Three Rivers Community College brings commencement ceremony home

Mary Pollard embraces department head Kevin Amenta after receiving her certificate in graphic and communications arts during Three Rivers Community College's 23rd commencement ceremony Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Mary Pollard embraces department head Kevin Amenta after receiving her certificate in graphic and communications arts during Three Rivers Community College's 23rd commencement ceremony Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — A festive atmosphere greeted the nearly 300 graduates who attended the first Three Rivers Community College graduation ceremony to be held at the Norwich campus in several years, with bright blue skies, hundreds of spectators on the sprawling lawn and a “post grad party” waiting in the wings nearby.

Three Rivers President Mary Ellen Jukoski presided over her first graduation ceremony Friday, with welcoming remarks for graduates, their families, veterans in the audience and VIP guests on stage.

But it was her closing remarks that graduates likely will remember best.

“And lastly, to the students. Have a ball!” she said, tossing a bright blue beach ball into the sea of black graduation gowns. The graduates quickly obeyed, batting the ball around — even briefly back to the stage — until the bagpiper led the recession.

Friday's perfect late spring weather made the decision to move commencement to the New London Turnpike campus instead of indoors at the Garde Arts Center in New London seem easy.

The Three Rivers Class of 2015 represented what community college is all about, speakers said: a combination of younger students who entered college after high school, older second or third career students and those who had vowed to go to college even if the effort took decades to pursue and complete.

Susan Driscoll, class valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, was in that final category. Driscoll told fellow graduates that she graduated high school at a time when “there were no white boards, no cellphones, no computers.” She enjoyed a successful career as a court reporting clerk, supported her husband as he earned two advanced degrees and saw their three children earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“Like the young mom who rushed to school after work, eating her dinner in class because it was her first chance to do so,” Driscoll said. “Or the many military personnel, young men and women so striking in their uniforms," she said.

Along with a touch of history, with the 50th class reunion of the 1965 inaugural graduating class of predecessor Thames Valley State Technical Institute, Friday’s graduation also included a taste of the future for the community college.

Julia Cullers of North Stonington was the first graduate of the new Three Rivers Middle College to graduate from a college. Cullen earned associate degrees in small business and entrepreneurial studies and in business administration at Three Rivers Community College and plans to attend Becker College in Worcester, Mass., focusing on equine studies. She owns seven horses.

For graduates Mikayla Becker, 20, of Ledyard and Domonique Branch, 20, of New London, Three Rivers provided the affordable chance to launch them into college with the hopes of transferring to other schools. Branch said she is planning to attend Eastern Connecticut State University to study psychology.

“I’m excited!” Branch said. “It feels great to know I’m going to go on and do bigger and better things."

Members of the audience joined in the informal festive atmosphere as the ceremony progressed to the calling of graduates’ names, their honors and degrees earned. “That’s my son!” one man stood and shouted. A few minutes later, a woman echoed “That’s my daughter,” and another man a few minutes later added “That’s my grandson!” to the shouts. Each elicited accompanying applause.

As she worked her way to the front, Deandra Cooper of Groton caught the eyes of her parents, Ronnie Cooper and Judith Nieves, and grandfather, Ernest Cooper, a retired Navy veteran. To Deandra Cooper in her black robe, the afternoon sun and light breeze wasn’t the perfect weather it seemed to most attendees.

“I’m burning up!” she said.

Members of the Three Rivers Community College class of 2015 include:

East Lyme: Allison Bosse, Yuriy Harasymiv, David Mostowy, Alacea Murphy, Sarah Patterson, Caitlyn Pero, Lindsey Potts, Lori Stenbeck, Clifton Taylor, Susan Tuthill, Vitaly VanDeusen and Priscilla White

Gales Ferry: Rachel Adams, Michael Branch, Kie Brown III, Samantha Craig, Carrie Curcuro, Jeffrey Fluet, Christopher Haughton, Rosemarie Haughton, Joseph Knight, Alina Lewis, Matthew Robinson, James Rusk, Joseph Schwabenbauer, Christof Wegiel

Griswold: Sandra Assanowicz, Dawn Bertocki, James Buchas, Dustin Falco, Matthew Heino, Kristina Kaneakua, Austin LaCroix, Erin McCullough, Kerri-Anne Moffatt, Marie O'Laughlin, Amber Pendleton, Valerie Swope, Martha Williams and Troy Wood

