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At Three Rivers Middle College, graduates found a support system amid the pandemic

Norwich — As a small high school that only has juniors and seniors, and where some students graduate with an associate degree, Three Rivers Middle College Magnet High School is already unique among local high schools.

With a global pandemic thrown into this nontraditional education, a theme at the Class of 2021's graduation ceremony Tuesday morning was the importance of connection, friendship and support systems.

Olivia Koepp was home schooled before her junior year and had no idea what public school would be like but said she "thrived socially, spiritually and academically."

Koepp said the TRMC staff "is behind our driven mindset and our success in our college classes," her friends "have been a tremendous support system" and her church family and biological family were also there for her.

She is among the 31 graduates of the Class of 2021 and is a member of the "Court of Excellence," meaning she had a GPA of at least 3.5 and earned at least 30 college credits during high school. The other Court of Excellence members are Summer Beebe, Sam Curcuro, Alexis Davis, Hanna Hollenbeck, Emily Hritz, Mary Malloy and Celena Robinson.

Hritz also spoke at the graduation, saying that she didn't want to leave Montville for Three Rivers at first but "couldn't be more grateful of the opportunities I've been given" and created lifelong friendships. She said it was much easier to make friends here than at any other school.

Speaking in a video that math teacher CK Wong put together, social worker Beverly Carr advised students as they move on from Three Rivers to remember that connection is important, and to stay connected to those who are important to them.

In the video — before advice from teachers, and creative shots of students tossing graduation caps and donning gowns — students each offered one word to describe the past two years. Eventful.  Interesting. Intensive. Insane.

At the beginning of the ceremony, Coast Guard Lt. Brandon Strickland presented graduate Miguel Flowers with an appointment to the Coast Guard Academy.

After the ceremony, Tiffany Gallagher said she struggled at her last school but had hope for her academic career when she started at Three Rivers. Then the pandemic hit. But she said the support system there was so great, she gained hope again.

Principal Brad Columbus said that throughout the challenges of the past year and a half, "the wolf pack stuck together," but if you look at the academic achievements of the class, you wouldn't think anything changed.

He said graduates earned 995 college credits — with the highest per-student average yet, at 32 credits — and four students earned associate degrees. With an opportunity to take Three Rivers Community College classes, students took courses such as Calculus 3, Anatomy and Physiology 2, and constitutional law.

e.moser@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version has been updated to include a Court of Excellence member left off the original list.

Three Rivers Middle College Magnet High School Principal Brad Columbus, right, leads the Class of 2021 down the corridor to their commencement exercises Tuesday, June 15, 2021, held in the multi-purpose room at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Three Rivers Middle College Magnet High School Principal Brad Columbus, right, leads the Class of 2021 down the corridor to their commencement exercises Tuesday, June 15, 2021, held in the multi-purpose room at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Photo gallery

For a gallery of more photos from the graduation ceremony, click here.

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