Welcome Back, MxCC Alumni & Former Students!
Whether you have received a diploma from MxCC or taken one class here, we’re glad you’re back!
Because of the unique nature of the community college experience, individuals who have received a degree with us, as well as those who have successfully completed at least one course in good standing at Middlesex Community College, are considered MxCC former students or alumni.
If you fit into one of these categories, you are eligible to be a part of the MxCC Alumni Network and take advantage of many opportunities offered by the College. The mission of the Alumni Network is to foster networking between current and former students and to support ongoing activities on campus in order to leave a legacy to the College and the community.
To get started, please click here to register as an alum by updating your contact information. By doing this, you can also get up-to-date information on what’s happening at Middlesex as well as access to services such as:
- invitations to events on campus
- find a job
- join the online MxCC Alumni Network Facebook group
- give back to MxCC by sponsoring a scholarship or making a donation
- subscribe to MxCC’s monthly enewsletter, The MxCC Community Connector
- become a mentor, a volunteer or a guest speaker
Thanks again and welcome back!
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Middlesex alumni are thoughtful and productive members of the community in fields ranging from law enforcement to broadcasting to radiology and much more. The College celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016–17 by recognizing several diverse and talented former students with special alumni stories. Click here to feature your accomplishments by sharing your stories.
Determined and Focused Single Mom
In 2002, Brenda attended Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven and received her high school diploma from the New Haven adult education program. After that, she enrolled in the one-year paralegal certificate program at the Branford Hall Career Institute. She graduated from there in 2004.
For five years, Brenda drove a school bus. She describes that job as having a lot of responsibility, but she could also relate well with the students.
Soon, however, Brenda found herself in a difficult and unhealthy relationship involving verbal domestic violence. This brought her some direct exposure to the benefits of police work.
“I always wanted to have a career that can make a difference in people’s lives.” Brenda said. So she began taking courses at Middlesex Community College as a pathway toward earning a degree in criminal justice.
Brenda soon was hired as an inspector for the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles in the commercial vehicle safety division. However, she was still looking for a career where she could help people more directly.
Since the Connecticut DMV is also considered part of the state’s protective services, Brenda applied to the Police Academy (POST) in Meriden. This involved passing a multitude of exams—agility, written, psychological, and polygraph tests as well as an oral interview and a medical exam. She lived at the facility for six months while her mother, who is originally from Puerto Rico, cared for her son. Brenda graduated from the Connecticut Police Academy in 2015 and went on to serve the DMV for four years handling truck inspections and motor vehicle stops throughout the state. (See CT DMV video Brenda appeared in.)
With sights on finishing a criminal justice degree, Brenda continued taking classes part-time at MxCC. “The teachers are great and very helpful. I really like Middlesex,” Brenda said. “I especially liked my English 101 professor, who was easy to understand and explained things well.”
She later went on to become a full-time municipal police officer and in May 2019, she completed a lateral transfer to a position with the Branford Department of Police Service. The department publicly welcomed her with a post on their social media platforms.
“I love the people in Branford. Everyone is very nice and welcoming, and they respect law enforcement,” she said.
As of the Fall 2019, Brenda has three more courses left to take at Middlesex and plans to graduate with an associate degree in May 2020. She is looking to attend the University of New Haven and eventually complete a four-year degree in criminal justice.
“I see things as a single mom. Pursue your goals and don’t give up,” she said. “Stay determined and focused and keep trying even when it’s gets hard.”
Savvy Alumna Finds Success
Portland native Kerianne Heil Burchardt is ready to mark six years in business as the owner of her consignment shop, Savvy Swap. Her journey to store ownership began after she graduated from Portland High School in 2007.
Kerianne decided to attend Middlesex Community College, where her sister Michaela Heil had also gone to college. Kerianne’s goal was to start a career in the fashion merchandising industry and enrolled in the business and marketing program at MxCC.
“I’m a huge advocate for completing basic courses and saving money while getting a good education. MxCC is a good value. That’s being smart about it,” she said.
Like many Middlesex students, Kerianne worked full-time while attending college full-time for over two years. She worked at a pizza restaurant, a hair salon, and also in retail at the Meriden mall to put herself through school.
“[Former professor] Donna Leonowich was my advisor at Middlesex and I loved her straightforwardness. She didn’t beat around the bush and I really appreciated that,” Kerianne said.
Kerianne remembers she was often the leader of class group projects and presentations and found herself making sure things got done. Though it was sometimes difficult to schedule classes around her work schedule, she persisted and completed her coursework by 2010.
“I developed many relationships with students and remain in contact via social media with them today,” she added.
She transferred all her MxCC credits to Lasell University in Newton, Massachusetts, and earned a bachelor of science degree in fashion and retail merchandising in 2012.
During an internship with Nordstrom’s in Boston, Kerianne learned about visual merchandise displays and attended corporate meetings. Eventually, she was hired to work in retail with the manager of that department. After a year, she came back to Connecticut and worked in Nordstrom’s men’s department before being promoted to department manager in accessories.
While she was there, Nordstrom’s underwent a renovation and they were getting rid of mannequins and other store supplies. Kerianne, knowing she wanted to eventually own her own shop, was allowed to take these items and filled several trailers’ worth of store display items and put them into storage.
As she focused on opening her own shop, she reduced her Nordstrom’s schedule by working in men’s sales for six months. On April 1, 2014, her store Savvy Swap Consignment opened at 275 Main Street in Portland.
“I always loved shopping consignment and thought it would be a fun retail store to manage,” Kerianne explained. “The best part about it is I didn’t have to save thousands of dollars for inventory. Consigners just brought it all to me.”
Her boutique features gently used or new pieces from top brands such as Ann Taylor, Anthropology, and more, all at affordable prices. Customers can also consign items and receive 40% of the actual sale price.
“The store has been great. It’s really growing in town. I even get new people from all over the state on a daily basis, as well as from Massachusetts and New York,” she added.
Kerianne and her store were featured in the Middletown Press last fall, and she recently joined the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce. She is planning to hold an anniversary celebration complete with raffles, refreshments, and a 20% off sale in April 2020. Stay tuned to the store’s Facebook page for all the details!
Broadcast Alum Earns National Journalism Award
Naugatuck High School graduate Steve Yablonski began his college career as a theater major at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven. At the time, he really didn’t want to go to college or even know what to study, but he gave it a try.
