Category: Cover Stories

The latest News from students at Southern Maine Community College

The Year in Review


By The Beacon Staff

Congratulations, SMCC, we are but a few days away from classes ending for the academic year 2016–17, a week or so away from graduation ceremonies, and a bit more from the start of the summer semester.

The Beacon would like to take this column to highlight some of your accomplishments that we regrettably missed, while informing you of what lies ahead in the near future, the not-so-distant future, and what lies just over the horizon.

Monday a week ago, in addressing the audience at the CeSIL Awards ceremony, Rik Sawyer, student activities advisor and SMCC alum, spoke of the impact of participation: “Some of you took on goals that might have seemed small at the time, but probably had a greater impact than you realize, and some of you took on goals that were, well, simply put… great.”

Congratulating the graduating members of our student community, wishing all luck in their future endeavors — whether it may be continuing your education, starting a career, or traveling the world — seems the appropriate place to start. On Sunday, May 21, graduating seniors, family members and friends will join President Cantor, Dean of Students Tiffanie Bentley, Dean of Academic Affairs Charles Gregory, SMCC faculty, residential-life staff and WCSH’s Bill Green for SMCC’s 70th graduation ceremonies in Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena. Ceremonies start at 2 p.m.

Joining the above dignitaries on the stage will be the 2016–2017 Student of the Year winner, Devyn Vermette. Vermette was honored along with recipients from all of the Maine community colleges on April 26 by the Maine Community College System (MCCS) in Augusta. The award, which is named after John H. Lapoint, Jr., includes a $1,000 honorarium.

Vermette is from Topsham and graduated Mt. Ararat High School in 2016. She majored in Liberal Studies at SMCC and is transferring to the University of Southern Maine, where she will study behavioral science with a focus on counseling. Vermette has been active in the Captain’s Cupboard as a volunteer and works for the SMCC Security Department; she organized the recent food drive to help stock the Captain’s Cupboard.

Speaking of the Captain’s Cupboard, and summer, the Cupboard is expanding its hours this summer. The Cupboard is a wonderful resource — maybe even one that is underutilized —  and with the intention of broadening their presence the Captain has the intention of being open Monday through Thursday throughout the summer.

Volunteers are needed to help make this intention factual. If you are on or near campus this summer and interested, please email The Captain’s Cupboard is looking to bolster its volunteer ranks with individuals who are interested in helping others as agents of positive growth.

The Captain’s Cupboard opened in late 2013 as part of a Phi Theta Kappa community project, with the intention of providing food and other items to students and their families.

Besides providing packaged food and hygiene products, the Captain’s Cupboard has expanded its offering of prepared meals. The Cupboard has partnered with the Culinary Arts program, packing frozen microwaveable meals. The meals range from chicken to seafood or beef, and contain a starch and a vegetable. Soups, pastries and other foods items are available.

While student involvement seems strong on campus, but could always get stronger, SMCC students will also be going international next year. Congratulations to Michael Marino of Freeport and Max Lorber of Portland. Marino and Lorber have received George J. Mitchell Peace Scholarships to study in Ireland next year.

Marino and Lorber’s selection as Mitchell Peace Scholarship recipients raises the total to five SMCC students named since 2010.

Cork Institute of Technology is the destination of these SMCC students studying abroad, located on the south coast of Ireland. Their studies in Ireland are scheduled for the upcoming 2017–2018 academic year.

Marino, who is working towards a degree in Construction Technology, plans to continue his education in Construction Management upon graduation, with the end goal of starting his own construction company.

Lorber, who is enrolled in the Communications and New Media Studies, hopes to continue studying design graduating from SMCC and has a career goal of working in design and/or the advertising fields.

The Maine Community College System and the University of Maine System created the scholarship as a tribute to former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell for his efforts to facilitate peace in Ireland and Northern Ireland. MCCS awards two Mitchell scholarships each year to Maine community college students.

The scholarship covers tuition and fees, books, and room and board, while also providing a living-expense stipend and a travel grant.

