SPEECHES

Commencement 2019 Speeches

Welcome: Mary Ellen Jukoski, Ed.D., President, Three Rivers Community College

Regent Balducci, distinguished guests, Three River’s faculty and staff, students, family, and friends … welcome! Thank you all for joining us today. Congratulations, graduates, on this spectacular day, one of my favorite days of the academic year. Today, we celebrate and honor you, our graduates. You number almost 600, and you come from all walks of life, each with your own unique story.

You chose to enroll at three rivers for its quality education and its affordability. You walked the halls of this fine institution, studied in the library, attended classes with your peers and our faculty … you did all of this to reach your goal … to graduate! And here you are today … and here we all are today … Gathered to celebrate you and your accomplishments!

This evening, I would like to highlight the diversity and achievements of you, our graduates. As I call your name, would you please stand and be recognized.  We have:

  1. Joseph Victorino and Joshua Curry, president and secretary respectively of our student government. Joseph is graduating with an associate in liberal arts and sciences earning cum laude honors, while Joshua is receiving an associate in business administration: management. Thank you.
  2. Thomas and Mary Baudro Tom and Mary are not only our oldest graduates but they’ve been married for 45 years. Tom, who already has a bachelor’s from UConn and three certificates, is today receiving his technology studies degree, his third from three rivers. As tom says, “three’s the charm.” Mary, who has attended all of tom’s previous graduations, is now graduating magna cum laude with a visual fine arts degree. Congratulations!
  3. Elise Sperry. Elise is our youngest graduate, receiving a liberal arts and sciences degree before graduating high school from three rivers middle college in June. She will continue on to UConn with a full scholarship.
  4. Jogaintz Ledoux Jogaintz came to the U.S. from Haiti as a boy. He is graduating with an associate in mechanical engineering technology. He was a summer intern at Pratt and Whitney, where he will return as a full time employee and participate in their program that will pay for his bachelor’s degree after he has worked for a year.
  5. Zaha Bush. Zaha, a nursing graduate, is a Pakistani immigrant who, as a child, thought college was an unattainable dream. Yet today, her dedication and perseverance enabled her to graduate magna cum laude in nursing, while helping the homeless and volunteering in the medical reserve corps and Uncas health district. She plans to continue on to a BSN program and aspires to be a great nurse. Congratulations.
  6. Hanna Brosofske Hanna is a parent like many of today’s graduates. She came to three rivers to give her child and herself a strong financial foundation and a bright future. Hanna was a student worker while balancing a full-class schedule and a busy home life. Graduating with a liberal arts & science degree, she plans to continue her studies to achieve her goal of becoming a certified public accountant. Congratulations.
  7. Marie Perry. As the president of our veteran’s organization, she has energized the group and transformed the annual thanksgiving drive for the Norwich vet center from 20-turkeys to over 75 dinners. Marie is graduating with an environmental engineering technology degree and a certificate. She has already begun a bachelor’s degree at Goodwin College and will graduate in April of next year. Thank you, Marie.
  8. Kevin Valencia Kevin is graduating with his associate’s degree in general studies and will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at eastern. While juggling many jobs, he worked hard to raise his gpa, held a leadership role in the business club and always had time for a friend in need. Kevin has been inspired and supported by his mother, who came from panama, and his sister, both of whom graduated from three rivers community college.
  9. We like to call the following our own “all in the family.”
    1. First, I would like to ask Professor Ed Muenzner, his son Kyle, and nephew Randy to stand. Kyle is graduating with both an associate degree and a certificate in marketing, while randy is graduating with an associate in accounting. Congratulations!!!
    2. Would Sue Turner, assistant professor of nursing, and her daughter Morgan please stand? Morgan is graduating today with an associate’s degree in nursing. Congratulations, Morgan!
    3. Continuing with our “all in the family theme,” I would like to ask sisters Alexandra and Sydney Santiago to please stand. Alexandra is graduating magna cum laude with a degree in psychology and Sydney is graduating magna cum laude with a degree in early childhood education. Congratulations to you both.
  10. We have 5 students graduating today with 2 degrees. Would Corrine Garraty, Fernando Galvez, Michael Macek, Adam Rugh, and Hope Whiteley please stand? Congratulations to all of you.
  11. We also have five international students graduating. Two are with us today. Please stand, from India, Sakshar Bhardwaj, and from Peru, Jose Rios. We’re so glad you chose three rivers for your college education. Congratulations.