Groton: Joy Appleton, Anessa Baker, Crystal R Black, Brittany A Bonnet, Daniel J Braman, Nicole P Brochu, Steven Brown, Christopher M Burdick, Carlos Calzada, Katelyn Capone, Patricia L Collis, Timika Connor, Christy Cooper, Deandra Cooper, Jennylyn Duyan, Kerri Eckert, Celestine Goe, Brittany Greaney, Levern Green, Stephanie Hahn, Devon Hall, Adrian Hannibal, Adrian Haupt, Jacob Jimenez, Lindsay Johnson, Michael Julian, Christine Lorentzen, Christie Lumpkin, Cary Maikranz, Corina Malbaurn, Margarida Martins Querido, Rachael McGuire, Valery Mikrikov, Amber Naglie, Michael Nix-Paige, Sarah Norris, Renee Panucci, Patricia Parsons, Catherine Pereira, Dorothy Joy Perez, Jake Perrotta, Clement Reitz, Marianne Rice, Kayla Rye, Alan Schwartz Jr., Asya Staples, Jennifer Tevepaugh, Jared Wilson, Alexandra Wisniewski, Heaven Woodhall and James Young

Groton City: Maxx McLaughlin

Jewett City: Kelsey Ahearn, Ismaine Als, Jessica Beaulac, Gary Bressani, Christopher Britland, John R Carney, Shaileen Carney, Charlette Chenette, Kelsey DeRusha, Gidgit Farinha, John Fitzpatrick, James Fonner, Amanda Husar, Ashlie La Croix, Brandon LaMay, Tawnya Larkin, Hillary McFalls, Kimberly Quinn, Dainelle Whitman and Haojie Zeng

Ledyard: Mikayla Becker, Jared Bennett, Michael Bennett, Elizabeth Burton, Eldon Clement, Kerin Cummings, Daniel Dessaint, Erica Ecker, Corinne Eichelberg, Ryan Griffin, Kathy Haase, Amanda Hausler, Rachel Kistler, Walter Lenz, Eric McMahon, Hannah McNabney, Dru Mihalko, Hannah Nilsson, Emily Nylander, Alexander Poutchkov, Neal Robinson, Zachary Rousseau, Kylie Stoiber and Colette Stoodley

Montville: Hannah Houser

Mystic: Joseph Balestracci, Kristian Canzellarini, Lindsey Greenlee, Leah Howard, Rachel Hume, Bethannie Ingram, John Jordan, Jennifer Maloney, Brian McGuire, Nicholas Schilling, Raymond Schulte, Brad Sheridan, Aaron Smith, Christopher Travis and Jacqueline Wheeler

New London: Betsy Andramuno, Domonique Branch, Pamela Brookes, Jessica Castillejo, Kathryn Cawley, Kendra Clark-Keen, Stephanye Clarke, Stacey Clay, Johnny Cruz, Kasey Donovan, Melanie Emming, Sonia Erazo, Fallyn Fonville-Smith, Jillian Gaffney, Solomon Hardy, Elizaldy Hilario, Sheina Hodges, Ava Jones, Jillian Kelly, Karl Kohler, Dawn Lancaster, Michele Lloyd, Janet Maco, La'Tasha Maddox, Blerina Marku, Ana Lucia Martinez, Less McCullars III, Gerald McElwee, Theresa Monteiro, Iris Morales, Stefanie Owens, Venel Pamphile, Elmira Parker, Christine Pemberton, Rodger Pennant, Cindy Perez, Charles Potter Jr., Altagracia Reyes, Heather Salas, Salwa Sameer, Courtney Scruggs, Sophia Senat, Digna Serrano, Grecia Suriel, Mattie Tarlton, Alecia Trusty, Nadina Valenzuela Suazo and Shirley Zaccheo

Niantic: Stacey Annis, Germaine Davis, Kristina Erinakes, Ashley Hanson, Jordan Miller, Lucia Purcell, Kayla Rolfe, Lisa Shoaf, Tara Sousa and Benjamin Whewell

Noank: Billie Jo Abbiati

North Stonington: Julia Cullers, Alexander Gonzalez, Richard Kerlin, John McNamara, Mitchell Pavao and Hanna Swanson

