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My Pathway to Success

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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. 

“They 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.

“She 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 son’s preschool.

“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 shaped me.”


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.”

“I 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.”

Kimara 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.

Carr helped him stay on track academically and begin planning for his future.  They visited colleges together and worked on applications and scholarships. 

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.

Kimara 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.”

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Taurean Green, Professional Ballet Dancer

2002 Graduate of Portland High School and Portland Adult Education


See a video about Taurean Green.

Taurean 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 recalls.

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.” 

Taurean 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. 

Taurean quickly 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.

“I 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.”

At 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 dancer.  

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.”

Taurean 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 Theatre. 

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.

Vanessa Graviss credits her art teachers at Deering High School with pushing her to be creative and expressing confidence in her abilities. 

“One 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.”

As 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).

Douglas 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 charge.

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.”

At 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.

After 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.

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