As you know, going to college is hard work. Yet you have all made it through. So please stand if you fit my question…

  • Who of you needed to work to get you through college?
  • How many of you have been raising a family or taking care of family members?
  • How many of you are the first in your family to graduate from college?
  • How many of you have parents or other family members who went to three rivers, Mohegan or Thames Valley.
  • And, this question is for our audience – how many members of our audience attended three rivers, Mohegan or Thames Valley?

Wow, what a growing family we have at three rivers!

Today I would also like to acknowledge veterans, both our graduates as well as all other veterans here today. Please stand so we can honor your service to our country!

Friends, at this time, I would like to ask that we have a moment of reflection to remember those not with us today. May they remain forever a part of the fabric of our lives and hearts.

Today I speak to all our graduates and say, this is your day to celebrate your commitment to learning, and your perseverance that make this day possible.

Graduates, I hope that three rivers community college has been –

  • A place that, having ignited your love of knowledge, will cause you to be a lifelong learner ,
  • A place that instilled in you the desire to strive for excellence academically, personally, and professionally,
  • And, a place where the relationships you developed will lead to lasting friendships.

Finally, your parents, spouses, siblings, children, extended family and friends, some of whom I’ve met and many who join you today, know well your educational journey.

Graduates, as you celebrate your accomplishments and new beginnings, remember that none of us succeeds alone. Your current and future successes are made possible in part by family and friends. Please stand, turn around, and salute your faithful supporters and enthusiastic cheerleaders!

Graduates, we are so happy to share this day with you and the promise of a bright future! Congratulations!

Greetings from the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education: Richard J. Balducci, M.A., Board of Regents for Higher Education

Thank you!

How good is this? Just look around. You’ve got a great night, you’ve got a wonderful school, you’ve got an outstanding faculty and staff, and you’re graduating. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Now I have a 10-15 minute speech, but after what’s gone on, you don’t need to hear it, I’m sure. I’m really really amazed by some of the stories that were just told by the President. What I’m here to do and very proud to do is to bring greetings from the Board of Regents to you and congratulate you on your accomplishments. Many of you who had to work to go to college and work to provide food for your tables and your families, the backgrounds of some of you are just outstanding. It’s absolutely amazing. I hope you go on to further your education either here or elsewhere; go on and take a job in the private or public sector; go on to who knows where, maybe across the United States, maybe elsewhere. The idea is that we, as members of the Board of Regents, are very proud of you. We are very happy that you are here and graduating. You make your college proud, you make the board proud, you make our state proud, and you make our country proud.

Thank you and God bless.

Greetings from the Faculty: Michael Carta, M.S., Professor of Chemistry, Chair, Faculty Senate

Good evening.

On behalf of the faculty at Three Rivers Community College, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this commencement ceremony and offer you congratulations on a job well done.

You invested in your future by coming here, and we are privileged to have been a part of your educational journey.

It is our hope that we have helped to open your minds to new and interesting topics and provided you with the tools necessary to apply your knowledge.

Some of you may be returning to the work force while others may have a new job lined up.  For many, this is a stepping stone toward further education. In any event, keep on learning.

Graduation is a time to celebrate your accomplishments. And, it gives the faculty great joy in seeing students move on to bigger and better things.

By all means, keep in touch. Who knows, you might even find yourself working at a community college someday.

Congratulations and thank you for being a part of our lives.

Student Graduate Address: Michelle Lynn Reynolds, Valedictorian

Good afternoon, members of the board and administration, faculty and staff, friends and family, and, of course, my fellow graduates. First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Class of 2019!

I am honored and humbled to have this opportunity to speak today as your valedictorian, especially after the speech committee learned that I wanted to thank Google and YouTube.

On behalf of the entire student body, I would like to thank the amazing, passionate, and dedicated faculty and staff of Three Rivers Community College, without whom we wouldn’t be here today.

Thank you for pushing us, for encouraging us, for asking more of us than we thought we needed to give, and for making today worth all of the hard work we put into it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our family and friends who helped us achieve this significant milestone in our lives. You, the people who put up with us through our sleep-deprived, hungry, and stress-induced panicking, you are the unsung heroes of today.