The Beacon would also like to extend a belated congratulations to Matt Hayes, who won the Maine Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors’s apprentice contest on March 24. The contest was held in the Augusta Civic center and during the association’s annual trade show.

The competition consists of students installing pipes and fixtures in a bathroom to code. As for placing first, Hayes received a plaque, $500, and assorted cordless power tools. Hayes was awarded the prizes by SMCC Plumbing Department Chair Aaron Ford.

In the world of scholarship opportunities, on Feb. 10, the SMCC Foundation held a reception recognizing students who received scholarship this past academic year. This year the SMCC Foundation awarded more than 200 students, with scholarships exceeding $225,000. The Foundation is active year round, raising funds that support deserving students through scholarships. The Foundation also helps to enhance academic programs, and to revitalize classrooms and equipment.

Our last set of congratulations goes out to the five students who exhibited their work at Zero Station last week on May 4 and 5. Lindsey Checker, Heather Cron, Marti DeCosta, Cheyenne Roberts and Desiree Willette exhibited work that ranged from Xerox lithoprints, colleges and assemblages to abstract, surreal and figurative painting, digital illustration, landscape photography and printmaking.

This was the 11th group of students to graduate from SMCC with an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Studies with an art concentration.

As SMCC closes out academic year 2016–17, let’s look ahead to the fall. When we return in late August, The Beacon will be hosting a student club and organization get-together. The purpose of the event is to connect the clubs and organizations directly with The Beacon so that we as a newspaper can help you promote and build your clubs, while getting the word out about your accomplishments. The get-together is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 5, and will take place in Jewett Auditorium on the South Portland Campus.

Have a wonderful summer in your adventures, travel well, stay safe, and we’ll see you in a few short months.

Lights, Camera, Mayhem!

By Jack Gentempo

Before there were movies, humans drew pictures on cave walls to tell stories. Then humans invented community college, and everything changed. On Wednesday, May 10, five students from the SMCC Communications and New Media program will be premiering their short films at Nickelodeon Cinemas at 1 Temple Street in Portland. I reached out to a few of these young Spielbergs and Shyamalans to hear what they have to say about their films and the stories that inspired them.

‘It’s a Match!’
Director: Nicole Kumi

In the director’s words:

“It’s a Match is a documentary, featuring Evelyn Waugh, that follows her navigating the online dating world using Tinder a dating service app. The film shows a glimpse into her day to day life and follows her on two Tinder dates. When making the film I wanted to capture the awkwardness of dating in your 20s and how first dates can be so cringe-worthy. The film certainly captures that and much more. People will have to come to the showing at Maine Mayhem to see if her dates were a Match!”

Q: Why did you choose a documentary format?

A: “I chose a documentary format because I love sharing real stories. I’m fascinated with real people and real stories. Although, I like fictional narrative storytelling I do feel like a director can comment and shed a light on stories that need to be told in our community. I’m also interested in going into a career in reality television because I feel like it falls into that same category. This documentary was such a learning experience for myself since I worked so hard on it.”


‘The Windigo’

The Windigo BTS 04

Director: Ness Hutchins

In the director’s words:

“The Windigo is about a young Native American woman, Kaye, who is tormented by a monster in her dreams after her beloved grandmother passes away. Meanwhile, people in their small town start turning up dead, and Kaye believes it’s her grandmother back for revenge.”

Q: Do you have a personal connection to Native American culture?

A: “I don’t have Native American heritage, although, like Kaye the protagonist, I lost a grandmother I was very close to. She was a great storyteller. Writing Kaye as Native and including the oral storytelling tradition felt like a way to bring her character to life by tapping into some of my own (white) experiences. Being a white person writing about a culture different than my own, I wanted to show Kaye through a filter of life challenges everyone faces and can relate to. But, I also tried to subtly show how her experiences might be different, like being alienated from your white small town and not having a good support system from your community.”

There will be a 7 p.m. screening at the Nickelodeon, followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers. If you don’t have a car or you miss the bus into Portland, there will also be an encore screening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available right now on the Nickelodeon website. If you are an expert procrastinator and find yourself without tickets on May 10, there will also be a screening on May 12 at Central Gallery, 89 Central Street, Bangor. Additional information can be found at the Maine Mayhem Film Festival’s FaceBook page.