To avoid mounting student loan debt, Steve continued his studies at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury. Though he majored in general studies, he discovered an interest in journalism and broadcasting. He even landed an internship at MSNBC when it was located in New Jersey and drove there from Connecticut three times a week. A professor at NVCC suggested Steve visit Middlesex Community College in Middletown to consider transferring into their broadcasting program.
Steve said he met with MxCC professor Rich Lenoce, coordinator of the Digital Media Production programs at the MxCC Center for New Media. “At that moment, I knew Middlesex was perfect,” said Steve.
As Steve reflected on why he entered a journalism program, he said, “I remember sitting on my couch in the summer of 2006, and there was a war between Israel and Lebanon. I remember thinking, all the reporters are talking about is the political problems that led to the fighting. But what about the normal people who are living with air raid sirens going off all hours of the day and rockets landing in neighborhoods around the region. I knew I wanted to be there and tell those stories. That’s when I realized journalism was my passion.”
Steve attended MxCC as a full-time student while also working full-time. He said he appreciated the online classes during this busy time, but also cherishes the special friends he made with classmates and professors.
“Every professor I had at MxCC was amazing, especially in our department. But I really learned a lot from Patience Hettrick, who taught our final class before graduating. She was also he assistant news director at WFSB at the time, and I learned so much from her about the business. I will forever be grateful to her for her knowledge. She really helped launch my career,” said Steve.
Professor Lenoce recalls, “Steve came to Middlesex with experience in TV news, having done an internship with MSNBC at Joe Scarborough’s [‘Scarborough Country’] program. Immediately I could tell that Steve was intelligent, inquisitive and ambitious and would go far in the broadcast news and social media business. His success shows the doors that are open for students with the kinds of hands-on program Middlesex provides for those passionate about their work.”
In 2009, Steve earned his associate degree in broadcast communications from MxCC. He first worked as a web intern at WFSB in Hartford, just as the digital producer or digital journalist roles became more common in the industry. After covering several major, national stories (including the Annie Le murder; the trial and sentencing of the Cheshire home invasion killers; the Boston Marathon bombing; the mass-shooting at Sandy Hook, and countless snowstorms), Steve went to the powerhouse station in Boston, WCVB, to advance his career as a digital content producer. After about two years, he headed over to Boston 25 News.
At his social media producer job at Boston 25 News, Steve said he checks in with the TV and digital producers about the stories for the day. From there he works to figure out what elements can be beneficial to viewers, who is looking for extra content in web articles, or get creative and make some graphics and videos to push people to watch newscasts. He then works on strategic angles for target audiences based on geographic areas and/or specific interests that will most likely show up in someone’s social media feed.
“I like the rush of breaking news. Doing the same thing day after day can get boring, but working in news is great because things can change in a matter of seconds. You need to constantly be on your game to keep people informed about what’s going on in their neighborhoods, state, country and around the world,” Steve added.
2019 is a memorable year for Steve’s accomplishments at Boston 25 News. He and his team were recognized with two distinguished journalism awards, the Regional Edward R. Murrow Award and National Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Social Media for their coverage of a series of deadly gas explosions in Massachusetts last year. (Watch Boston 25 News Murrow award promotional video.)
“A few heavily populated communities in northeastern Massachusetts were told to evacuate immediately because homes and businesses were exploding and catching fire without warning. It was madness. No one knew what was happening at the time and no one had been in a situation like this before. [We] knew that our [regular] TV viewers were no longer in front of their televisions. They were watching live video in our app or Facebook Live. It was our job to relay important information to those viewers who would otherwise not know important safety information. Like where to evacuate to, how to manually shut off gas valves, and even how to know if their home was affected by color-coded tags the fire department was leaving on homes. We were on the air for hours trying to get important information out to people who weren’t directly affected and pushing people who were affected to our website, news app and social media accounts where they would find more important, potentially life-saving information,” explained Steve.
Steve has some advice for prospective MxCC students. He said, “It’s worth it, and you’ll get an amazing education at Middlesex. When you’re a senior in high school, figuring out which college to go to and what to major in can be really tough. If you don’t know right away, then don’t sweat it. You have plenty of time. I didn’t figure it out until my mid-20s. It took me a while, but I’m so grateful that I figured it out and got to work. You’ll know right away when you found what you want to be doing for the rest of your life.”
He said working hard is important during studies at Middlesex. “You’re heading into a college that cares about you and your future. You’re more than just a social security number to professors in your department. Because class sizes are much smaller than at other colleges and universities, it’s so easy to get the one-on-one time with your professors and advisors that you need. I appreciated that so much and treasure the friendships I made with my former classmates and professors,” added Steve.
Steve clearly appreciates his Middlesex education. “I will never forget the skills I learned that helped me get to where I am today. Without my time at MxCC, I don’t know where I would be today,” he said.
A Network of Community Service
During the late 1970s, Middlesex alumna (Class of 1987), Kristen (Lemley) Roberts’ mother, Mary Ellen, worked as a secretary in the Middlesex Community College admissions office. Since her family lived nearby, Kristen often visited her mom on a day off from elementary school. She fondly remembers her time there and reflected on helping to run the Xerox machine, assisting “Marion” with the switchboard, and would be in awe of her mom’s fast typing skills on an IBM Selectric typewriter—where on some days Kristen would poke at the keys as she attempted to type her own papers.
Kristen’s parents divorced as she was in her first year of high school, and as the oldest of three, she didn’t have the support or resources to attend college away from home. She recalls her father expecting her to become a secretary like her mother, telling her that she didn’t need to go to college for that. However, Kristen had higher ambitions. One of her aunts was instrumental in Kristen’s desire become a paralegal, so she enrolled in the legal secretarial degree program at Middlesex Community College to learn more about the field.
“Middlesex was a great experience for me at that time in my life. It gave me the confidence to pursue higher education,” Kristen said. “If you’re not sure about college or don’t have the support for going away to a four-year college, Middlesex is a great opportunity.”
She remembers being in a media class where she got to practice being a news broadcaster. She enjoyed the different electives offered at Middlesex, which opened her eyes to different careers.
