Julie Anderson Shares Love of Music with Children
2000 Graduate of Deering High School
Julie Anderson first heard a viola as a student at Longfellow Elementary School.
brought members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra into the school and
we got to hear each stringed instrument,” she said. “I fell in love
with the viola. It was through that experience that a whole world of
music opened up to me.”
Julie rented an instrument through the
school and started lessons. “I took that viola home,” she recalls, “and
practiced it every day.” She performed with the school orchestra. “We
had a great time,” she says.
As Julie advanced to Lincoln Middle
School and Deering High School, she joined a handbell choir and the
school chorus as well as the orchestra. She had opportunities to
perform with students in other school districts through regional music
festivals and the All State Festival.
One of her teachers, Sylvia Infantine, urged Julie to consider a career in music.
really believed in me and she helped me audition for college,” says
Julie. “She helped accompany me and encouraged me that this was
something that I could do.”
Since graduating from Rice
University, Julie has found diverse ways to make a living as a musician
while living in Portland, within blocks of the Stevens Avenue schools
that she attended.
She plays viola and violin with the Bangor
Symphony Orchestra. She’s performed with Ray LaMontagne, Rustic
Overtones and other local bands. She plays wedding gigs in the summer,
gives private Suzuki viola and violin lessons and teaches Suzuki at her
“Music is just so much a part of me that it’s
followed me,” she says. “… I feel really lucky to have gone to schools
with such a great music program…I had teachers who went above and beyond
for me, helping me to audition, getting me to the next step, referring
me to other teachers and other string camps and orchestras,
opportunities. So I think that’s how the Portland Public Schools have
Kimara Nzamubona Pursues Career as Environmental Engineer
2010 Graduate of Portland High School
Kimara Nzamubona and his family fled to Burundi in 2004 to escape
civil war in their home country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Four
years later, he arrived in the United States and enrolled as a junior
at Portland High School.
“I could only speak just a little bit of English,” Kimara says. “Just saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ Basic English.”
was fortunate to go to Portland High School, which is a great place for
immigrants to come,” he says. “It is a very diverse place, so you kind
of feel at home even though you are in a foreign country.”
worked hard on schoolwork. “Science was pretty much my cup of tea,” he
said. He also took full advantage of extracurricular activities,
playing on the Portland High soccer team, competing with the school’s
math team and tutoring other students in French.
In the fall of
his senior year, Kimara connected with a mentor through the Portland
Mentoring Alliance. Jack Carr, a local engineer, would play a crucial
role in his life.
“Living in this country, where my parents have
no knowledge of the educational system here, it was very tough for me
because I had to do everything by myself,” Kimara says.
helped him stay on track academically and begin planning for his
future. They visited colleges together and worked on applications and
Less than two years after his arrival in America,
Kimara graduated from Portland High School with a financial aid package
covering most of the costs of attending Colby College in Waterville.
There, he studied chemistry. He worked on a University of Maine
research project, done in collaboration with Colby, that measures iron
in ocean water.
Kimara became a U.S. citizen in January 2014.
Jack Carr, his mentor, was there to share that milestone. Carr also
attended Kimara’s graduation from Colby a few months later.
has set his sights on becoming an environmental engineer specializing
in water technologies. He hopes someday to help improve the quality of
drinking water in his home country.
“I want to go back and be
able to build membranes for filtration systems, to help people who are
dying from cholera and other diseases that are caused by unclean water,”
he said. “That’s my dream.”
Taurean Green, Professional Ballet Dancer
2002 Graduate of Portland High School and Portland Adult Education
Green grew up on Munjoy Hill. When he was 10 years old, he went with
his class at the former Jack Elementary School to see “The Nutcracker”
ballet at Merrill Auditorium. “I instantly became interested,” he
The following year, Portland Ballet Company held
auditions at Jack for a new program, funded by Portland-born actress and
dancer Victoria Rowell, that provided ballet lessons to students who
couldn’t afford them. Taurean was selected.
“From the day I started,” he said, “I loved it.”
began by taking classes once a week. The year after he saw his first
ballet, he performed in “The Nutcracker.” “I remember being little and
just being absolutely amazed by the backdrops, by being on stage, by
the music that was all around me,” he recalled.
progressed to dancing twice a week, three times a week and then nearly
every day. He says it was a struggle at times to keep up with his
school work. His teachers helped support him in his love for dance even
as they insisted that he not lose ground academically.
remember that in fifth grade, Ms. Lombard always told me, ‘Whatever you
do, you make sure you do your homework. Always. Do your homework.’”
Taurean said. “…By pushing yourself in that way, I think it shapes your
character in the studio, which shapes your character in life.”
age 15, Taurean came to a crossroads. At Portland High School, he was
running indoor and outdoor track, singing, playing cello and playing
soccer in addition to dancing.