Like the dutiful student I am, I spent hours Googling, I mean researching funny valedictorian speeches, which brought me to some pretty exciting places on the internet.

What I found to be a common theme uniting them was that they were all delivered by folks who seemed to have some sort of comedic timing. That’s right, they were funny.

I know myself well enough to know that this may not be a strong point of mine. Therefore, I will leave a few uncomfortably long pauses between lines where I had anticipated your laughter.

In all seriousness, I spent hours poring over what to say today. What inspirational anecdote to share that could sum up our time here, while simultaneously encouraging people to go forth and create the future they dream of?  Constantly worrying that my speech will sound like a collection of quotes that my mom has framed on the living room wall. You know the ones: “live, laugh, love,” and, “life is what you make it,” and, “home is where the wine is.”

That one is not as relevant to today but still something to think about. (Sorry, mom.)

We all have a story.

We’ve all overcome our own hardships and pushed ourselves further than we even thought possible to be here today.

We have risen to each and every challenge thrown at us.

Although the stress of all-nighters and last minute flash card reviews may be over for now, the will and perseverance you’ve shown throughout your time here will push you forward through the challenges that await you in the future.

I applied to TRCC on a whim. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing here. It had been nearly a decade since I effectively navigated my way around a Mac computer. I hadn’t even heard of Google drive yet. I was ten years older than most of the students around me — a generation of people who had grown up with smartphones and MacBooks, Justin Bieber and memes. I felt overwhelmed and not just because I registered online and accidentally signed up for all the wrong classes.

To my surprise, you all came to my rescue. The willingness of those around me to help, to offer advice, to stay and answer questions I had. Questions that were pretty easy, questions like, “How do I turn this computer on? Where is the E-wing? What is taking Blackboard so long?”

The patience and humility of my fellow students, the encouragement of the professors and tutors, the sense of community you get as you stroll through the halls here, have all impacted me and all of us in such a powerful way. It is because of all of you that I am here today. Your kindness, your patience, your willingness to help others allows everyone to succeed. So today, we’re all valedictorians.

We don’t succeed alone. We stand on the shoulders of those who have lifted us. We rise together. Today, together, we celebrate our accomplishments, our ability to rise to the challenges of life and to raise others with us as we soar.

As we embark on a new adventure, with its own set of challenges, may you keep the drive that got you through those all-nighters, may you push yourself even when you think you have nothing else to give, may you have the strength to ask for help when you are in need, and may you always have the patience to aid and encourage those around you.

The future is ours, and we’ve worked hard for it. Life really is what you make of it. Believe in yourselves. Don’t be afraid to take chances, to challenge yourself, to do things on a whim, and of course, to “live, laugh, and love.”

Thank you, and congratulations, Class of 2019!

Commencement Address: Frederick-Douglass Knowles II, M.A., Hartford Poet Laureate, Associate Professor of English

Cultivate Your Community:  The Power of Purpose

The burnt, hollow structure to your left was once my childhood home.  Although, it is not the first time it’s felt the force of fire. When I was 6 years old, my family showered buckets of water over a burning cross that scorched our front lawn. This was our welcome to the neighborhood.  Although this malicious act shook the hearts of 11 grandchildren, it did not prevent my grandmother, Martha Montgomery from cultivating her Eden.

Our backyard (where the adjacent house now stands) was half the size of a football field consisting of: two pear trees, an apple tree, a grapevine, a cherry stone tree, a flower garden, a vegetable garden and a rosebush, all encased within a white picket fence. And with my grandmother’s Georgian hands she cultivated the fruit of her legacy.

She moved to Norwich in 1940, with two, young daughters and established herself in her community by joining Union Baptist Church, in which she remained a member for over 70 years. My grandmother was also a longstanding member of the Norwich chapter of the NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the Household of Ruth, as well as, the captain of her Neighborhood Watch. She often be seen driving around town in her maroon, Plymouth Horizon, waving while delivering “meals on wheels” for TVCCA. She was truly dedicated to the betterment of anyone in need.

American Statesman, Colin Powell affirms, As you seek your way in the world, never fail to find a way to serve your community. Use your education and your success in life to help those still trapped in cycles of poverty and violence.” My grandmother used her education to help those who were trapped. Graduates, use your education to help those who are trapped.  Use your education to cultivate your community. Citizens who torment their neighbors out of fear are a nemesis to our neighborhood.