Kristen’s Middlesex experience was boosted by an internship with Dowley & Associates, a former law firm in Middletown. She said working for them was like being a part of a family. Lead attorney Michael Dowley, who passed away in 2019, became a mentor and later asked her to work full-time when she finished her bachelor’s degree. As an intern, she ran errands, made deliveries to courthouses, typed wills and letters, and assisted the paralegal. “It was the best first job,” she said with pride.
After graduating from Middlesex in 1987, Kristen became a full-time student at Central Connecticut State University while also continuing to work part-time at the law firm. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in human resources from CCSU in 1990.
Now working full-time at the law firm, Kristen pursued a paralegal certificate and took evening classes at the Hartford College for Women (now University of Hartford), receiving the diploma in 1992. She also earned a master’s in public administration from the University of Hartford in 1998.
Today, Kristen gives credit to Michael Dowley, who encouraged her to get involved in the community and network with young professionals after college. This eventually led to her PR work with the Middletown Jaycees, sending notices to the press and seeking sponsorships for fundraisers. She built a network and along with that leadership skills.
Kristen also volunteered with the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, earning a seat on the board and collaborating with Chamber president Larry McHugh. (Note, At the Chamber June meeting, Kristen was elected to serve on the Chamber’s Executive Committee.) Back in 2002, it was Larry who recommended her for a public affairs role at Comcast in New Haven. Kristen has grown her career at Comcast where she still works. Currently the vice president for communications, Kristen leads a team that protects the Comcast brand, promotes new products and services, and handles media inquiries and employee communications for one of Comcast’s 16 regions across the nation.
“My job at Comcast brought together my skills and passion for working in the community and in public affairs. I’ve now been there over 17 years and I enjoy my job as much now as I did back then,” Kristen said in her speech when she was presented with the Middlesex United Way Community Service Award in January 2019. This is the highest and most prestigious honor awarded to a United Way volunteer. Kristen was instrumental in the United Way constructing Born Learning Trails across the county in celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary. Today, there are 10 trails across Middlesex County.
Having grown up in Middletown and learning a lot about the community from working with nonprofits, Kristen is grateful to give back. Her grandfather, Eric Lowry, a Jewish immigrant from Berlin, Germany, loved America and taught Kristen the importance of giving back through his work with the Middletown Zoning Board and the Civitans, a community service organization. Today, she is passing that community pride on to her daughter, who also volunteers at events.
Now a resident of Old Saybrook, Kristen offers some advice to prospective students. “Be curious and seek out those other careers programs that are available at Middlesex,” she said. “Don’t settle—you can do anything you want with hard work, energy, and passion for what you do.”
The Power of Setting Goals
Several years ago, MxCC Criminal Justice graduate Christian Vazquez heard a motivational speaker on television talk about how to be successful. “I can’t remember his name,” Christian said. “But I remember that he said if you want to accomplish goals, write them down and look at them every single day. So, that’s what I did.”
Christian, who at the time was 25 years old and working full-time as a CNC machinist, wrote down his four goals:
- Go to a two-year college and earn a degree in business administration
- Join the Army
- Find job in law enforcement
- Earn a bachelor’s degree
He hung the list on his bedroom wall, a daily reminder of what he wanted to do with his life. Seven years of very hard work and dedication later, he has (nearly) achieved all four goals.
The first goal he accomplished was earning that business administration degree from Middlesex Community College, which he completed in 2011 (while working full time). Next, he joined the Army National Guard, becoming the first member of his family to ever serve in the US Armed Forces. He completed boot camp at Ft. Leonard Wood in Missouri in May 2012 and went to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, that August to serve as a military police observer, controller and trainer. As a private first class, Christian trained other guardsmen in transporting prisoners, interviewing inmates, and riot control (an assignment typically given to someone at the sergeant level or higher). He also served on a task force that trained and evaluated all MP companies preparing to be deployed to Cuba, Afghanistan and other places. At the same time, he trained in military combat support to these companies.
Christian’s tour ended without being deployed and he returned to Connecticut to complete his six year commitment, serving as a military police officer at the West Hartford Reserve Center. During this time, he re-enrolled at MxCC to pursue his criminal justice degree – thereby taking steps towards his goal of working permanently in law enforcement.
Christian said he felt very privileged to be taking classes from MxCC’s exceptional and accomplished faculty – which included an FBI agent, a police chief, and a criminologist. These professors used their own personal experiences in law enforcement to give students the “real-life” view of what they were learning in the classroom. Christian thought this made classes extremely interesting, and said the overall Criminal Justice program at MxCC provided a thorough look at the entire profession – the good, the bad, the risks (including risking your own life) and the rewards.
With each class, Christian became more convinced that he was on the right path. He talked to every professor as much as he could during and after class to see what else he could learn from them. MxCC’s small class size and the encouraging learning environment helped Christian develop meaningful relationships with fellow students and faculty, and succeed in his work. This was especially important when he faced conflicting deadlines with his many responsibilities. Although he worked during lunch breaks and well into the nights to complete class assignments on time, there were instances when he just had to reach out for help.
“The only reason I was able to complete my degree on time was because my professors at MxCC gave me their full support,” Christian said. “I got to know every professor and they got to know me and my situation. When they knew I had weekend drills coming up, they gave me a little extra flexibility to complete my work. This made all the difference in the world.”
When it came time to apply for the Corrections Academy, Christian again turned to his professors for help preparing for the written exam and oral interview. After he was accepted, he now had a new workload to fit into his already-packed schedule of full-time work, some remaining classes at MxCC needed for graduation, National Guard duties, and, of course, his family.
“It was a tough time but by the grace of God I had the strength to get through it,” he said.
And he did get through it, graduating this past summer from MxCC’s Criminal Justice Program (earning his second degree from the College) and from the Corrections Academy. He immediately began a full-time job as a corrections officer working at Hartford Correctional Center, a level 4, high-security urban jail that primarily holds pre-trial offenders. He could now officially quit his machinist job – and cross one more goal off his list.
There is one more item on Christian’s list, which is still taped to his wall: earning a bachelor’s degree. He is tackling that goal this fall at Waterbury’s Post University, where he was accepted into the Business Administration and Management Program.
Christian believes with hard work and motivation, anyone can set and meet his or her goals. “First, I think people need to search their souls to find out what they want do with their lives,” he said. “Then, they can make a plan – and a back-up plan – to achieve those dreams. The important thing is for people to put their time in to get what they want, and to never quit!”
