PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Emily Chandler made one of her wishes come true on Saturday morning.
As she stood in a gymnasium hallway with fellow graduates at Northern Maine Community College just before the institution’s 46th Commencement, she talked about plans for the future.
“I just want to graduate and start working with kids,” the Presque Isle resident said before the start of the ceremony.
And graduate she did, as Chandler was one of the 212 graduates who received associate degrees and certificates during the event.
Chandler received an associate’s degree in early childhood education during the ceremony that was seen before a standing-room-only crowd in the gymnasium. Attendees also watched a simulcast of the event in an overflow room.
Alan Punches, the vice president and academic dean at NMCC, lauded the graduates for their accomplishment.
He noted that this was the first time that the ceremony featured graduates of the college’s medical assistants associate degree program.
More than three years ago, officials from numerous health care provider organizations in Aroostook County approached NMCC about offering the program to train students to enter the work force and to boost health care in the region. The college organized the program in response to those requests.
The first four graduates of the program were recognized during the ceremony.
Instructor Daniel Hotham, who began his employment with the school 35 years ago, addressed the class, as did NMCC’s Student of the Year, Charles Zappone of Woodland.
Zappone was awarded an associate’s degree in nursing during the ceremony.
Zappone talked about his experiences at the college and congratulated his classmates on receiving their degrees.
“We have grown. We have learned. And we have succeeded,” he told the class.
He added that college experiences have taught them that with “work, determination and a wee bit of luck … success can be achieved.”
Zappone has been hired by Cary Medical Center in Caribou to work as a registered nurse in the acute care unit at the hospital. He hopes to go on and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing.
Hotham advised graduates to do a number of things after they received their degrees, including find a job they feel passionate about, strive for excellence and “smile and laugh everyday.”
He added that their accomplishment would encourage others close to them to seek out higher education.
“Yes, whether you realize it or not, your achievement today has indeed changed your family tree forever,” Hotham said on Saturday.