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Members of the 2011 All-Maine Academic Team

Gail Bennett

Gail Bennett, Central Maine Community College, Auburn
Residence: Otisfield
Age: 43 GPA: 3.67
Major: Accounting

After being laid-off from her full-time job, Gail Bennett—armed with a scholarship from her local Career Center—enrolled at CMCC.  The college offered the degree in accounting she wanted and was close to home. The 43-year-old mother of two teenage sons soon went from juggling a full-time job to juggling a full-time course load; yet she still found time to volunteer for a number of organizations close to her heart. She is, according to her supervisor at CMCC, a wonderful tutor and mentor to other students. Gail plans to graduate this summer and reenter the workforce as quickly as possible. Her ultimate goal: to use her new skills in management or business.

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Suzanne Cohen, Central Maine Community College, Auburn
Residence: Sabattus
Age: 36 GPA: 3.6
Major: Accounting

As a full-time student and the mother of three busy teenagers, Suzanne Cohen has her hands full. While her goal is to become a forensic accountant with the IRS, she has discovered the gratification that comes with helping others through her role as a math tutor. (This includes helping her own daughter who is taking an early college course at CMCC.) Suzanne chose CMCC because tuition was affordable, the class sizes small, and the college makes it possible for her to complete her third year on campus before transferring to a four-year institution. Suzanne has won the admiration of staff and students at CMCC for her work ethic, compassion, and drive.

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Alexander Wallace, Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor
Residence: Bangor
Age: 22 GPA: 3.82
Major: Electrical and Automation Technology

Enrolled in an academically challenging program, Alexander Wallace has not only succeeded, he has made it a goal to help others. He balances a 19-credit-hour course load with duties as a peer tutor on subjects ranging from English composition to calculus. He is inspired by the drive and determination of other students, many of whom are much older than he is and who are working hard to improve their lives. He hopes to become an electrical engineer and eventually earn a master’s degree. He was pleased to learn he could start at a community college to reach his goal and transfer his credits directly into the University of Maine’s electrical engineering program.

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Helen Chamberland, Eastern Maine Community College, Bangor
Residence: Hampden
Age: 50  GPA: 3.93
Major: Business Management/Accounting

Returning to college to finish a degree she started right out of high school was both “scary and exciting” for Helen Chamberland. A mother of four—two of whom previously attended and one of whom is currently enrolled at EMCC—she was worried about being able to balance classes, homework, jobs and family. At first she was too shy to speak up in class, but she reports that after a few weeks she settled in, learned good study habits and wanted to get involved. She overcame her fears and became a Student Ambassador, gaining confidence in herself along the way. She and her daughter will graduate together from EMCC this spring. She hopes to transfer to the University of Maine next year.

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Kera Cummings, Kennebec Valley Community College, Fairfield
Residence: Pittsfield
Age: 23 GPA: 3.93
Major: Biological Sciences

As a young, single mother with a two-year old, Kera Cummings knew she needed an education to support herself and her son. She earned her GED and then turned to KVCC. Becoming a volunteer note-taker in a challenging course helped her gain confidence, and she experienced for the first time what it was like to help others succeed. She has aspirations to eventually become a medical doctor.

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Melanie Morin, Kennebec Valley Community College, Fairfield
Residence: Fairfield
Age: 34 GPA: 3.89
Major: Liberal Studies/Nursing 

Although she was already employed as a massage therapist, Melanie Morin wanted to train for a new vocation. She chose KVCC, which was “right down the road.” Currently enrolled in the liberal studies program she will start the nursing program this coming fall. As a single mother, much of her time is dedicated to working and supporting her daughter, but she understands the importance of continuing her education, and says:  “I see myself as a positive role model for my daughter and for others. Education is an important key to a successful, fulfilling and happy life.”

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Jessica Gal,
Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle
Residence: Bridgewater
Age: 26 GPA: 3.7
Major: Nursing

Looking to get into the workforce quickly, Jessica Gal enrolled in NMCC’s two-year nursing degree program. She manages to balance a busy home life (she and her husband have a three-year-old daughter) with the demands of her classes and volunteer work as a tutor. It was through helping others that she solidified her own career goals and hopes to someday have the opportunity to teach nursing students at a community college.  “I enjoy community college because it enables me to make close relationships with my professors and classmates,” she says.