‘Wizard Wars’

Wizard Wars (Maine Mayhem)

Director: Nicholas Cavanaugh

In the director’s words:

“Wizard Wars is about two wizards who battle to the death for different reasons. Nicholiavage who is a wanted wizard and has supposedly been dead for years is the only one who can fight against Kelcey, the power hungry witch. Kelcey is also Nicholiavage’s first and only love. Now he must decide does he destroy her or does he save her from the dark path she is on. Throughout the film, Nicholiavage will struggle to try and turn Kelcey back to being good, but he also must stay ahead of the law.”

Q: Are any of the characters in “Wizard Wars” based off of real people?

A: “Nicholiavage is based off me because it was the nickname given to me by my co-writer (David Beane). He used to call me Nicholiavage when there was another Nick in the room. One time after using After Effects, and learning After Effects, he said, “Nicholas, we should do a video off this.” I’m like, “Okay. What would my character be?” He’s like “Nicholiavage.” I’m like “Okay.” So that’s how Nicholiavage came to exist.”

‘The Mustang, The Hand, and the Big Man’

Mustang (Maine Mayhem)

Director: Andrew Anzora

In the director’s words:

“The Mustang is searching for memories stolen from her- stolen and distributed among high-ranking​ employees of the shadowy organization known as The Company. As she tracks down these members, she must evade the gun for hire after her on behalf of those she’s hunting- The Hand, and face off with the one in charge of it all — The Big Man.”

Q: What was the hardest part of making “The Mustang, The Hand, and the Big Man”?

A: “The hardest part was something no one ever told me about. I knew all about the pitfalls of production… My hardest problem was my expectations of myself and of the movie. I’m constantly trying to outdo not only my contemporaries but really myself. I want the growth to show, you know? So, finding out where my limitations were and kind of being humbled by them has been a process, but now I know where my bar is and where I need to surpass myself next time!”

‘Leap of Faith’

Leap of Faith (Maine Mayhem)

Director: Chris Motley

In the director’s words:

“Leap of Faith is a religious comedy about a young man named Lu, who believes he is being punished by God. He longs for a girl named Eve but never makes his presence known to her because he has isolated himself due to his condition. Then Lu befriends his new neighbor, a pastor with a serious alcohol problem, and they try to put their heads together and finally answer the big question: Why is Lu being punished? And more importantly, can he put a stop to it? The film aims to make you laugh and think at the same time.”

Q: Is there anything in your life that you drew inspiration from while making “Leap of Faith”?

A: “I had the idea sitting in a church, thinking it was funny how not religious I am. I thought it wouldn’t be surprising if being in the church made me burst into flames. And the idea went from there! I did draw a lot on the need to have a scapegoat. I think we all feel more comfortable when we have someone to blame for our problems other than ourselves. It lets us be flawed without feeling guilty about it.”

ACE Marches for Science, SMCC Group Joins Boston Protest



By Ivan Del Mar, Jack Gentempo and Ben Riggleman

Saturday, April 22, wasn’t a typical Earth Day; it was a day of impassioned activism for the sake of science. Rallies held under the name March for Science took place in Washington, D.C. and over 600 other towns and cities across six continents. While an international event, the March for Science began and gained traction in the United States, where the administration of President Donald Trump is seen by many as hostile toward science itself. A contingent from the Association of Cosmic Explorers (ACE), SMCC’s student astronomy club, traveled to Boston to join the March for Science there.

The group consisted of 10 students and one faculty advisor, physics professor Kevin Kimball. Eight of the students were members of ACE; the two others were a videographer and a reporter for The Beacon.

The group got up before dawn on the 22nd. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries have resulted from sleeping past noon, such as when a young René Descartes invented the Cartesian plane by laying in bed one morning and lazily tracking the coordinates of a fly via its position relative to the axes of two walls. However, there was no time to sleep in for ACE’s trip to Boston, as the Downeaster left at 6:30 sharp. (Train travel has a relatively small carbon footprint compared to travel by car or bus.)