It took a little while for Christian to understand this in his own life. But with an amazing amount of energy and hard work, he has turned his list of dreams into a list of actual accomplishments. He has built a better life for himself and for his family – with thanks, in great part, to the opportunities and people at MxCC.
Cody Discovers His Potential
Having already taken some TV classes, Cody graduated from Killingworth-Haddam High School in 2012. At the time he wanted to attend college in California, but that didn’t work out. Since he had been to the Middletown campus, Cody and some other friends from high school decided to attend Middlesex Community College.
Cody earned his associate degree in 2014 and discovered his potential as a digital media production and broadcast communications student at MxCC. In fact, Cody credits his internship and production work experience while attending college as being enough to propel him in his current career as a “travel creator.”
Cody’s favorite classes at MxCC were those that involved broadcasting, especially learning how to be a news anchor. For a digital production class, he prepared a short film called “Daydreamer,” where the stories featured what three kids want to do when they grow up: be a doctor, an actor, or live in a fantasy world.
For hands-on learning, Professor Rich Lenoce helped Cody get an internship with the well-known TV show, The People’s Court, filmed in Stamford, Conn. His duties included making calls to recruit audience members, handling defendants, and even appearing in the audience a few times himself.
His favorite Middlesex memory is when he participated in the Center for New Media’s annual media festival. Cody also enjoyed the digital editing class with Professor Rick Eriksen, where he learned how to use important software skills such as Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects—both programs he continues to use now.
Working for a production company for almost two years, Cody researched other jobs and started to freelance after college. He filmed plays, weddings, and anything else to save enough money to start producing his own YouTube videos. For one of his first big adventure trips, he traveled to Thailand, noting that these films are popular with young people in their twenties in that country. He spent 30 days there, filming everyday. The videos became some of the top viewed within a couple months.
In 2016, Cody and some friends traveled together and began to market and promote their videos by posting to other websites, news sites, and social media, including Reddit. At least two videos were posted a week with trending topics—sometimes shocking—to gain attention. Another way Cody promotes his videos is through Right This Minute, a TV show and website where videographers can upload videos to try to get them to go viral.
To further market his videos, Cody says boosting shorter versions of his videos on Facebook can then be shared and linked to YouTube for the full versions—and then promoted again on YouTube with an ad.
After a popular video he did at Skulls Island in Bali, Indonesia, Cody’s audience started growing, and he was able to charge more, get more work by people finding him, as well as secure sponsors. He also attends YouTube’s annual Buffer Festival held in Toronto. Cody also took a stab at a TV pilot and will soon debut a show on Insight TV, a Netflix-style venue which claims to be the “most adventurous TV channel in the world!”
Reaching back to his college days, Cody said, “Middlesex was a good place for me to start and get more professional in what I am doing.” To other broadcast/media students, his advice is “to not just do the work while at school, but to continue to hone your craft at home. To do really well, you should be willing to work the long hours beyond just in class.”
While the media industry is constantly changing, this doesn’t intimidate Cody’s future plans. “I would just create content specific for that platform,” he said.
To discover your potential at MxCC, click here to get started.
And thanks to Cody for appearing in some of MxCC’s recruitment materials!
Springboard to PR Success
Chris Boyle ’92 describes himself as a “late bloomer” while looking back on his successful career path into the field of public relations.
A resident of Wallingford, Chris graduated from Lyman Hall in 1984 and wasn’t sure where to go for college or what career to pursue at that time. He had interests in the communications field as well as in commercial art and graphic design. Chris did not find any appeal in a four-year university at first, so he enrolled at Middlesex Community College as a commercial art major. Admitting to a lack of interest in the fine arts aspect of the curriculum, Chris left MxCC in the fall of 1985 and began working for a local engineering firm.
At age 24, Chris was engaged to his girlfriend Michelle and felt a need to continue his education with the goal of a career in a field that he could feel passionate about—that field would be one of his original interests—corporate communications and public relations. That mindset led him back to MxCC and the school’s communication arts degree. In January 1991, he returned on a part-time basis to “salvage” some of the credits that he already earned. Chris liked that he could easily commute to the Middletown campus, tuition was affordable, and that the college offered a high-quality curriculum.
“Middlesex is a great place to go to find out what you want to study or do for a career, especially if you’re not sure,” Chris explained. “It gives people who are taking baby steps in their educational choices the support toward starting a career. Not everyone knows what path to take, and MxCC is great at guiding that path. I will always be grateful to Middlesex as the springboard to the success that I have experienced.”
As an MxCC student, Chris remembers engaging in encouraging conversations with communication professor John Shafer. “I enjoyed such a positive teaching environment at MxCC—the school truly plays a vital role for people looking to complete an associate degree,” Chris said.
“It’s the kind of teaching that stands out. I remember taking an oceanography course when the entire class showed up for a field trip in a tug boat—on a Saturday!” Chris recalled. “The class was a great mix of ages, as we socialized together that day while learning about ocean life.”
After graduating in 1992, Chris transferred his credits from MxCC to Southern Connecticut State University, and, in 1995—at age 28—he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations.
Chris’ career path includes a role at the Meriden Record-Journal, and then he served in public relations/media relations positions at Danbury Hospital and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. He currently is the director of public relations at Bristol Hospital and Health Care Group, a position he has held since 2012.
“Education is so expensive these days. I highly encourage attending schools like MxCC to high school and adult students whom I talk to. It’s the difference between graduating with a car payment instead of a mortgage payment,” Chris said. “I was looking for affordable, hands-on, high-quality education, and I found that at Middlesex.”
Chris and Michelle Boyle have been married for more than 27 years, and the couple have three children, Joseph, 23, Annemarie, 18, and Anthony, 15. While he admits his career since high school has had it highs and lows, he had nothing but fond memories of MxCC.
“Today, I just look back and smile,” he said.
Sally Smith Makes Seniors Smile
Back in the 1950s, some women didn’t attend college right after high school, and while MxCC alumna Sally Smith liked to learn, she began college much later in life.
Originally from East Hampton, Sally grew up in Meriden and graduated from Meriden High School in 1958. Her father initially discouraged her from going to college or joining the Navy like her brothers. Instead, she started her own family. But years later, Sally was divorced and, because her children were still small, she had to sell her house and go on state aid.
