District Profiles Three Outstanding Graduates

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The Portland Public Schools has produced profiles of three outstanding graduates who are making their marks in the fields of film, finance and AIDS research while still in their 20s and early 30s.  Teachers in the Portland Public Schools helped each of them develop interests and talents that led to a career.

Elizabeth Russell (Deering High School Class of 1997) is a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health researching the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) from mother to child.  Tommy Pelletier (Portland High School Class of 2001) is a currency trader and father of two.  Hamid Karimian (Deering/ PATHS Class of 2007) is a film maker and singer-songwriter.  Read their stories and see videos about them.  

Russell’s interest in scientific research and the effort to curb AIDS began as a Deering student.  She and her friends started an AIDS Awareness Group with the help of the school nurse.  She earned her undergraduate degree at Tufts University and a doctorate in microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.  Russell now conducts research on HIV transmission as part of the Botswana-Harvard project.

Karimian arrived in Portland from Kurdish Iran at age 12 speaking several languages, but no English.  At King Middle School, he made his first video project about a class trip to the Maine Historical Society and discovered his love of editing.  A graduate of the new media program at Portland Arts and Technology High School and the film program at Columbia College Hollywood, Karimian has worked on an award-winning documentary and high profile music videos.

Pelletier describes his childhood as “pretty turbulent.”  He survived an abusive stepfather and lived in foster care for several years before enrolling in the Portland Public Schools.  Teachers quickly recognized his math ability and pushed him to succeed.  The salutatorian of his Portland High School class, Pelletier won a scholarship to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a $75,000 trust fund set up by television personality Rosie O’Donnell.  He worked as the Canadian currency trader for Barclay’s Capital in New York City before moving to a private equity firm.  Pelletier now trades his own positions and sets his own hours so he can spend lots of time with his children.   

See all three profiles along with photos and videos of the graduates.