Taurean won a scholarship to
spend a summer training with the San Francisco Ballet. That experience
led him to realize that he wanted to become a professional ballet
Back at Portland High, Taurean joined the CORPS program,
which attracts many of Maine’s best ballet dancers. He described the
program as “a very unique and special opportunity to help you get a
head start on your career. They schedule your classes early in the
day,” he said, “so you can get out and go to ballet classes.”
left school shortly before graduation to pursue his career in New York
City. He completed his degree through Portland Adult Education that
same year, 2002.
After seeing a performance of the Dance Theatre
of Harlem, Taurean thought, “That’s it. That’s exactly where I want
to be. That’s the real deal for me.” So he auditioned and they took
him right away. He performed in his first show at the historic Apollo
Taurean danced around the world with the company.
When the theater went on hiatus due to financial problems, he moved to
the West Coast to dance with one of the country’s most prestigious
companies, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and a small contemporary company in
San Francisco. He returned to New York City in 2011 to rejoin the
newly reopened Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Taurean Green says that the work ethic he developed as a child in Portland has helped him throughout his career.
“As an artist, you’re always a student,” he says. “Always. Up to the end of your career, you’re always, always learning.”
Vanessa Graviss, Pastry Chef
2012 Graduate of Deering High School and Portland Arts and Technology High School
Graviss credits her art teachers at Deering High School with pushing
her to be creative and expressing confidence in her abilities.
day, I was watching Food Network, and I saw that my art could become
cake,” she recalls. “…And I picked up a piping bag and started going.”
a high school freshman, Vanessa had her home kitchen certified by the
state so that she could sell baked goods to bakeries and supermarkets.
She built up her business over the next four years, making birthday
cakes, cupcakes, even wedding cakes.
During her senior year, Vanessa enrolled in the culinary program at Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS).
Armstrong, the teacher, helped build up her confidence in the
kitchen. She learned everything from the safe way to use equipment to
the proper way of addressing a chef. When the program was asked to
prepare desserts for school functions, Armstrong often put Vanessa in
Sometimes, she says, her desserts would fail the first
time. “But it was fun to be able to be creative and have (Chef
Armstrong) have the respect in me and the confidence in me.”
PATHS, Vanessa also participated in the student culinary competition
run by Prostart. She led a team of four in preparing a three-course
meal. They walked away with the second place award.
graduating from high school in 2012, Vanessa enrolled as a baking and
pastry major in Lincoln Culinary Institute in Hartford, Connecticut.
She’s competed in more events, winning two first-place awards for a
cake draped with 18 pink peonies.
Vanessa plans to round out her
education by working for a while in the restaurant or hotel industry.
She hopes someday to become a certified master pastry chef and to open
her own bakery.
“Cakes,” she says, “are my deep love.”
Jesse Connolly (Portland High 1997) Serves as Congressional Chief of Staff
Connolly says he felt a strong sense of community growing up in the
Portland Public Schools, and that made a big difference in his life.
he was in second grade at Reiche Elementary School, his father, State
Representative Laurence Connolly, died of heart failure. A Reiche gym
teacher, Michael Caiola, helped Jesse Connolly through that difficult
Connolly remembers Mr. Caiola “taking an interest in me
and checking in on me when I was coming back from that pretty traumatic
event. And (I) will always remember his support and guidance.”
school district’s diversity also made a big impact on Connolly. Many
of his classmates came from Southeast Asia. At Portland High School,
he played on a championship-winning soccer team with students who had
immigrated from several countries. Connolly says those early
experiences helped him understand that “there’s a great big world out
After graduating in 1997, Connolly studied political
science at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. By his mid-20s, he was
launched on a career in politics and government. He served as state
director for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, which
resulted in Kerry winning Maine. Connolly also managed Governor John
Baldacci’s successful reelection campaign.
More than three
decades after his father co-sponsored the first bill in the Maine
Legislature that would protect gays and lesbians from discrimination,
Connolly led the 2005 referendum campaign that finally resulted in
passage of the law. He also managed the 2009 referendum campaign to
approve gay marriage in Maine.
“I’ve had all sorts of different
positions over the course of the last 10-12 years but have been really
excited to have them build off each other,” said Connolly. He now
serves as chief of staff for Maine’s First District congresswoman,
Chellie Pingree, at her offices in Maine and Washington, D.C.
lives with his wife and young son in South Portland. “I’ve really
wanted to try to stay in Maine,” he said. Connolly says he is not
interested in running for office, but rather prefers to work behind the
In his free time, Connolly goes fishing with his son and plays on a beer league softball team.
still very close with numerous friends from my high school days,” he
says. “Many of them were in my wedding….We see them every few months.