The journey kicked off with a rendezvous at the Portland Transportation Center, where ACE Coordinator Nicholas Sebastien Moll gave an impassioned reading of a recent opinion piece in The Forecaster regarding the current tension between the public and science. According to the author, Gordon Street, the misconception that science itself is an entity with it’s own agenda has caused a large number of people to mistrust science. The article inspired the group to consider not only what they were marching for, but why.

They arrived in Boston at 9:15 a.m., leaving some time to kill before the demonstration began. A detour was made to the Skywalk Observatory in the Prudential Center, Boston’s second-tallest building. The Skywalk circles the top floor of the Prudential Center 749 feet above street level, offering a 360-degree glass vantage point on the city. It was overcast, cold and damp outside. The Common, Boston’s central park, was almost deserted, which might convince any would-be protestor that the weather would be too great a deterrent for the day’s march. However, perspectives shifted the moment the group’s feet hit the ground.

ACE and other marchers headed towards the Common from Copley Square, with a spring in their step despite the chill and moisture in the air. It soon began to rain, but nevertheless, upon approaching the Common, the group witnessed folks flooding in from all parts of Boston, holding their signs proudly in spite of the bleeding ink. Police watched on standby, directing traffic to slow down across the major intersections surrounding the park.

A brass ensemble playing upbeat music filled the Common with an invigorating sense of protest. Children were treated to a display of science experiments, and despite the wind and rain, a large group of protesters sat in solemn meditation. The band soon yielded the sound system to 15 high-profile advocates for science. These included Gina McCarthy, who served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 to 2017; Dava Newman, former head of NASA; renowned Harvard geneticist George Church; and Steven Holtzman, president of hearing-enhancement biotechnology company Decibel Therapeutics.

Despite being an officially non-partisan rally, political concern was certainly present — and visible in many of the demonstrators’ signs: “Get your tiny hands off my planet,” “Save the Planet, Recycle Trump.”

Gina McCarthy gave a speech stressing the threat to scientific agencies in the U.S. “At a time when risks to health and well-being are growing incredibly complicated,” she said, “our leadership in

Washington is diminishing investments in the very institutions that deliver the science that we need to survive and to thrive.” She singled out the president’s proposed budget, which would cut the EPA’s personnel and spending by approximately third, and which, in her words, “makes little or no investment in scientific research, including climate-change research, mitigation and adaptation.” She pulled no punches: “Actions so far in Washington have made it clear that they are not only intent on denying inconvenient science — they’re out to stop doing science, period and full stop.”

Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms. Today it is in the form of protest, but tomorrow it falls back into the hands of each of us. The ensemble of SMCC representatives that made the journey to Boston shows the unity and determination echoed by the march itself. Whether it was the videographers determined to capture the journey, the Beacon journalist intent on documenting the event, or the ACE members reaching for the stars with their Sharpie-stained poster board, every member came together in support of something they believed in.

On the drowsy train ride back to Portland, ACE’s vice president, Nicholas Sebastien Moll, gave his take on the experience: “The March for Science is more of a statement than anything else. This is a time that the scientific community is realizing that they cannot simply do science. They must become advocates. They must petition on their own behalf. They must run for office.”

And as for non-scientists, like the ACE crew? “The students from ACE went down to Boston to show solidarity and to reaffirm what it means to be interested in science in this political climate. All of the people around the world are now standing together to rise above and focus on the science!”

In this he was quoting a line from the television show Rick and Morty that had made its way to the sign of group leader Ivan Del Mar: “Rise above it. Focus on science.”

When Ivan was asked to evaluate the trip, he gave it four words: “Cold, damp — but inspiring.”

Portland Marches in Solidarity


By Rebecca Dow

On Earth Day last Saturday, hundreds of people arrived at Portland’s very own City Hall Plaza to participate in a march for science. They held up signs showing phrases like “Don’t be a fossil fool” and “I’m with Her” with arrows pointing to a picture of the earth. I had the opportunity to attend, myself, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of community when surrounded by so many people who were speaking up and bringing light to some of our society’s more sensitive topics. It can take a lot for people to come out of their comfort zone and march on the streets on a frigid April day; however, the purpose was there in every soul. Every person there was participating for their own vitally important reason.

As we marched from City Hall Plaza to High Street, passersby filmed or snapped pictures, cars honked their horns in support, and shop workers stood at their windows to witness the event.

Once the group had made its way to the end of its route, we gathered and stood in a crowd to listen as speakers covered a variety of science-related topics. One that truly caught my attention was the speech on pesticide use by journalist Avery Yale Kamila of the Portland Press Herald. She spoke of how most of Canada has banned the use and sale of cosmetic lawn chemicals, with France soon creating its own bans. She spoke about the health impact of pesticides, how Portland is being manipulated by the pesticide industry, and how bees are coming back to areas that have banned pesticides. You can watch the full video at the following link: I highly recommend watching the video, for Avery extrapolates well on issues regarding the health and safety concerns many have on the topic of pesticides and their use.

Getting out and attending community events such as the March for Science can not only be an educational experience, but also provide an outlet from which to further participate in activism, volunteering and speaking out against things you don’t agree with.

In a world that is becoming more modernized by the day, we need to create alternate methods and practices for getting the material things we want in life. In the end, all we have is our planet. My dear readers, it is my hope that whatever contribution you may have made for the environment on Earth Day resonates with you well into the year and beyond.

SMCC Students Go to Italy


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Olivia White

Thanks to both the SMCC Global Classroom and the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)* program, eight students and I took a trip to historic Italy for spring break as part of Professor Jeffrey Badger’s online class Italian Renaissance Art and Architecture. The first half of the semester focused on the historical backgrounds of the Italian Renaissance, including the art, architecture, and artists, as well as the influences provided by the Church and wealthy benefactors such as the Medici family. The course also prepared us for this intercultural experience by  reminding us that Italy would be very different from America in many ways, such as food and language.

Although we felt very prepared for this trip, one thing that no one can be prepared for is Italy’s beauty, such as how it felt to see the snow-capped Alps from the plane’s window, or to experience Ferrara’s tall and proud Castello Estense. Florence’s Duomo completely overwhelms you in size and intricacy, and Venice’s web of canals is simply amazing, as it weaves a wonderful, even poetic, puzzle around you. It was surreal.

We spent most of our time in Ferrara, a relatively small, charming city mostly un-known to tourists. Ferrara is also a city rich with Renaissance history, much of which we were able to visit and explore, including the underground prison and rooftop orange trees of the Castello Estense. (The castle used to be the home of the Este family, who served as the dukes of Ferrara for many years.) Ferrara is famous for their delicious cappellacci, which are ravioli stuffed with sweet pumpkin.

All this and more made Ferrara the perfect destination for us to set up camp at the Hotel Touring near the middle of the city. Our days in Ferrara were sunny and warm, and one morning a few of us rode bicycles around the city wall, which stretches for about five miles,

and once protected the city from Medieval invasions. Mostly, though, we spent our time going from one historic site, such as the top of the bell tower (which sported terrific views), to another, such as a local contemporary art gallery.

Our trip also included tours of Florence and Venice — cities that strike your heart with allure after one glance. In Florence we visited the Duomo, a great cathedral overwhelming in both size and intricate detail. A picture doesn’t do it justice; one must walk around it in its entirety to get the full effect. While we were in Florence, we also visited the Uffizi (“offices”), once the offices of the wealthy Medici family and now a popular museum. People from all over the world come to see works of art by highly esteemed artists, such as Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1486) and Primavera (1482).

In Venice, it seemed that every picture taken was one that belonged on a postcard. The bright blue canals that stretch throughout the city shimmered in the light, carrying tourists and newlyweds aboard beautiful gondolas. While in Venice we visited three particularly captivating historical sites: the Doge’s Palace, Saint Mark’s Basilica, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

The Doge’s Palace housed immaculately detailed ceilings and frescoed walls depicting

religious scenes, and also gave stunning views of Venice from the top floors. Saint Mark’s Basilica is an incredibly gorgeous cathedral, with every part of its walls covered in gilded mosaic scenes of Jesus Christ, Mary Magdalene, and many other significant religious figures. Each small piece of mosaic is gilded with gold-leaf paint, which creates an illusion of dancing sequins in the sunlight.

