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New London — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told the graduates of Three Rivers Community College Saturday that each generation makes a compact to leave behind a better nation for the generation to follow.
His parents' generation defeated fascism in Europe and came home to build the Interstate Highway System, launch the space program and break down racial and religious barriers, Blumenthal, the commencement speaker, said at the 20th annual commencement exercises.
"I think the great risk and worry for my generation is we may not leave it better than we found it," Blumenthal, D-Conn., told the 559 graduates and their families who filled the Garde Arts Center.
If students, including the Three Rivers graduates, are to be the risk-takers and innovators of tomorrow, student loan debt must be alleviated and eliminated, Blumenthal said. And, he said, veterans must be honored for their courage, sacrifice and service with job opportunities, housing and health care.
"You are the new greatest generation, and that's why I believe our country, state and community will be in great hands," he said.
At the start of the ceremony, a bagpiper led the processional of faculty and staff from the Norwich-based school. The graduates marched in to the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" and cameras flashing. College President Grace S. Jones congratulated them.
"This is your day and your time," she said. "Your commitment to learning, the efforts you've given it, the true grit you've brought to it now rewards you. Take a deep breath, enjoy."
Derek Tourangeau, the valedictorian, told his classmates he was terrified when he arrived at Three Rivers a decade after he graduated from high school. He had a career then, but a back injury forced him to choose a new path.
"Life is too short to let your fear of the unknown prevent you from becoming who you want to be," he said.
Tourangeau received the Board of Regents Medallion for Academic Excellence. The college also awarded several student medallions; honored Louise Walkup, of the adjunct faculty, with a merit award; and presented an honorary degree to Norman Birk, of Birk Manufacturing, who attended Thames Valley State Technical College, which is now Three Rivers.
"We all stared uncertainty in the face and boldly took that first step," Tourangeau said. "It wasn't easy, but we did it. There were struggles along the way. There were late nights spent finishing papers and hours pacing in front of a computer screen, anxiously awaiting the posting of grades. Still we trudged onward, pushing ourselves toward the ultimate goal at the end of our journeys."
"You have proven yourself," he said. "We all have. We did it!"
For one graduate, the journey to commencement began two decades ago. A single mother, Victoria Jenkins started going to college but stopped to raise her daughter Octavia, who now is also a student at Three Rivers.
Victoria Jenkins returned to college when her daughter, now 21, turned 18, while continuing to work full-time as a counselor for women who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Jenkins said she wanted to better herself and set an example for Octavia.
"I figured the only way to open more doors and opportunities was through education," said Jenkins, 39, of Groton, who earned an associate's degree in general studies and graduated cum laude.
Before the ceremony, Octavia Jenkins thanked her mother for putting her dream on hold for so many years and for instilling in her a desire to learn.
"You can't give up. Life is going to happen, but you've got to stay focused," Victoria Jenkins said. "By doing this, I learned I could do anything. It just takes persistence."
The graduates said they were excited for the future. Bill Covey, 34, said he worked in information technology for 15 years and knew he couldn't become a manager unless he went to college. He graduated with an associate's degree in computer science technology.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Covey, of East Lyme, who completed his courses in about five years while working as a network administrator at the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.
Stephanie Nonalaya, 19, of Oakdale decorated her cap with the New York City skyline in glitter. She is moving there to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
"It's a new adventure," said Nonalaya, who was born in Peru and earned an associate's degree in liberal arts and sciences.
"This is the first step to something bigger," said Jaime Humphrey, 34, of Norwich, who plans to continue her studies to become a nurse. "We're on our way."