In order to get off Medicaid, Sally became a licensed practical nurse (LPN) through the Vinal Tech program in Middletown in 1973.
While working as an LPN in a nursing home, Sally met a patient in her eighties who was a talented painter and always wanted to exhibit in her own art show. Sally simply went ahead and arranged an art exhibit and reception for her in Cheshire, where the patient even sold two paintings. “She was beside herself with joy!” recalled Sally.
By the 1980s, Sally’s kids were grown and she explored the idea of attending college. She first attended Southern Connecticut State University, but that campus experience was not for her. Instead she decided to audit an algebra class at Middlesex Community College. She then enrolled in more classes and worked with a tutor to improve her grades. For a while, she lived near the former MxCC Meriden Center and also took classes there. She even reconnected with old acquaintance in one of her classes, Betty Berger. They knew each other previously when their kids were in dance class together.
After attending MxCC part-time into the 1990s, Sally earned her associate degree in human services. “I had a very good experience at Middlesex. I enjoyed being there, and the teachers were great,” she reiterated.
While still working as a nurse, Sally met an elderly male patient of Irish descent, who said he never had been to Ireland. She talked with his daughter to see if this was even physically possible for him to travel. She agreed, so Sally again proceeded to see how to arrange this for him. She spoke with other senior wish agencies that told Sally she would have to do all the work. If that was the case, why not start her own foundation with the mission of fulfilling the dreams of senior adults?
In 2007, Sally and her friend Betty launched a nonprofit organization called Seniors Have Dreams, Too. The group’s purpose is “to make a difference in the lives of the elderly and create opportunities for seniors with limited resources to experience a lifelong dream.” The nationwide program is offered to seniors 65 years of age or older, living below the poverty level, and physically and mentally able to experience a wish. Receiving no grant money, the group operates on individual donations and holds an annual arts and crafts fundraiser.
Recently, the organization granted several wishes—a 78-year-old woman with cancer living in Las Vegas went to a concert for the first time; a Connecticut woman’s dream was to visit the casino again with her friends; a woman in her eighties received piano lessons and recorded a CD; a former airline hostess rode in a helicopter—all made possible through the work of Sally’s organization.
“No matter how old you are, you should always have something to look forward to. None of your memories should be old,” she said, who now lives in Wallingford.
Sally still takes her nursing job very seriously. “ I love my job working in nursing homes. This is where I belong. I love working with the elderly and kids with disabilities. I’m getting things for nothing, and so I have to give back,” said Sally emphatically.
What is Sally’s dream? “To complete a bachelor’s degree before turning 90 years old,” she said. “But now my job is to make people smile.”
To donate, sponsor or apply for a dream, or attend the December 1 crafts fair, visit www.seniorshavedreams.org.
From MxCC to MBA
Human resources professional Denise Jankowski began her college career in her early thirties, an age considered to be nontraditional as a student. A 1986 graduate of Wolcott High School, she moved to Middletown in 1999.
After discovering the affordability of Middlesex Community College, Denise enrolled in one class and gradually returned for more courses. As a single mother, this was important to her. She chose to major in accounting and business, earning dual associate degrees with a 3.80 grade-point average in 2005. She also was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.
Looking back, Denise highlights math professor Pamela Frost. “Pam was the most amazing math teacher. She really tried to make algebra fun. She would give out candy to the team of two students who were the first to finish a factoring exercise. I remember winning the whole bag!” said Denise.
To get better acclimated into going back to school, Denise took advantage of MxCC’s tutoring services, especially in math and writing.
“I freaked out at taking math but ended up doing very well,” she recalled with an appreciative smile.
As an accounting student, Denise has good memories of Nancy Kelly, who was announced as professor emerita at the 2018 graduation ceremony. “Nancy took the time to make sure all her students understood the material. She had a gift in making accounting seem less difficult than it was,” Denise added.
Denise also worked in the financial aid office as a work-study student, learning even more about the college. Most importantly, she also received scholarships, which allowed her to complete her degree.
Overall, Denise credits MxCC as a good college experience and enjoyed the student mix of ages during her evening classes.
She transferred easily to Eastern Connecticut State College, earning a bachelor’s in business administration in 2008. Denise then went on to complete an MBA from Albertus Magnus College in 2010.
Denise began her career working in dual roles for human resources and accounting, primarily in the manufacturing field.
At Gilman Brothers Company, her duties involved a full spectrum of HR operations, from policies and procedures to benefits and training programs. In subsequent years, she worked her way through other HR roles with responsibilities in export compliance, employee coaching and mentoring, talent management, business partnerships, and more recently, strategic initiatives as the regional HR manager with MW Industries. Located in Berlin, Seymour, and Southington, Conn., MW Industries is the largest and most diversified specialty spring and fastener manufacturer in the U.S.
In May 2018, Denise returned to the MxCC campus as an exhibitor with MW Industries at the Manufacturing Awareness Day event.
“Since I was last here, the Middlesex campus has a new and well-kept Pavilion area. Overall, you can tell MxCC is still a nice and safe place to be,” she said.
From Here to Inishmor
In 2014, Alex and his family, who already had connections in Colchester because his father lived there, managed to acquire a Main Street pub in town now known as the Inishmor.
Alex’s college career, however, started somewhat tentatively when he first attended college for about a year. He felt the time wasn’t right for him then, so that’s when he decided to travel extensively throughout Europe.
When he returned to Connecticut, Alex immediately enrolled at Middlesex Community College as a full-time student in the general studies associate degree program. He became very involved with student leadership opportunities, such as the College Affairs and Academic Appeals Council, the College Council, as well as the MxCC Foundation. (Students are eligible to sit on and participate in the discussions and decisions of these committees with the college’s faculty and professional staff.)
Alex became a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society as well as the president of the Student Senate. Boosting his leadership and academic skills, Alex was also a legislative intern with former member of the Connecticut House of Representatives John Geragosian.
Looking back, Alex especially found that while “being around adults and seeing how the process and systems work” proved to be very beneficial to him in the future.
Giving credit to faculty and staff members who were influential to him during his two years at MxCC, Alex mentioned math professors Stephen Krevisky and Pamela Frost, his advisor Judy Mazgulski, and “a great relationship” with history Professor Emeritus Richard Patrick.
