In the News | Unique paths of Three Rivers graduates converge at 53rd commencement

And that hard work paid off as the Niantic resident delivered a speech Wednesday night as the valedictorian of the 53rd Annual Three Rivers Community College Commencement.

“It’s not so hard to study when you have nothing else to care about. It is more difficult to graduate from a college when you don’t have enough time, money, and energy, when you have to juggle raising kids, having a job, and being a student,” she said. “We are supposed to become more prepared for real life after college, but many of us are already facing real-life challenges.”

But as just one student in a class of roughly 550 graduates ranging in age from 16 to 68, Romanenko acknowledged just how different every students’ path has been to this day.

Happy Graduate

Three Rivers graduate gives thumb up. John Shishmanian/

It’s a sentiment community college President Mary Ellen Jukoski echoed in her address to the crowd.

“You come from all walks of life, each with your own unique story,” she said.

To highlight the diversity of experience and education in the 2018 class, Jukoski took several minutes to tell the stories of 14 graduates, asking them to stand as she called out their names.

One such graduate was Maximo Alfaro, a native of Peru who moved to the area just four years ago with no English speaking skills. He began his studies at New London Adult Education and continued at Three Rivers in the English-as-a-Second-Language program. On Wednesday, he graduated with his associate’s in liberal arts and sciences.

Alfaro will be attending Wesleyan University in the fall, where he will major in Hispanic Cultures and Literature on a full scholarship. He said he plans to pursue his master’s and doctorate degrees down the road.

“I know I’m on the right path,” he said. “I feel like I’ve gotten an outstanding education. I feel very prepared.”

Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chairman of the Faculty Senate Michael Carta and Chairman of the Board of Regents for Higher Education and President and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center Matt Fleury also spoke during the ceremony.

Fleury, himself a graduate of Berkshire Community College before going on to the University of Connecticut, was invited as the event’s keynote speaker.

Fleury noted that though the graduates may be turning in their Three Rivers student identification cards, being a community college graduate will be a calling card they always carry with them, and something that has made them an “enhanced, new you.”

During her address, Jukoski highlighted those who were sharing the momentous occasion with loved ones.

Canterbury residents Heather and Adam Dyer were celebrating more than a graduation on Wednesday; the two were celebrating their three-year wedding anniversary.

Heather Dyer said the day’s festivities felt like they were “walking down the aisle all over again.”

But they weren’t the only family celebrating double success. Mother-daughter duo Nancy and Melissa Girardin, both of Preston, heard their names called back-to-back during the procession. Nancy received her associate’s in nursing, and Melissa in accounting.

“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Nancy Girardin said. “For a long time,” Melissa Girardin added, finishing her mother’s sentence.

Nancy Girardin said it took a lot of planning for the two to be taking courses at the same time, especially because she is a single mother with a younger daughter.

“We tried to always have our schedules planned so one of us could be home,” she said motioning to her daughter. “She has worked so hard and I’m so proud.”

The younger Girardin plans on attending Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall and hopes to become a certified public accountant.

“Graduates, as you celebrate your accomplishments and a new beginning and a new future of opportunity made possible in part by family and friends, please stand and turn around and salute your faithful supporters and enthusiastic cheerleaders,” Jukoski said. “Graduates, we are so happy to share this day with you and the promise of a bright future.”

— By Stephanie Menders, Norwich Bulletin staff writer

Related Gallery

Gallery: Three Rivers Community College Commencement


The original article can be found here: “Unique paths of 550 Three Rivers graduates converge at 53rd commencement”

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