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Norwich — Now, they could take the marshmallows.
The 11 graduates in the inaugural commencement ceremony at Three Rivers Middle College magnet high school received more than their diplomas and award certificates and plaques Wednesday morning. A tray stacked with marshmallows awaited as they crossed the stage.
The 120 people gathered in the multipurpose room at Three Rivers Community College no doubt wondered what the marshmallows meant. School Director Brad Columbus explained.
At the start of the first year for the new middle college, Columbus told students of a 1960s era experiment at Stanford University in which young children were asked to sit alone for a while with a marshmallow in front of them, told that if they didn't eat the marshmallow, they could have two later. The long-term study found the children who could wait were more successful later in life.
Everything was a first at the Three Rivers Middle College graduation ceremony, and the 11 graduates in this inaugural Class of 2013 were ready to set some precedents.
Gathering in the main lobby in their bright blue caps and gowns, the graduates decided to start with a parade. Led by middle college junior drummer Kevin Palmer and junior class leader Kortney Kirschner as grand marshal, the group paraded down the hall, dancing to the drum beat.
Three Rivers Community College staff members emerged from their offices to cheer the graduates as they passed by.
"We do everything big here," one student shouted.
Three Rivers Community College President Grace Jones had long dreamed of creating the middle college. She started planning for it back in 2008, and the program was launched last summer for 11th and 12th graders wishing to concentrate studies in science and technology, business or hospitality.
Forty new juniors are planning to join the 20 seniors in late August, Director Brad Columbus said.
Collectively, the 11 graduates Wednesday earned 73 college credits during their senior year, Jones said.
The graduates, who admitted being a bit nervous before the ceremony, said the school exceeded their expectations. Several said they will continue their education at Three Rivers this fall.
Jacqueline Johnson of Ledyard, class valedictorian and recipient of both the Presidential Award of Excellence and the Congressional Recognition Award, plans to attend Liberty University in Virginia.
"It's hard to imagine now, but at this time last year, TRMC didn't even exist," Johnson said.
Versiemercedes Lee of Waterford said she will attend Three Rivers to study business management.
"It feels great," she said of being in the first graduating class at a new school. "I'm enthusiastic."
Steve Celestin, Dave Cronin, Christopher Dash, Sarah Ganoe, Shyanne Horner, Jacqueline Johnson, Versiemercedes Lee, Luke Lucovich, Yenifer Vasquez, Marcus Wilhelm, Barron Williams.