In 2008, armed with academic confidence by graduating summa cum laude from MxCC, Alex made a smooth transfer to Emerson College, a private institution in downtown Boston. He earned a bachelor of science in political science in 2010.
While in Boston, Alex bartended and worked his way up in restaurant management roles, but wanted to get back to Connecticut to be near his family. Then came the Main Street pub in Colchester and the establishment of Inishmor, a blend of his college and restaurant leadership experience—with a dash of European travel—that now serves up award-winning Irish cuisine in a community pub atmosphere.
“Take advantage of the opportunities in college. Not because you have to but to gain knowledge and experience,” said Alex. “I never had so many professors help me than while I was at Middlesex. They really do care.”
The Inishmor Pub, located at 20 Main Street in Colchester, continues to bring acknowledgement to Alex’s passion for cooking with awards from Connecticut Magazine, Buzz Feed, among others. Find out more at inishmorepub.com.
Giving to MxCC
Rosario “Riz” Rizzo, is a 1970 graduate of MxCC, with an associate degree in public affairs. Riz went on to work for Pratt & Whitney Division of United Technologies, retiring in 2013 as a manager in public affairs after 39 years. Along the way, he earned a BS degree in industrial occupational safety from Central Connecticut State University in 1996. As an engaged MxCC alumnus, he has served on the MxCC Foundation board of directors, currently on the Manufacturing Advisory Council and the Regional Advisory Committee.
“I have been contributing both my time and funds to Middlesex Community College for the last 25 years because I believe in the mission and goals of the college. I have seen the college grow from using the Middletown High School classrooms at night to a beautiful campus located on the hill in Middletown and also in Meriden. The buildings are nice, but not what the college is about. It is really about providing an affordable education in a variety of forms and locations to students who want to learn and improve themselves. Education is a lifelong process,” said Riz.
“When you have the ability to give back to the college—at whatever level you can—please consider the students who will follow you into those classrooms. Please donate to the college through the MxCC Foundation, so that it can continue to provide scholarships to those that need assistance. Your donation can be the difference for someone trying to complete another semester,” he added.
Please join Riz in supporting MxCC students. Give today!
Sarah Carey’s Disney Dream Becomes a Reality This Summer
Starting in August, MxCC student and Meriden resident, Sarah Carey will join up to 12,000 other college students from around the country and spend several months in the Disney College Program in Orlando, Florida. According to the Orlando Sentinel, about 50,000 young adults apply annually for this paid internship opportunity.
Hailing originally from northern California, Sarah moved to Connecticut when she was 12 years old and graduated from Valley Regional High School in Deep River. She learned more about Middlesex Community College from several of her friends who were planning to attend and decided to attend MxCC as well.
In early 2018, while Sarah was working at the AMC Starplex Theaters in Southington, her manager mentioned the Disney College Program and recommended that Sarah apply. The only challenge was that the application deadline was that very same day! Not to be deterred, Sarah went right ahead and applied online. The questions ranged from asking her about her basic preferences and school information, as well as why she was interested in the program. The process continued with a web-based interview, a personality test, and finally a phone interview. Sarah prepared herself by researching the questions online and through social media.
She received a tip to smile while talking during the phone interview, even though the interviewer could not see her. “I practiced this in front of a mirror!” Sarah laughed.
On April 2, Sarah found out she was accepted into the program and will be heading to Florida by the end of July. Her parents are ecstatic for her and will assist her with moving expenses. She won’t be alone in Florida, though. Her grandparents live in Clearwater.
By August 6, she’ll be working in an operations role with attractions in Disney World, where duties consist of loading and unloading guests from a ride, operating sophisticated ride systems, delivering narrations to large groups, and much more. According to the Disney website, the internship experience also offers the opportunity to develop communications skills, problem-solving skills, and improve confidence and self-reliance. Sarah’s initial internship is for the fall semester, but she hopes to extend it into the spring of 2019.
Sarah will graduate from MxCC in May 2018 with an associate degree in general studies, though her focus has been in arts classes. She likes the idea of working in graphic design, which could be helpful in the Disney “world.”
Looking back at her time at MxCC, Sarah definitely recommends going to MxCC for prerequisites. She found the educational process easy, and particularly liked all of her English professors. “Most of the teachers and advisors are great!” she said.
Her initial goal is to establish herself as a Florida resident and eventually work for Disney full-time, perhaps with costumes or as a character assistant. Sarah also plans to continue her studies in Florida, first at another community college and then transfer to either the University of Tampa or the University of Florida for her bachelor’s degree.
Congratulations and good luck, Sarah!
MxCC Graduates Erwin Ndwiga and Mukshud Ahamed Find Their Potential in Summer Health Sciences Enrichment Program
Recent Middlesex Community College graduates Erwin Ndwiga (Meriden) and Mukshud Ahamed (Westbrook) shared their experiences in the Summer Health Professions Education Program, known as SHPEP, in an inspirational presentation at the college on Jan. 24, 2018.
Usually, college students spend at least part of the summer enjoying the beach or hanging out with friends, but Ndwiga and Ahamed committed themselves to an intense six-week enrichment program focused on improving access to information and resources in health professions.
The program’s goal is to strengthen the academic proficiency and career development of students who are underrepresented in the health sciences field and to prepare them for a successful application and matriculation to health professions schools.
“I can’t put into words how wonderful my experience was with the people who became like family and close friends to me,” said Ndwiga, who mentored with renowned physicians at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center last summer. “I enjoyed learning and networking in a challenging environment with deans and doctors who are leaders in their fields.”
Ndwiga, who graduated from Middlesex Community College last May, is currently enrolled in the Pre-Dental program at the University of Connecticut. Members of his family in Kenya had difficulty with gum disease, influencing Ndwiga to pursue a career in dental medicine.
In Ahamed’s presentation, he stressed the importance of the program’s application process, especially taking advantage of the personal essay to explain why the program would be beneficial to him.
“I began my essay with, ‘The person I am today is a stark contrast to the disheveled adolescent I was before,’” he said. “I nearly failed out of high school and lacked the confidence to attend college.” But while at Middlesex, Ahamed discovered a love for biology and along with the encouragement of professors and advisers outside of class, he gained the knowledge and will to apply to the prestigious summer program.