In 1980, my grandmother purchased 575 New London Tpke. in this East Great Plains neighborhood. Nicknamed the Whitehouse, this home nurtured a kaleidoscope of over a 110 grandchildren, great grandchildren, great-great grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren.

And on our very first night in our new home, an act of fear symbolized as a flaming cross, attempted to dissuade my grandmother from cultivating her community. An amber white flame hovering above our bedroom windows bellowed the decree: “This is not your neighborhood.” This insidious act did not deter my family from purpose. The Native American land of East Great Plains was and still is our community.

I was well aware of the rich Mohegan history many years before the casino. The symbolic rock outside our cafeteria window, honoring the “Great Battle” between the Mohegan and Narragansett tribes was a common reclose of mine. As a youth, I played run, catch and kiss behind the high school, Norwich Tech that once occupied your student parking lot behind you.

The lot to the right was once an open field where I spent one day trudging through PAL soccer practice before quitting, because my ex-marine cousin was more of a drill sergeant than a coach. The housing complex behind you, Melrose Park, is where I spent infinite hours jostling with my friends Joey, Lori Skorwin, Richie DeLorge, James Wicker, Artie Schlough and many more.

There is an apartment complex to the right beyond those trees, Jane Arms, now known as Rose Hill Estates, where my drill-sergeant cousin lived with the rest of my extended kin. And I cannot forget the complex that sits atop the hillcrest to the far right, Oakwood Knoll, where I came into adolescence in the late 80’s hanging with the Coca-Cola posse: Chanise, Tasha, Candice, Tony, Eric, Jay Gill and so many more who molded memories of community.

And as I stand in front of you today, directly across the street from my childhood home, I can earnestly affirm that this is my community. BlackRoseCity is my community. This institution is my community. Graduates, you are my community. Like you, I sat in these same seats and received my Associate’s degree from this institution. Homage is the purpose of community. And so I ask you, Graduates, what is your purpose? How will you pay homage to your community?

So many of us long for the day to cast our wings and soar as far as an upwind will carry us; up and away from the stale air of our locality, to what we perceive to be bigger and better opportunities adorned in bright city lights and sleepless adventure. Only to wrap ourselves in a blanket of nostalgia, longing for home, a home that we can help change.

In my Introduction to Literature course this year, we studied the novel Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. The setting consists of a post-apocalyptic America in the futuristic year of 2025. The main character, Lauren Olamina prepared herself for the collapse of her walled community because she sensed change. Her community collapsed as a result of anarchy. Her community collapsed because it lacked the foresight to adapt to change.

Graduates do not let your community collapse. This is the purpose of  a community college education. Though, there is a catch. American Novelist and Activist, James Baldwin sternly affirmed, “The paradox of education is precisely this- that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.” In our modern society, many Americans still battle with ancient nemeses such as homophobia, racism, sexism and elitism. These isms want to see your community collapse. Foil their future. Cultivate your community.

Graduates, examine the society in which you are being educated. Examine the paradox of education. In a short while, you will walk across this stage to obtain proof of the tools you acquired to cultivate your community. Many of you will further your studies to obtain a Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Ph.D. in your field of expertise. Accumulate these tools to ensure that your community continues to thrive. It will be a demanding life-altering vision that some of you may be fearful of embracing, but how else will we Batman the Banes of our society? How else will we cure our country?

This country may fear the color of your skin, but your community loves your melanin. This country may fear your sexual preference, but your community loves your embrace. This country may fear your Native American/ Latino heritage but your community loves your Taino spirit. Graduates, amalgamate the tools of higher learning with the higher frequency of love to teach this country how to no longer function in fear. Cultivate your community like it was your very own Garden of Eden.

My grandmother’s birthday is tomorrow. She would have been 104. We lost her only two years ago. And for over the century she walked this Earth, she cultivated her community to assure that her future generations would remain fearless in the eyes of iniquity. I am the affirmation of my grandmother’s cultivation.

Before she passed, she passed this moral responsibility to me, and now it is my moral obligation to pass it to my granddaughter, Emerie-Saige, through the Martha Montgomery Memorial Award, here at Three Rivers, so that my grandmother’s legacy will continue to cultivate her community. Emerie-Saige will become the head cornerstone of her community. Graduates, you will become the head cornerstones of your community.  Thank you.