Norwich: Charles Alcenat, Denise Allaby, Karon Ashe, Miguel Barrientos, Kyle Bean, Stephanie Benoit, Alexandrea Brown, Alexis Buck, Ian Buckley, Darlene Burlingame, Isabella Burris, Cindy Butrymowicz, Jeff Cardot, Zachary Carrell, Peter Casey, Shannon Chavez, Sarah Coco, Miguel Colon, Eric Connors, Alexander Cordero, David Cote, Randolph Cruz Montoya, Bronte Davis, Katelyn Davis, Matthew Dawley, Tyler De Merchant, Clarence Dupoux, Deborah Edmiston, Brittany Emma, Rafael Estrella Nunez, Erica Ferrando, Jennifer Firmin-Reaves, Ryan Flaherty, Chelsea Freyer, Jamie Gagliardo, Sarah Gionet, Brittni Grimes, Luceliz Grullon, Nicholas Hamby, Sapphire S Hanif, James A Harvey, Kirsis Herasme, Jeein Herman, Stephen Hsieh, Pierre Jeudy, Melissa Johnson, Kayla King, Robert Kraehnke, Gabriel Lara, Angela Lathrop, Davin Lewis, Zoe Longendyke, Karen Maclean, Ronnette McDonald, Meghan Messier, Elyshia Misky, Matthew Montgomery, Dawn Norris, Cassandra O'Neil, Mary Pollard, Leah Pressley, Shyra Quimby, Michelle Reck, Katherine Reckamp, Indiah Reyna, Vijay Rodrigues, Santos Rosa, Dakota Rosal, Tiffany Rossi, Zachery Rubin, Cassandra Scarpa, Michael Sharp, Samantha Sharp, Aleisha Shirley, Stephanie Siemens, Sarah Slocum, Cathleen Smith, Kyle Smith, Lydia Stephanos, Andre Tataye, Shayna Taylor, Zachary Taylor, Socorro Testut, Gary Tobias, Mat Torres-Castro, Lindsey Trakas, Patrick Tyson, Peter Van Den Berg, Dang Vo Tran, Kala Warren, Kelsey Warren, Kevin Watson, Bryan Wawrzynowicz, Leah Wessels, Andrew White, Matthew Whitmore, Jordan Williams, LaChandle Wilson, Dan Xu, Wei Xu and Sergio Yraita

Old Lyme: Garrett Bureau, Hallie Hallman, Jameson Nordberg, Sara Doak, Samantha Dunn, David Lavoie, Jennifer Michaud, William Roberts and Kosta Spiliopoulos

Pawcatuck: Caitlyn Adcock, Helen Bell, Justin Butler, Jason Hoadley, Danielle Hughes, Karen Lewis, Melinda Lynch, Colin Moran, Nicole Murphy, Ellen Pelletier, Kara Salovitz, Daniel Santos and Peter Sieczkiewicz

Plainfield: Crystal-Rose Boulet, Holly Desimone, Jared Fournier, Shawna Gonzales, Barbara Hart and Dustin Young

Preston: Samantha Barile, Denise Beale, Jillian Brockway, Donal Cheung, Chelsea Dubreuil, Katie Ezell, Samantha Harper, Abbie Howard, Alexus Ohar, Andrea Peters and Jozsef Torres.

Quaker Hill: Joseph Bergin, Adrian Biltcliffe, Bryan Brennan, Darlene Davis, Ahmed Iqbal, Yesenia Parker, Ryan Stanley and Melanie Way

Salem: April Berube, Hannah Grengs, Brittany Hillyer, Timothy Jones, Lindsay Krodel, John O'Sullivan, Katelyn Paradis, Mahie Rattley, Lilimarie Subiono and Karen Tonucci

Stonington: Frances Cabral, Megan Read, William Schmeelk and Michael Vacca

Uncasville: Osmee Desardouin, Roy Dohna, Jason Eichman, Michelle Hafner, Gabriella Holder, Heidi-Lee Jacobs, Eric Javor, Andrew Jeon, Shing Yan Li, Edward McGlinsey, Gleb Muir, Brett Orzechowski, Renee Selby, Suzanne Silva, Katie St. Denis, Angela Stefano, Jillian Thomas, Oskar Vasquez, Jorge Verde, Emily Watford, Nathan Watrous, Dayvon Wynn, Xiaoyu Yu and Katelyn Zubritsky

Waterford: Marc Balestracci, Kelly Baratko, Gabriel Benjamin, Alyssa Carboni, Jeffrey Craddoc, Megan Crocker, Michelle Daniels, Catherine Dole, Dara DosSantos, Susan Driscoll, Joshua Elphick, Anthony Farrell, Angela Fausset, Daisy Garcia, Steven Garvin, Nicholas Genung, Matthew Hecker, Alisha Howe, Eugenie Kelly, Sidra Khatri, Tara Mahoney, Asem Majzoub, James Maryeski, Lezley Miller, Tucker Murphy, Roman Opalacz, Elena Outlaw, Emily Picard, Merlin Rajamohan, Loriann Schenking, Patrycja Szostak, Kayla Virga, Alex Wang, Abigail Weymouth and Ivar Wirta

Westerly: Kelly Richmond and Mary Roberts

c.bessette@theday.com

Twitter: @Bessettetheday

Six-year-old Angel Manfred races out to hug her sister Mary Roberts after Roberts received her Human Services associate degree during the 23rd commencement ceremony for Three Rivers Community College Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Six-year-old Angel Manfred races out to hug her sister Mary Roberts after Roberts received her Human Services associate degree during the 23rd commencement ceremony for Three Rivers Community College Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The 292 members of the Three Rivers Community College Class of 2015 walk onto the field for the college's 23rd commencement ceremony Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The 292 members of the Three Rivers Community College Class of 2015 walk onto the field for the college's 23rd commencement ceremony Friday, May 29, 2015, in Norwich. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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