In 2016, Ahamed spent the summer at the Yale School of Medicine exploring medical options by shadowing physicians in the emergency room and internal medicine as well as collaborating in small-group clinical rotations and full-group clinician seminars. He was one of four Middlesex students accepted into the program that summer, unprecedented for MxCC.
Ahamed is now a biochemistry student at Wesleyan University and a McNair Fellow. As a research assistant under the guidance of Dr. Nicole Clay at Yale and Dr. Erika Taylor at Wesleyan, Ahamed has worked on projects related to plant innate immunity, drug design, and biofuel research.
Ahamed and Ndwiga met each other as non-science majors in a biology class taught by Professor Cheryl Eckert. Their positive experiences in that class and the continuing support from Professor Eckert helped them transition to a science-oriented career path. “They were not who you see now when they applied to the program,” said Eckert.
“I can’t think of two better students to represent Middlesex Community College in a program like this than Mukshud and Erwin,” MxCC chemistry Professor Kimberly Thomas proudly declared at the end of the presentation.
Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the SHPEP application deadline for Summer 2018 is February 15. Several sites are available across the country. For more information, visit http://www.shpep.org.
For more information about Middlesex Community College, please visit https://mxcc.edu.
Sal Savastra's Goals Reach Beyond the Soccer Field
In 1966, the Savastra family settled in Middletown, Conn., arriving as immigrants from Italy. Because of Middletown’s large Italian community, it wasn’t long before Salvatore Savastra displayed his soccer skills with fellow athletes from the area.
As a founding member of the Middletown High School soccer club, Sal led the team in winning the Mid-State League Conference Championship in 1972. He was also an All-State pick as a senior, graduating in 1975.
When it was time to apply for college, Sal followed a friend and ended up at Eastern Connecticut State University. It turned out to not be the school for him, though he did take some general courses with a goal to eventually study business and accounting.
Another friend and Italian compatriot, Edward Zimmitti, was coaching at Middlesex Community College in the early 1970s, so Sal enrolled at MxCC to play organized soccer again in his hometown.
Sal recalls Marvin Hagel, who was first athletic director at MxCC and credited for establishing five varsity programs and bringing teams to the New England Regionals four times. For one of the smallest colleges in New England, MxCC was considered a sports powerhouse at the time.
During Sal’s first year at MxCC, the soccer team was fairly competitive, and in his second year, the team went to the regional finals. However, Sal won’t forget that they unfortunately lost the championship game versus Massasoit Community College (Brockton, Mass.) in overtime.
Though always a passionate soccer player, Sal says he was a quiet student and worked full-time while finally taking the courses he wanted at MxCC.
During college, Sal was uncertain about what kind of career to pursue, but he stated that Middlesex was a great place to be, and his sports opportunities definitely added to a very positive college experience.
“We also had dances every Thursday night—with live bands,” Sal fondly recollects. MxCC is also where he met his wife of 37 years, Betty.
After graduating from Middlesex in 1978, Sal transferred to Central Connecticut State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In 1981, he was hired as a temporary clerk for the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. After taking the state exams, he became a unit supervisor in operations. Thirty-two years later, in 2013, he officially retired. However, he still provides part-time accounting work for the Catholic Order of Nuns in Windsor.
Throughout his life, soccer remained a passion. Sal also played in Connecticut Soccer League with different teams, such as the Son’s of Italy, Giuseppe Garibaldi, and the New Haven Italians, to name a few. When he was over 50 years old, he played with the over 30 and 40 teams including the World Class Soccer FC, New Britain United, and the New Britain Stars.
Recently, Sal earned a spot in the Middletown Sports Hall of Fame as a 2018 inductee. Now a passionate soccer fan, he has attended the World Cup and enjoys working with his grandchildren and seeing them win championships as well.
Louise Howe Discovered Her Potential at MxCC
Louise Howe grew up in Clinton, Connecticut, and attended The Morgan School until her life path took a detour. At the age of 17, Louise suddenly found herself married with a baby, during what would have been her junior year in high school. Still determined to complete her high school education, Louise enrolled in a preparatory class and earned her GED in 1973, the same year her high school class graduated. While raising her daughter, Louise then worked for a major airline and part-time for a travel agency, among other jobs.
Until her second child was born, Louise took occasional classes at Middlesex Community College. She had now left her well-paying airline job and soon thereafter realized that her career path would be quite limited with only a high school equivalency diploma. Fast forward to her daughter’s high school graduation and preparation to leave for college at the University of Connecticut. Both mother and daughter waitressed that summer to help pay for tuition, and this was when Louise realized that she wanted a better career for her future.
Louise decided to enroll in additional degree prerequisite courses at MxCC. She had her curriculum checklist and started making progress toward an associate degree. During this time, she also discovered her true potential and love of learning. By receiving instruction in formal writing for the first time and discovering a new twist on U.S. history from Professor LeRoy Barnes, Louise began to understand how to organize research in a meaningful way.
“I have great respect for Middlesex. It had a huge impact on me,” said Louise. Her experience at the college helped her get over the stigma she had because of receiving a GED instead of a full high school diploma. But things started to come full circle as she maintained friendships with her former classmates. In fact, she even became the chairperson of her 40th high school class reunion!
Her first MxCC English professor, William Nagle, helped her to hone her writing craft with astute critiques and encouragement. James Childs, Louise’s professor for advanced writing, was a great influence on her as well. “I recall he asked us to flip over a penny and write about every minute detail we observed on the coin,” explained Louise. “Overall, this helped me learn to write in more detail, using rich descriptions. One assignment was to write a detailed physical description of a person, so I wrote about my mother.”
“I feel I received a high-quality education from dedicated faculty at Middlesex,” Louise reiterated. She earned her associate degree in business administration in 1992.
While Louise loved the diversity and mixed cultures she found at Middlesex, her confidence grew enough to transfer to a four-year college. Her accounting professor, Nancy Kelly, suggested she transfer to Quinnipiac University. Louise initially thought she couldn’t afford Quinnipiac, especially with her daughter still in college. However, because she graduated from Middlesex at the top of her class, she was awarded enough scholarship money to make it affordable.