So there’s still a strong connection, which I think is a great thing.”
Jessica Corey (Portland High and PATHS 2006) Pursues Career in Beauty Industry
Corey grew up in Portland, attending Presumpscot Elementary School and
Lyman Moore Middle School. She discovered her interest in fashion
while a student at Portland High School.
Portland High’s journalism teacher, noticed that Corey chose fashion as
the topic for all of her articles. Pendleton suggested that she
consider enrolling in the fashion marketing program at Portland Arts and
Technology High School (PATHS).
Corey took full advantage of the
opportunities provided by the PATHS program. She worked with a partner
to design a handbag that was produced and sold by stores in the Old
Port. She also created and sold T-shirts as a fundraiser for the Cancer
Community Center in South Portland. That project won her a state award
and the opportunity to travel to a national conference in Dallas,
“We felt like we were doing something good for the
community and, at the same time, learning a segment of marketing,” Corey
She credits her PATHS teacher, Jane Krasnow, with
encouraging her to be creative and to express herself through fashion
while also giving her real-world experience. At the end of the year,
Corey had the opportunity to model several of her original designs at
the PATHS fashion show.
After graduating from Portland High and
PATHS in 2006, Corey studied fashion merchandising management at the
Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. During college, she
lined up internships with Cynthia Rose New York, a small luxury
designer, Simple Silhouettes, a bridesmaid dress company, and Limited
Brands, owner of Victoria Secrets and Bath and Body Works.
worked as a jewelry product assistant for Alfani private label at
Macy’s after college. She then was hired by Limited Brands as a
research and development lab coordinator. “I’m learning the technical
side of product development,” she says.
Corey plans to continue
developing her olfactory skills and knowledge of global beauty as she
pursues a master’s in cosmetics and fragrance marketing and management.
just trying to …learn as much as I can about the beauty industry and
get myself to that next level so I can hopefully be a leader one day,”
she says. Eventually, she’d like to become a product developer and then
a vice president of a beauty company.
Ryan Flaherty (Deering 2005) Makes It to the Major Leagues
Ryan Flaherty, a standout athlete at Deering High School, completed his journey to the Major Leagues in 2012 when he made the Baltimore Orioles' Opening Day roster.
grew up in North Deering, attending Lyseth Elementary School and Lyman
Moore Middle School. He forged a special relationship with one of his
Lyseth teachers, Ron Penney. “He would always talk baseball with me,”
Flaherty recalled. “And I just related to him really well and I
respected the man a lot.”
young age, Flaherty’s athletic abilities drew plenty of attention. But
his ed tech teacher at Moore saw more possibilities in him. “He
believed I could not only do that but other things,” said Flaherty, who
won the eighth grade tech ed award. “…That meant a lot to me.”
Deering, Flaherty lettered in three sports - football, basketball and
baseball - and he captained the 2005 football team. He was on one
football team and two Deering baseball teams that won state
championships, and he helped lead Nova Seafood to the 2004 American
Legion World Series Championship.
was a finalist for the Fitzpatrick award, given to Maine’s best high
school football player. He was named the Gatorade Maine High School
Player of the Year and the state’s Mr. Baseball Player of the Year. He
describes his time with the Deering Rams as the most fun he's ever had
graduation in 2005, Flaherty attended Vanderbilt University in
Nashville, Tennessee. He played shortstop on Vanderbilt’sCommodores baseball team during its ascension to the number one spot in the country. At one point, he had a 33-game hitting streak.
Flaherty left Vanderbilt in 2008 to play in the Minor Leagues for the Chicago Cubs. After three years, he was chosen as the Orioles’ Rule 5 draft pick.
Flaherty, who bats left-handed and pitches right-handed, made his
Major League debut at second base. In his first month with the Orioles, he also played first base, third base, right field and left field.
back at his time in the Portland Public Schools, Flaherty said he
benefited from getting to know students from diverse backgrounds. “It
really helped shape me into who I’ve become today,” he said, adding that
the experience prepared him to interact with people from many different
cultures as a baseball player.
“The bonds and relationships
that I built in school are something that remain today,” Flaherty said.
“My best friends still remain my best friends, all the way from Lyseth
to Lyman Moore to Deering… It’s something that you can’t trade in for
anything… The friends from your hometown is everything you have. When
you need something, those are the people I go back to still today.”
Tommy Pelletier (Portland High 2001) Parlays Math Skills to Financial Success
Pelletier, a 2001 graduate of Portland High School, has parlayed his
math skills into a successful career as a currency trader. After
college, he worked for one of the world’s largest financial services
companies, then moved to a private equity firm in the wealthy community
of Greenwich, Connecticut.
