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
See a video about Taurean Green.
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.”
See a video about Taurean Green.
Vanessa Graviss, Pastry Chef
2012 Graduate of Deering High School and Portland Arts and Technology High School
See a video about Vanessa Graviss.
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.”
See a video about Vanessa Graviss.