On May 17, three years after receiving her diploma from Kennebec Valley Community College, Heather Nelson of Rockland returned to the stage for yet another graduation ceremony.

In front of nearly 400 students receiving degrees and their families who filled the Augusta Civic Center, Nelson received the Distinguished Alumni Award for her advocacy in the autism community.

Drawing inspiration from her own son’s diagnosis, she has worked tirelessly to help families in Maine by providing education, raising awareness, and supplying tools such as autism kits to local families.

Working alongside groups like the Autism Society of Maine she has organized countless events and raised thousands of dollars to help this cause.

For her latest project, Nelson has organized a Wandering Database with Chief Bruce Boucher of the Rockland Police Department. This database is designed to serve individuals in the Midcoast with autism, Alzheimer's and other conditions that can make them prone to wander.

Further details on the Wandering Database and enrollment information can be found on the City of Rockland’s website or by contacting Rockland Police.

Nelson lives in Rockland and works at the Children's Collaboration Center in Warren.