“I really love my job,” says
Pelletier, who is raising two children as a single father. “…I work my
own hours. I manage my own trading book. I can dress how I want and
take vacation when I want.”
Pelletier describes his childhood as
“pretty turbulent.” He survived an abusive stepfather and lived in
foster care for several years before moving to Portland in seventh grade
and enrolling in the Portland Public Schools.
Teachers at King
Middle School helped him recognize his math ability. His math teacher
at Portland High School encouraged him to join the school’s math team.
“Teachers really challenged me,” he recalled. But he also received
lots of support and mentoring from the Portland High faculty.
junior, Pelletier was chosen to represent Portland High at the National
Young Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. Coming from a welfare
home, he couldn’t afford to buy a ticket there or to cover the other
travel costs. His mentor, a staff member at Portland High, helped him
raise the money. That was just one example of the “awesome sense of
community” that Pelletier said he experienced growing up in Portland.
of his Portland High class, Pelletier won admittance and scholarships
to attend his first college choice, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology. TV personality Rosie O’Donnell featured him on her show as a
“SuperKid.” She gave him a $75,000 trust fund to pay for any expenses
not covered by the scholarships.
“I didn’t have the traditional
college experience,” Pelletier says. “My daughter was born my sophomore
year. My son was born right after I graduated.” But Pelletier stayed
on track academically, graduating with a 4.7 grade point average (out of
Offered many jobs in the financial field, he decided to work
for London-based Barclay’s Capital as their Canadian currency trader in
New York City. Pelletier thrived in what he describes as a “big
risk-taking environment.” He now works for a smaller company, Gelber
Group, and trades his own positions.
“I work hard,” he says.
But the job’s flexibility allows him to participate actively in his
church and the wider community while caring for his children, now eight
“They are doing very well,” he says. “And I am very blessed.”
Hamid Karimian (Deering and PATHS 2007) Builds Successful Arts Career
Karimian arrived in Portland from Kurdish Iran at age 12. He spoke
several languages, but not English. “The only word that I knew was
‘hello,’” he recalled.
Karimian enrolled at King Middle School.
“With the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and all of the
help that I got,” he says, “I picked up English pretty quickly.”
at King, Karimian was assigned to document a class field trip to the
Maine Historical Society. He took footage and edited the piece with
music underneath. “The teachers were encouraging me, telling me that I
did a great job and building up my confidence,” he says with a smile.
“…I made my decision at that point that music and film are what I want
Karimian leaped at the opportunity to study video
technology at Portland Arts and Technology High School. There, he made
music videos, public service announcements and other short pieces.
Karimian also produced a hard-hitting documentary about the 1988
slaughter by Saddam Hussein’s regime of thousands of Kurdish civilians
in Halabja, Iraq.
“Being in the video tech program really
developed my director’s eye,” Karimian says. “It allowed me to
experiment, take out the camera and make mistakes while I was in high
Karimian recently graduated from the prestigious film
program at Columbia College Hollywood. His studies were interrupted by
many opportunities to work on film and music projects. He scored a
documentary, “Punch Drunk,” that won the Southwest Film Festival and he
made music videos such as “On the Air” for the performer, K-Dean LeSean. He also has recorded his own music.
said he benefited by having teachers in the Portland Public Schools who
believed in him. “I’m not going to let them down,” he says with
conviction. “I will be the person that they think I will be.”
Elizabeth Russell (Deering 1997) Researches AIDS at Harvard
Russell, a 1997 graduate of Deering High School, is researching the
transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from mother to child
as part of a project at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her
interest in scientific research and the effort to curb AIDS began as a
student at Deering High School.
Russell gravitated toward math
and science classes. One of her Deering teachers had earned a
doctorate. “He definitely helped me realize that science isn’t just
about memorizing,” she said. “You learn all these analytical skills to
apply them creatively.”
Russell took a special class at Deering
that combined calculus, physics and computer programming. “We were able
to design our own science project,” she recalled. “That’s where I
first realized that science is really interesting. You get to use your
mind to look at a problem, any problem that you want in any way that you
While at Deering, Russell and her friends started an AIDS
Awareness Group. The school nurse became an important mentor, helping
them brainstorm ideas for how they could make a difference. They
provided information to their classmates about how HIV is transmitted
and how to protect themselves.
Russell earned her undergraduate
degree at Tufts University. After two years of working for a
biotechnology company, she returned to school to earn a doctorate in
microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina - Chapel
Hill. She’s now a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public
Health, doing HIV research as part of the Botswana-Harvard project.
plans to continue her research on HIV transmission, and hopes someday
to work for a governmental agency or a nongovernmental organization.
She enjoys talking to young people about her career and spreading the
message that “science doesn’t have to be boring.”