Baltic: Jason Brailey, Salvator Galotti, Mary-Frances Holte, Amy Signorino, Lisa Zinewicz;
Bozrah: Natalie Beckwith, John Kemp, Christie Mastorakis, Kelli McKeon, Karen Sanquedolce, Hannah Stover, Nathanael Stover, Sarah Stover;
Canterbury: Emily Church, Jon Dowtin, Amanda Dowtin Canterbury, Mathew Dube, Leigh-Anne Marshall, Nicole White, Jesse Yeager;
Clinton: Heidi Bartolotta, Amy Brauchler, Frank Silvia IV;
Colchester: Robert Aldridge, Sara Beer, Seth Besselsen, Celicia Boyden, Elaine Cady, Carolynne DeLoreto, Christina Jacoby, Allison Kelly, Renee Kudrak, Daniel Lewis, Susan Magoon, Rianne McMahon, Justin Miller, Thomas Reynolds, Rachel Sweeten, Stephanie Victorero, Matthew Vitale;
East Lyme: Virginia Addison, Jennifer Mohr, Antonia Plescia, Thomas Redden, Ignacio Scaggs, Michael Schroeder, Jeannine Sergiacomi, Megan Shaw, Robert Shaw, Kyle Whiteley;
Gales Ferry: Christopher Arena, Emily Brawner, Aaron-Michael Cramer, Arlyn Davis, Ryan Ecklord, Steven Fiore, Ana Flores, Danielle Gendron, Patricia Kenyon, Matthew Kettel, Charlie King, Matthew Marcotte, Victoria Meyers, Elizabeth Munch, Richard Overholt, Carly Paterson, Spiro-Nikolas Revis, James Rusk, Dillon Troxell, Lindsey Woodward;
Griswold: Douglas Blades, Jason Coleman, Regina Cunningham, Laura Durand, Raphael Gagne, Judith Godaire, Jennifer Kotecki, Ashley Labrecque, Rebecca Lamothe, Mark LePage, Melissa Marchesseault, Marie O'Laughlin, Matthew Perdue, Rachael Roach, Alyssa Rutigliano, Sheri Salpietro, Steven Way, David Wolber, Heather Wong, Krystal Yusko;
Groton: Taylor Allen, Kimberly Baumgart, Peter Berns IV, Haley Bezaire, Wilson Bolanos, Phyllis Brown, Giovanni Cepeda, Barton Crossman, Tamara Day, Karolyn Donaldson, Shauntee Duzant, Kirsten Edwards, Alesha Fahrenholz, Christine Foster, Denise Gallardo, Henry Gunning, Emily Hedrick, Brandy Herron, Megan Howe, Brian James, Victoria Jenkins, Jill Keenan, Michelle Klenotic, Aaron Knoll, Marjorie Krukar, Kelli Lacey, Eugenio Maiolo, Jill McAfee, Cleon McLish, Kristofer Miller, Bryan Mitchell, Teresa Moon, Phung Nguyen, Monica Onyeagwa, Lauren Page, Sharon Panganiban, Dana Partridge-Price, Roy Paul, Luanna Pina, Gerardo Prieto,Cheryl Renfors, Patrick Rourke, Alan Schwartz Jr., Caitlin Smarz, Aimee Marie Smith, Alexander Smith, Dannika Smith, Stefanie Street, Eric Thompson, Alicia Todman, Nia Tyler, Donald Viggiano, Brandon Wilson, Christian Young;
Jewett City: Nichole Danis, Heyward Davidson, Matthew Eichelberg, AngieJacaruso, Erika Justiniano, Tina Policarpo;
Lebanon: Heather Brinson, Ryan Desmarais, Kathleen Elliott, Tesche Gray, Emily Kersey, Brenda Lee, Caleb Osunniyi, Holly Savitsky;
Ledyard: Brittany Banta, Justin Bennett, Norman Breed, John Chattin Jr., Maja Ciesielska, Aziza Clayton, Delphine Collins, Natallia Futrell, Dayna Grengs, Crystal Holdridge, Rachel Kistler, Matthew Lupica, Joshua Palmer, Jennifer Pindell, Michael Pounch, William Price, Neal Robinson, Leah Suminski, Shronda Thomas, Todd Tooley, Paige Whipple;