Lastly, we visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which is held in the house she lived in, and her body presently rests under a small garden outside the building. Inside we walked through Peggy’s personal collection, which includes pieces by Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, and Man Ray.

When we weren’t visiting museums, cathedrals, or other historical sites, we were eating. The food in Italy was remarkable, exceeding all expectations. Dinners would sometimes be hours long, full of conversation and one delectable course after another. We relished Ferrara’s famous

cappellacci, the pizza was amazing, and we revisited the handmade gelato multiple times. We learned how to make pasta by hand from a real Italian chef, and we were also invited to Azienda Agricola BioPastoreria, an organic farm in Ferrara, to make pizza.

It was all an incredible experience that I’m sure none of us will soon forget, leaving us all wanting more of the beautiful country of Italy.

Welcoming Jason Saucier to SMCC


Jessica Spoto and Ben Riggleman

There is a new employee here at Southern Maine Community College. His name is Jason Saucier (pronounced “SO-shur”), and he is the director of residential life and student involvement. He goes by Jason or Sauc (which sounds like “sohsh”). He has only been here for two weeks, but let’s just say he’s doing a phenomenal job!

Jason has always had a passion for helping people. Following in the footsteps of his father, a professional firefighter, Jason began studying firefighting and search-and-rescue in high school through a program at the Togus veteran’s hospital. Then, while a criminology major at the University of Southern Maine–Gorham, he got a firefighting certification, which led to a paid job with the Gorham fire department.

Jason went on to get his M.S. in adult education at USM, and while a graduate student, took on a full-time job as residence-hall director. This finally spelled the end of his firefighting career. He was a full-time RD for three years.

“And then,” he says, “I got really involved in ‘learning communities.’ … I was involved in creating a community-of-arts program in one of our residence halls that kind of focused on students who had a creative interest, whether they were an art major or not. And we did some fun projects, like a film festival where students made their own ten-minute films.” He speaks proudly of the “Golden Husky” awards and red-carpet ceremony he set up.

Running such events led naturally into a five-year stint as USM’s director of residential life and student activities. And now Jason is here, doing essentially the same job.

He’s already begun “mapping out” events and programs for 2018; and in the short term, preparing for SMCC’s upcoming annual Spring Fest, which will involve a barbeque, music and inflatables. The theme this year is the Grateful Dead.

He has some novel ideas. One is to create a college-newspaper consortium, bringing The Beacon together with other regional student papers to collaborate and share content. He has also spoken with students about inaugurating an SMCC day of community service.

Jason acknowledges that it’s difficult joining a new community near the end of the school year. But he said his “experience has been fantastic” so far. He says he “really enjoys getting to know students here.” His first week, he encountered many friendly people — teachers, students and faculty. Students would just pop into his office to say “hi.” He really enjoyed the warm welcome he received, and just how friendly people are here at SMCC. He encourages students to continue to seek him out. His office is in 122 Spring Point — and he’s around all week, he says.

Asked if he has any advice to give students at SMCC, he offers this:

“Get involved in at least one thing that connects you to campus. This could be a student organization, athletics, on-campus employment, you name it. Studies have shown that students who do this for at least two to three hours a week on a regular basis report a positive connection to the college, better grades and a higher success rate in college. In addition to these benefits, your involvement on campus helps you build your professional network and your resume.”

He mentions some clubs offered on the South Portland Campus: cosplay club, nursing club and Student Senate. (So there are a lot of opportunities here at SMCC to get involved on campus, if you haven’t already!)

Some other facts about Jason: He has two children; Milo is going into second grade, and his youngest, Reid, is going to pre-K. Jason has lived in Maine his whole life and loves it here.

He seems like a great addition to the SMCC staff. The Beacon gives Jason Saucier a warm welcome!