While 254 Thomas College graduates, at least one finishes debt-free in just three semesters

WATERVILLE – Sophie O’Clair is not your typical college graduate, by any stretch of the imagination.

She earned an associate’s degree in arts and sciences from Thomas College even before she graduated from high school and after that earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Thomas in just three semesters, debt-free.

“I actually went into my freshman year at Thomas and was technically a junior because I had done about three years of college,” O’Clair said Tuesday. “I had 78 credits before I got to Thomas.”

O’Clair is one of 254 Thomas students who received diplomas on Saturday at Thomas’ 128th commencement ceremony held at a scorching Harold Alfond Sports Center on the West River Road campus where temperatures temperatures have exceeded 90 degrees. Approximately 2,500 students, faculty, families and friends filled the center for the event, hosted by Thomas President Laurie Lachance.

Sophie O’Clair was one of 254 students graduating from Thomas College on Saturday. The Fayette resident doesn’t like to drag things out as she earned her associate’s degree from Thomas before she graduated from high school, and adds a bachelor’s degree after just three semesters. Courtesy of Sophie O’Clair

Although O’Clair, who graduated magna cum laude, was not present as she was traveling across the country. She explained earlier in the week how she was able to take dual-enrollment classes at Thomas through the Pathways program while a student at Maranacook Community High School in Readfield. She also took classes at the University of Maine and got her associate from Thomas while still in high school.

She commuted an hour to Waterville four days a week from her home in Fayette to earn her bachelor’s degree. His parents, both educators who instilled in him the importance of graduating from college with little or no debt, built him an apartment in their basement, paid for his gas to get to college, and provided food, on condition that she pays for it. tuition.

During the summers, O’Clair worked three jobs totaling about 70 hours a week, and she worked part-time while in college. Her jobs included working in a retail business, teaching yoga, working as a behavioral health professional, and caring for her great-grandmother at night.

“My parents helped in so many ways,” O’Clair said Tuesday. “I was so lucky to have two parents who helped me with my homework and food. It was pretty awesome.

She plans to return to Thomas in the fall to earn a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on project management and after that she hopes to pursue a doctorate in psychology from the University of Maine. Its goal is to develop a curriculum and teach sex education not only to educators and caregivers, but also to those with special needs who live in group homes or attend day programs – those who don’t don’t have access to education, she said, and are at risk of sexual harm.

O’Clair credited her experiences in high school and Thomas with influencing her to enter her chosen field and providing creative ways for students to earn credit while holding down a job. Thomas also offers scholarships, as well as programs that help fund training opportunities to enhance resumes and credentials, according to O’Clair.

“Thomas was actually a really great place and I think they understand that most, if not all, students have jobs,” she said. “They have been super supportive. My teachers are amazing.

At Thomas Saturday, Greg Powell, executive chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation and CEO and chairman of Dexter Enterprises LLC, a wealth management firm, delivered the keynote address.

Thomas College graduates listen to Gregory W. Powell deliver the commencement address Saturday at Thomas College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans

Powell praised the students for persevering through a pandemic and facing many challenges. He said nearly 60% were the first members of their family to attend college, many held one or more jobs, and some entered Thomas without parents to love and support them. The class raised a scholarship fund in honor of Antonio Martinez, a member of the Thomas baseball team, who died in a car accident just after graduating last year. Class members also raised funds for Haitian refugees, among other activities, according to Powell.

“You’ve been tested and passed with flying colors,” Powell said to loud applause.

He offered several tips, including that once graduates leave Thomas, they seek out, build and nurture relationships with others. He advised them to look outside to find themselves.

“Look outward to find how you can help and act on what you see,” Powell said. “When you do, you will find yourself and change the world.”

Rajhan Munnings, from South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands, was the undergraduate lecturer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He asked his fellow students to thank and cherish their parents for the sacrifices they made to ensure their children could graduate.

Thomas College graduate Rajhan Munnings prepares for commencement ceremonies Saturday at Thomas College in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans

“Parents, congratulate each other for taking us to our first day of school and guiding us to the last,” he said.

The graduate speaker was Nathaniel White of Waterville, who graduated with a master’s degree in business administration on Saturday. He said pursuing a master’s degree is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of hard work.

“We should all be proud of what we have achieved,” he said.

Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters have been awarded to Powell, Charles W. Hays, and Donna Loring, as well as posthumously to H. Allen Ryan.

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