U.S. Secretary of the Navy Keynote Speaker at YCCC Graduation

May 18, 2024

SANFORD, ME – York County Community College (YCCC) graduates got a rousing send-off at graduation Friday night from Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro.

“Don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something.” Del Toro told the graduates. “I congratulate each and every one of you, but today is not the end of your journey. Indeed, it is the beginning.”

The 29th YCCC commencement ceremony was held at the Sanford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 300 degrees and certificates awarded to 236 graduates.

Del Toro told the graduates about his family’s journey, fleeing Castro’s Cuba and growing up poor in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, and how it influenced his decision to join the military: “This nation took my family in when we had nowhere else to go,” he said.  He urged graduates to consider serving their country, whether public or private, and to pursue their greatest dreams.

Del Toro highlighted the college’s role in preparing students for the workforce, noting the graduates trained for nearby jobs at major defense sector companies, such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Bath Iron Works, and Pratt & Whitney.

“Our nation’s vast network of community colleges is vital to providing educational opportunities to Americans from all walks of life, meeting them in the communities where they work and reside to deliver world-class instruction across dozens of concentrations that allow them to realize their career goals,” Del Toro said. He also encouraged graduates to consider serving “in support of our nation, whether in or out of uniform.”

“Service to our nation is more than just a job, it is an honorable and noble profession – one where you are part of something greater than yourself, contributing to the advancement of our nation, and indeed the world,” Del Toro said. “It is incumbent upon all of us to consider how we can best lend our talents, and, in the case of the graduates, their newly-developed skills, to build up our great nation for all Americans, and defend against the threats and challenges of today.”

YCCC’s location and programs have led to closer ties to the Navy. In March, as part of the new Maine Defense Industry Alliance,  the college announced that $3.5 million in Navy funding will be used towards a $6.5 million project to create a new welding lab and expand manufacturing and trade programs. There is an immediate, pressing need in Maine to hire more people trained in precision machining, welding, manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing.

A lively commencement address was delivered by Geoff and Mike Howe, founders of Maine-based robotics company Howe & Howe Technologies. The brothers shared their philosophy with the graduates: “Success through adversity…taking control of your destiny. When hard times hit, when obstacles get in your way…PAUSE, THINK, EXECUTE. Welcome the setback and accept the challenge!”

It was an evening of “firsts:” In recent years, YCCC has significantly expanded its academic programs, short-term training, and added sports teams and student housing. This year’s graduating class included the college’s first group of students earning associate degrees in nursing, the first group of students earning Alcohol and Drug Counselor certificates, the first members of YCCC’s baseball team, and two national champions from the YCCC track team.

YCCC President Michael Fisher closed out the celebration by thanking the graduates for choosing YCCC as their educational home and trusting the college with their academic and personal growth as well as enriching our lives with their presence, ideas and aspirations.


(Updated 5/20/24 to correct amount of Navy funding to YCCC.)