Lisbon: Jamie Bouchard, Nicholas Brochu, Stephanie Fish, Eric Gagliardo, Emily Nash, John Novak;
Madison: Celine Colberg, Paula Marchese;
Montville: John Hinton;
Mystic: Mavis Bitner, Chelsea Cannon, Shonya Collier, Iva Ervin Stanberry, Paula Gilger, Colleen Huhn, Donald Jones, Tina LaValley, Teryn McTeague, True Miller, Nicole Nielsen, James O'Grady, David Padgett Jr., David Pothier, Gary Samuel, Katherine Scalaro, Shaylynn Shumway, Jeffrey Toler;
New London: Dennis Adley, Jonathan Ayala, Erica Baez, Shannon Benson, Mauricio Botero, Aurora Bowen, Oscar Boyd, Katie Coleman, Kristin Cumberlander, Jason Curland, Caitlin Cyr, Marisol Diaz, Kristopher Ferguson, Michael Graves, Courtney Hoffman, Natasha Izquierdo, Raissa Joaquin, Amy Jones, Ernesta Krukauskaite, Shannee Ladson-Varnell, Jillian McGuinness, Ana Ortiz, Geoffrey Owens, Ederjson Pierre, Abram Reed, Joshua Riley, Rafael Rodriguez, Elizabeth Rudy, Anthony Sharp, Graham Thompson, James Varnell, Alcira Wells, Rita Whitehead, Danielle Wong;
Niantic: Alexis Anderson, Kelly Baratko, Todd Bellucci, Erin Capozza, Jacob Carpenter, Lauren Cucci, Kristen Dennis, Victoria Forrer, Duffy Havens, Gordon Hess, Ryan Jakub, Jay Jennett, Marilyn Marin, Allyson McDonnell, Elizabeth Morgan, Jennifer Munzner, Kathryn Sansevero, Melissa Seckla, Gregory Sorensen, Brien Uzonyi, Zhenhai Xue;
North Franklin: Emily Bennett, Jonathan Cone, Colleen Ladyga, Luis Navarro Diaz;
North Stonington: Frank Cortina, Karyn Peduzzi, Melissa Purcell, Mark Sebastian, Gregory Whipple;
Norwich: Lindsey Adams, Margaretta Affeldt, Gregory Allard, Melquan Allen, Melquan Allen, Lourdy Alphonse-Saintil, Dora Amoah, Joshua Barclay, Paul Bazinet, Jarrod Beauregard, Michael Bernardo, Bradley Bernier-Harvey, Jeremy Borum, Jeffrey Brinkman, Ramon Briones, Lisa Brochu, Megan Brosig, Nichole Casey, Marie Cesar, James Chadic, Elzbieta Chmielewska, Masnoon Choudhury, Deborah Connors, Susan Coy, Nicole Dempsey, Axel Diaz, Matthew Dunigan, Michael Dunn, Clarence Dupoux, Russell Fenner, Jamie Gagliardo, Jonathan Garcia, Lynda Gennell, Edward Gionet, Stacie Greeno, Elaine Hernandez, Brandi Hodges, Robert Holzer, Jaime Humphrey, Harlene Husted, Edy Jabbour, Harry Jarrow, Roger Jessee, David Johnson, Carolyne Kowalewski, Brian Kuenn, Janet Laflamme, Sara LaFleche, Megan Langford, Maria Luisa Le, Christina Lee, Jennifer Leo, Debra Lewis, Fiona Li, Shu Ying Lin, Betty Jo Longo, Jonathan Lukasiewicz, Brandon MacDonald, Heather MacOmber, Leslie Mainville, Anthony Malat, Ashley Marion, Tito Martinez, Omar Matos, Timothy McKibben, Dwayne Melton, Shanon Menard, Oswaldo Miranda, Nely Montoya Alarcon, Carolyn Murphy, Joseph Neault, Jacqueline Nevels, James Niceta II, Brittany Noyes, Hannah Olender, Kyle Onate, Joanna Ondusko, Michael Ortiz, Kathleen Paradis, Kristin Peck, Laura Pinson, Nicholas Porter, Susan Portofee, Valery Lyne Precourt, Nancy Procko, Katherine Reckamp, Elizabeth Rhoads, Katherine Rygielski, Nancy Schultz, Samantha Sealy, Thomas Sebastian, Vicki Seroussi, Rami Sidani, Guygny Sidney, Stephanie St. Pierre, Roberta Sulls, Carl Tang, Dayton Thomas, Lisa Trainor, Jessy Walden, Julie Way, Jeremy Zagorski;
