In the News | Three Rivers grads urged to ‘cultivate your community’

Norwich, Connecticut (Norwich Bulletin, May 22, 2019) — Commencement speaker Frederick-Douglas Knowles II urged Three Rivers Community College graduates to “cultivate your community” by using their new educations to make where they live better places.

Almost 600 graduates received associate degrees and certificates at the college’s 54th commencement exercises on Wednesday.

Hundreds more family members and friends cheered them on at the ceremony held at the New London Turnpike college’s campus.

Graduate at Commencement

Graduate Lisa Holliday, of Griswold, points to her family and her favorite professor Wednesday at the 54th Commencement for Three Rivers Community College. [John Shishmanian/Norwich]

Knowles, an English professor at Three Rivers and Hartford’s poet laureate and an African American, told the students he grew up in a home across the street from the college. On the first night his family moved in, neighbors burned a cross in their yard.

“This insidious act did not deter our family,” Knowles said. While racism, homophobia, elitism and similar attitudes are trying to collapse communities, education can fight them, he said.

“Cultivate your community like it was your own Garden of Eden,” Knowles said.

Class Valedictorian Michelle Reynolds thanked her fellow graduates, as well as the college’s faculty and staff, and family members and friends for support.

“We don’t succeed alone,” Reynolds said. “We stand on the shoulders of those who have lifted us.”

Reynolds, who graduated with a perfect 4.0 average and received an associate degree in graphic design, also was awarded the Medallion for Academic Excellence.

The two oldest graduates at the ceremony were Thomas and Mary Baudro of Gales Ferry, who have been married for 45 years. Thomas Baudro, 74, actually received his third degree from Three Rivers – in technology studies, and received a bachelor’s degree from UConn.

“This is a community college that is truly a community,” said Mary Baudro, 72, who received her first degree in visual fine arts. “I didn’t know I could draw until I got here.”

The youngest graduate is Elise Sperry, 17, a student at Three Rivers Middle College, which is a magnet high school on the same campus. Sperry will get her high school diploma from that school in June. In addition, it allowed her to receive an associate degree in liberal arts and sciences.

She will be joining the honors program at UConn in the fall and as well as being able to get her bachelor’s degree in two years instead of four, Sperry has received a full scholarship.

“There’s a lot of things I’m definitely going to miss here,” Sperry said. “I feel very prepared going on to UConn.”

Another well-prepared graduate is Jogaintz Ledoux, of New London, a native of Haiti, who is getting a degree in mechanical engineering technology. Ledoux, 20, got a summer internship with Pratt & Whitney and now will work there full-time.

Zaha Bush, 24, of Salem, received her degree in nursing after four years at Three Rivers, while working full-time.

“It was affordable. It has a lot to offer,” Bush said of the college. “The staff would really help you. They want you to succeed.”

She said she tells friends thinking about college, “Come here first. It’s a great place to discover yourself and get direction.”

“I love it. I’m sad to be leaving,” graduate Sadie Wilson, 24, of Voluntown, said. Wilson received her degree in criminal justice enforcement and is studying to be a lawyer. She also will get her bachelor’s degree this year from Roger Williams University.

She spent four years at Three Rivers. “I got pregnant, so it took me a little longer,” Wilson said, holding her 17-month-old son, William Babbitt, before the start of the ceremony.

At the ceremony, Norwich community leader Lottie Scott, whom Jukoski praised as “a wonderful role model,” received the Distinguished Community Service Award.

An honorary degree also was presented to William Stanley, a graduate of Mohegan Community College, which merged with Thames Valley Technical College to form Three Rivers. Stanley is an executive at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and is president of the Three Rivers Foundation board of directors.


— By John Barry, Norwich Bulletin staff writer

The original article can be found here: Three Rivers grads urged to ‘cultivate your community.’

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