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Jonathan Post,
Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle
Residence: Presque Isle  Age: 35 GPA: 4.0
Major: Nursing

After graduating from high school, Jonathan Post enrolled in college but left after three semesters to work in the construction industry.  After 14 years, he decided it was time to finish college and earn a degree. With the support of his family, he enrolled in NMCC’s nursing program and has become an active member of the school community. He praises NMCC for its support and for giving him a stepping stone to further his education. He was recently named a Coca-Cola All-State Community College Bronze Scholar. His career goal is to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist or nurse practitioner.

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Justin Chapin, Southern Maine Community College, South Portland
Residence: Harpswell Age: 23 GPA: 3.7
Major: Liberal Studies, Political Science concentration

Justin Chapin explored a number of personal and career options after he dropped out of high school and got his GED—from professional snowboarder to business entrepreneur. Despite earning good money he says he was unfulfilled. He turned to SMCC to seek out a career that will allow him to combine his love of travel with his desire to help others less fortunate. Currently enrolled in the liberal studies program concentrating in political science, he has become a student leader and is committed to his education. His career goal is to work as an economist with the United Nations.

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Rachel Champoux,
Southern Maine Community College, South Portland
Residence: Westbrook Age: 16 GPA: 3.77
Major: Liberal Studies, Math concentration

Rachel Champoux started taking classes at a local university when she was 12. Having been homeschooled, she was not used to the larger classes. When she was ready to enroll in college full time she looked for a place that was close to home with the small classes she desired. She enrolled at SMCC at age 14 without a clear sense of a possible career path.  She says that she has been able to take a variety of courses at SMCC that have helped her figure out her next steps. When she graduates at 17, she plans to get her bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in robotics.  Rachel has been named Maine’s New Century Scholar for having the highest All-USA Academic Team application score in the state. 

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Evelyn “Elaine” Murphy, Washington County Community College, Calais
Residence: Eastport
Age: 52 GPA: 3.9
Major: Medical Assisting

Evelyn “Elaine” Murphy returned to school at age 50 to start a new career.  Along the way she discovered a new sense of pride and confidence. She says, “I again walk with my head in the air, and I am happy to wake up every day because I have purpose in my life; a purpose to work hard and carve a ‘new’ life for myself with the education I have been receiving.” Before enrolling, she researched schools and decided that a community college offered what she needed. It was close to home and offered her financial aid. When she graduates this spring she plans on entering the workforce.

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Melanie Small, Washington County Community College, Calais
Residence: Dennysville
Age: 36 GPA: 3.72
Major: Business Management

Melanie Small overcame a serious health condition to get where she is today: a successful student who is giving back to her community. After being given what she calls a “second chance” she knew she needed to continue her education to achieve her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Having been out of school for many years, she says she was intimidated at the prospect of returning to the classroom but found WCCC to have a welcoming environment and a dedicated faculty.

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Diane Dense, York County Community College, Wells
Residence: Wells
Age: 58 GPA: 3.88
Major: Culinary Arts

Diane Dense knew it would be challenging to go back to school at age 58—and that the challenge would be compounded by her vision loss. At YCCC she found she was surrounded by students of all ages who were supportive and welcoming.  In addition to volunteering her culinary skills at local soup kitchens and nursing homes, Diane works with the IRIS Network to help other visually impaired students interested in culinary arts and higher education. She has won awards for her cooking skills and has developed plans for a restaurant that would be designed to be operated by the blind and visually challenged. Some of these practices are now in use in the culinary arts kitchens at SMCC and YCCC. She hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree and work with children with sight disabilities.

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John Fatula, York County Community College, Wells Residence: Buxton
Age: 28 GPA: 3.96
Major: Liberal Studies

After working for four years in a job that was physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding, John Fatula decided it was time to go back to school. Despite a high school experience that was “less than fulfilling” he knew he had potential if he could just find the right college environment. YCCC offered the small college environment he was seeking, and he is now a regular fixture in the college’s learning center helping others with their studies. His future career goals include earning a master’s degree in wildlife ecology and working as a wildlife conservationist.