At this point, Louise decided to try and earn her bachelor’s degree in two years, as opposed to the extended time it had taken her to earn her associate degree. So in 1994, she earned her bachelor’s degree in business studies and marketing—summa cum laude!
One of her undergraduate independent study projects involved surveying transfer students, so she connected with Quinnipiac’s admissions office for her research. After working as a financial aid counselor at Connecticut College for just over a year, Louise found herself back at Quinnipiac’s admissions office as an assistant director of graduate admissions and financial aid. This gave her the incentive to work toward an MBA from QU, which she earned in 2006, again with honors.
The following year, Louise was promoted to director of marketing communications for admissions at Quinnipiac, a position she still has today. “I love what I do!” she said.
Middlesex had given Louise the chance to prove her abilities and find the potential others had always told her she had. Once she found it, the rest is history.
Ryan Nicholson Makes a Dash for North Carolina
When Ryan Nicholson graduated from Xavier High School a few years ago, he first headed for the University of Connecticut to study biology. While there, he felt the bio route didn’t really work for him, so the Middletown native enrolled at Middlesex Community College to explore other educational options.
As a full-time MxCC student and while working full-time, Ryan took general studies classes and eventually landed in an art class with Professor Judith DeGraffenried. During this period, he discovered a genuine interest in graphic design. Little did he know it at the time, this became the point where his future career and his lifelong enthusiasm for baseball would intersect.
In his final semester at Middlesex, Ryan accepted a graphic design internship with the locally popular sports team, the New Britain Bees. The Bees organization is a member of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball (not affiliated with Major League Baseball) and hosts 72 home games during the season.
Meanwhile, despite some initial doubts from his family about studying art, Ryan went on to graduate from MxCC with an associate degree in graphic design and new media in 2017.
After completing his internship with the Bees, Ryan’s front office opportunity bee-lined into a full-time gig starting in May 2017. However by November that year, he was laid-off by the team.
But Ryan’s hopes were not completely dashed. Growing up a Boston Red Sox fan, baseball was always a passion for him, and next came his chance to break into the Major League affiliated minor league program. He decided to attend the MLB’s Baseball Winter Meetings in Orlando last December to seek better opportunities. This annual event is the perfect place to get face time with professional baseball management, especially for internships and entry-level roles.
Ryan soon found himself moving to North Carolina to begin a graphic design position with the Winston-Salem Dash, a Class A Advanced Minor League affiliate with the Chicago White Sox. As part of the Carolina League, the Class A Advanced teams play a longer season than Class A or Class A Short teams. (Opening day is April 12 at the BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem.)
While designing sales collateral and season ticket books for the Dash, Ryan reflected on the courses he took with MxCC instructors Pat Rasch and Rick Ericksen. Impressed with Instructor Rasch’s freelance work in book publishing, Ryan now appreciates the diligence of her Adobe InDesign class. He also admires the extensive experience Professor Ericksen brought to the new media classes, especially in the area of troubleshooting, something Ryan didn’t expect from a community college.
Ryan looks at the progression of his career this way, “If you’re not happy doing something you don’t want to do, you won’t magically become happy. I’d rather be doing something that makes me happy to begin with, and for now it’s baseball and design.”
International Human Rights Lawyer
Tanya Henderson, MxCC 1989-1991, is now an international human rights lawyer and the Public Policy Director for Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. At Middlesex, she served as President of the MxCC Student Senate and was instrumental in the creation of the Human Rights Park which stands at the entrance to Snow Hall. She went on to major in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts and earned her JD from Suffolk University Law School.
“I will always be grateful to Middlesex for giving me the ‘second chance’ I needed in my younger life,” said Tanya. “Those years in community college helped me to develop confidence as a learner; they were critical in my journey.”
See MinasList.org for more information.
MxCC Mother/Daughter Pathway
Mary Cavallo, MxCC 1998, and daughter Emma Palmieri, MxCC 2011, applaud Middlesex for providing the perfect pathway for achieving their Bachelor’s Degrees from Trinity College’s Individualized Degree Program in Hartford. Emma, who graduated from MxCC Phi Theta Kappa and was the first recipient of an MxCC Honors Society Scholarship, praises the solid background she received from Middlesex, particularly in history, with “thanks in particular to Professor Triay.”
“The amazing diversity I found in every class at Middlesex was a valuable and memorable part of my educational experience,” recalls Emma’s mother.
Mary, who graduated Cum Laude from Trinity in 2004, is now the CEO of ViBergman Real Estate, serving the tri-state area with offices in Manhattan, Greenwich, and Boston.
Daughter Emma plans to complete her Bachelor’s Degree at Trinity in Educational Studies in 2015. Both alumnae live in Middlefield, Connecticut.
Formerly of Middletown, now living in Indiana, Jeff Turco, who studied at MxCC from 1989-1991, is Assistant Professor at Purdue University (German, Comparative Literature, and Medieval Studies), He first found his love of learning at Middlesex. After earning his B.A. from Connecticut College, he received his PhD from Cornell University, 2009. Jeff is the recipient of two Fulbright Fellowships to Germany and Iceland.
“I’ve often looked in vain for teachers as good as the ones I had at MxCC: Tom Melbert (Shakespeare), Bill Nagle, and the late Dick Srb. I became a German professor because of Tom Melbert’s class on Goethe’s Faust which still sets the standard I try to live up to as a teacher. MxCC is the academic affiliation of which I am most proud.”
Janet Suquilanda ‘13
When I moved to CT in 2003 from NYC and left my job of 15 years I was unable to land a full-time job here in CT as an Administrative Assistant. Most jobs available were only on a part-time basis. That’s when I decided to change my career and after having my third son.
Once he was in preschool I started to volunteer, then I was hired to substitute while attending college. My new career was Early Childhood Education. While I went to school I landed a job in the computer lab on campus, where I was given the opportunity to study and complete my assignments while working and helping out other students.
I had the pleasure of meeting wonderful staff who helped me achieve my goals, especially Landi Hou, who was the staff assistant in the computer lab. Dr. Ijey was also a wonderful coordinator to the program and teacher. I would not have done it without any of these wonderful people.
I graduated in 2013 and now I am a teacher assistant for Community Renewal Team doing exactly what I wanted to do. Believe it or not, when I was a child I always pretended to be a teacher and I achieved that dream. And now my son is attending MxCC. