York County Community College (YCCC) celebrated 236 graduates at its 29th Annual Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 17, 2024, at the Sanford Center for Performing Arts. The center was filled with joy and excitement as the class of 2024 were awarded over 300 associate degrees and certificates. Graduates were supported by friends, family, Maine Community College System Leadership and Board of Trustees, the YCCC Foundation, local representatives, plus local business and industry partners.

Graduates got a rousing send-off from keynote speaker the Honorable U.S. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro who was introduced by the Honorable U.S .Senator Susan Collins.

Secretary Del Toro told the graduates about his family’s journey, fleeing Castro’s Cuba and growing up poor in Hell’s Kitchen. It led to 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.

“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.”

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 and Pratt & Whitney.

A lively commencement address was delivered by Geoff and Mike Howe, founders of Howe & Howe Technologies and Senior Vice Presidents of Textron Systems. 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 Dr. 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.