Oakdale: Gracie Abbiati, Steven Buttery, Christopher Diener, Kristine Drake, Brian Feragne, Crystal Foss, Grace Jackson-Cirino, Sean Kinney, Bobbi Lytle, Marguerite Marley, Cameren McGinn, Beau Meyer, Stephanie Nonalaya, Rochelle Picard, Soeurette Pierre, Diana Reiss, Stephen Renzoni, Andrew Sopczak, Alex Stamatien, Donald Tyszkiewicz, Markeisia Venett, Michele Watrous;
Old Lyme: William Covey Jr., Andrew Hudson, Ya hui Liu, Bryan Manchester, Spencer Mangs, Lara Metcalf, Amber Price, Rebecca Rand, Michelle Rockwell, Jessica Schmidt, Alicia Torres;
Old Saybrook: Santina Ragonese;
Oneco: Jonathan Cote;
Pawcatuck: Ryan Bailey, Keith Beebe, Tyler Burner, Ronda Burroughs, Danielle DiIorio, Michael Moore, Douglas Morey, Denise Murphy, Meghan Nardi, Toni Schlais, Scott Sears, Rachael Silvia, Mark Simao, Rebecca Spaulding, Sam Verde, Michelle Wheeler, Matthew Wiseman, Melissa Zaharie;
Plainfield: Kyle Couture, Gabrielle Dancik, Brittany Davis, Sarah Fountain, Cynthia Greenhalgh, Kelsie Griffin, Jared Homand, Eugene Miller, Tanya Nadeau, Robert Rockel, Jeffrey Taranto;
Preston: Corry Aanerud, Joseph Baretincic, Alexander Barker, Derek Beecher, William Chagnon, WengHong Chan, Nathan Homiski, Byron Lazine, Brant Lichner, Harry Merritt, Benjamin Perez, Sandra Provost, Cheryl Roberts, Nicholas Vanase, Donna Woodruff;
Quaker Hill: Jacques Averso, Brandon Boyd, Taylor Brown, Pamela Hewitt, Katherine Loyd, Eric Nielsen, Amy Piacenza, Derek Tourangeau, Melanie Way, Frank Welch;
Salem: Patricia Aldrich, Hanna Barbaresi, Jeff Boldizar, Christopher Clark, Brittany Falvey, Ethan Reith, Garrett Smith, Brenee Stanavage, Evan Whittaker;
Sterling: Linda Hogue, Justin McGale, Sarina Poppen;
Stonington: Katelyn Cassidy, Khara Dean, Nicholas Hartley, Tashi McSweeney;
Taftville: Karen Buchert, Brian Duhamel, Samantha Hart, Tracy Jean, Amy Quay, Samantha Ricard, Jacob Stepanian;
Uncasville: Zackary Baton, John Baukus, Phillip Bennett, Veronika Berezniak, Conor Dougherty, Kaila Finn, Alexander Florez, Oliver Geronimo, Pamela Gonski, Robert Grigg Jr., Kevin Hess, John Kiriakou, Yabneel Marrero, Mark Patterson, Karen Rhoades, Alex Sanchez, Scott Sanford, Heather Scoggins, Margaret Tourangeau, Jeanne Wehling, Xiaoyu Yu, Mark Zapp;
Voluntown: Amanda Falade, Daniel Falade, Daniel Musser, Jarl Pellinen, Paterno Quintas, Shane Romains, Kathryn Schaen, David Williams;
Waterford: Michael Amburn, Maria Amerman, Christiane Barber, Donald Belair Jr., Shaun Benvie, Bernard Braithwaite, Jamie Chapple, Michelle Daniels, Justin Hancock, Doris Hernandez, Katelyn Macrino, Katherine Martell, Brogan Mei, Hannah Metcalfe, Christopher Neal, Katie Pasquaretta, Levi Perry, Michael Pinkerton, Jason Pun, Megan Scarpa, Gabrielle Shea, Christopher Wildenhain;
Westbrook: Carina Risatti;
Westerly: Justin Beavers, Kerri Cillino, Ashley Duffy, Bethany Gingerella, Giovanna Sanacore.