson, so did Amber Dennison and so did hundreds of others who graduated Thursday night from Central Maine Community College. 

When Higgs talks about graduating from the school with a degree in Electromechanical Technology, she describes a long, hard march from the first day to the last. And none of it, she insists, would have been bearable without the bond she formed with her classmates. 

“It’s like we dog crawled through some of these courses,” the Stoneham woman said. “We pulled each other along like we were under barbed wire down in the mud.” 

Dixie, a service dog, stands next to Bekah Kropp, ready to march Thursday at the Central Maine Community College commencement at The Colisee in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Sound dramatic? Hey, it’s electromechanical technology and it’s not a course of study for the faint of heart.  

“It’s really intense,” said Dennison of Otisfield, “and really math heavy.” 


We’re talking about a course that began with more than 50 students and ended with just 25. Half of the enrolled students didn’t make it, but Higgs and her crew got through by relying on one another. 

“It was like, no man left behind,” Higgs said. “When somebody struggled, somebody else would reach back to help them.” 

Dennison was quick to nod agreement. Her success, too, relied on the support and encouragement of the people she met soon after enrolling in the program. Those friendships, she said, are crucial. 

“You find people that you connect with right away,” she said. “You make study groups — you have to have people to work with. Our labs were team based, and if we didn’t have people who were in the same situation, we would have had a really hard time.” 

And so it was with Anderson, who lives in Sabattus. She, too, graduated Thursday with a degree in electromechanical technology thanks to the friendships formed along the way. 

“It was rough,” she said. “But we pulled each other through it. I certainly don’t think we would have made it without each other.” 


Filling the halls of The Colisee on Thursday night were more than 440 graduates with similar stories. These were men and women of various ages who had battled on in spite of circumstances that tried to pull them down. 

Central Maine Community College graduate Kayla Bear holds her graduation cap during commencement Thursday at The Colisee in Lewiston. Submitted photo

“In the face of a global pandemic, crushing shutdowns, controversial national and local policies, and generally indescribable disruption, you have persevered,” said Maine Community College System Board of Trustees representative Peter DelGreco in his speech to the class. “You have achieved a major milestone in an environment that can only be described as ‘chaos.’  It takes character to do what you have done. Given the national and global circumstances you had to overcome to get here, I stand in awe of what you have accomplished.” 

Janel Savage of Auburn would agree. For years, she watched her best friend, 27-year-old Kayla Bear of Auburn, struggling through these various difficulties to find herself in cap and gown on graduation night. 

“It’s been a tough journey,” said Savage, “but not as tough as her. Working as a CNA through COVID at a nursing home was enough to give anyone PTSD, yet she still pushed forward an went on to become a nurse. I can’t express enough how proud I am of my best friend.” 

Commencement speaker Anna Eleanor Roosevelt, the retired chief executive officer for Goodwill of Northern New England, outlined her own personal history of family hardship, perseverance and the struggle for human rights for all. 

She encouraged the graduates to think of all those who came before them as they said goodbye to college and prepared for what’s next. 


“We all have ancestors,” Roosevelt said. “Their DNA thrums through our bodies. As much as we want to declare that ‘we are ourselves,’ we are who we are because they came before us. How they lived their lives is important.  Our role is to choose how to use their influence on us to become the person we want to be.” 

Soon after Roosevelt was done speaking, the big moment was upon the graduates who sat so patiently in their chairs. Years of hard work had culminated in this. Their names would be called, they’d walk up to the stage to collect their diplomas and like that, their futures were underway. 

For graduates like Higgs, Anderson and Dennison, who so adamantly stressed the importance of friendship, the words of David Daigler, president of the Maine Community College System, were not lost upon them. 

“Remember those who helped you get here,” Daigler said. “And when you have a chance, help someone else achieve their dream.” 

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