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    Monday, June 24, 2024

    Three Rivers grads are first to receive diplomas under new community college system

    Graduate Amber De Souza shows her diploma during Commencement Exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Stephanie Dubin, of New London, hugs her daughter Solenne Codio, 7, as she is surprised by he her and her mother Susan Garofalo before commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Nursing program graduate Irfan Zafar greets faculty after commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Nursing program graduate Liana Carli, from left, takes a photo of classmates Hilary Wierbicki and Kayla Vidou during commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Program Coordinator LuAnn Wolff, left, greets medical assisting graduate Sasha Perez after receiving her diploma during commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Social Work Studies Graduate Aida Flores blows a kiss after receiving her diploma during commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Graduate Ashley Chartier wears a lighted hat during commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Gisselle Green reacts to receiving her diploma during commencement exercises for Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers at Mohegan Sun Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Mohegan ― Some 260 community college graduates who received diplomas and certificates Tuesday at Mohegan Sun marked the end of one era and the beginning of another.

    They were among the last college graduates to have experienced COVID-19 classroom restrictions, and they were the first students to graduate under the newly merged state community college system. Their diplomas read: Connecticut State Community College Three Rivers.

    Graduates and their supporters nearly filled the cavernous Uncas Ballroom at Mohegan Sun, another first for the Three Rivers commencement ceremony, as Ray Pineault, president and chief executive officer of Mohegan, the gaming and entertainment company that owns the casino, addressed the group as the keynote speaker.

    Pineault, a member of the Mohegan Tribe, said he has been fortunate to have been with Mohegan for 23 years, having found “an organization that fulfills my goals, desires and ambitions.” He urged graduates to seek their own satisfying careers.

    “There are many paths you can follow moving forward,” Pineault said, “and each path will have different results. Life is ever changing and evolving. The path you may choose will likely change over time. However, I encourage you to constantly seek out the path that is most rewarding and fulfilling to you personally.”

    For graduate Saphira Dorelus, 22, of Norwich, the path to her associate degree in nursing started in her native Haiti, where she left her mother, Marie Michel, in 2016 to seek better opportunities in the United States. Dorelus, who graduated from Norwich Free Academy in 2019, will work as a nurse in the critical care unit at Backus Hospital in Norwich. She served as an intern at the hospital.

    During her address as student speaker, Dorelus asked fellow graduates to pause and think about those who supported them throughout their education, their parents, friends, mentors and teachers. She choked up as she paid tribute to her own mother, who was not in attendance. She said her brother and sister are here with her in Norwich.

    “We stand on the precipice of endless possibilities, armed with the resilience and determination to surmount any obstacle that dares to impede our paths,” Dorelus said. “Class of 2024, I have unyielding faith in each and every one of you.”

    Sisters Baylee and Kayce Gagnier, both of Montville, studied together at Three Rivers. Baylee, 19, earned her environmental engineering degree, while Kayce, 21, worked full time while earning her associate degree in communications studies, doing homework during lunch breaks. Baylee plans to attend the University of Connecticut in the fall, while Kayce, who previously earned a degree in graphic design, works at Mohegan Sun.

    Three Rivers President Mary Ellen Jukoski highlighted the sisters’ accomplishments during her address to graduates Tuesday.

    “Graduates, commencement is not an ending, but is the beginning of another transition in your education journey,” Jukoski said. “Transitions are all about adapting, changing and innovating.”

    Friends Mohammad Kabny, 25, and Christian Robinson, 22, both of New London, hung out together prior to Tuesday’s ceremony and look forward to continuing their education at Central Connecticut State University in the fall, both as computer science majors.

    During their time at Three Rivers, they worked as student employees in the campus computer department. Robinson said Three Rivers was a great place to start his college education, especially with the financial aid he received.

    “It was great,” said Robinson, who plans to specialize in cyber security at Central. “Associate degree for absolutely free!”

    c.bessette@theday.com

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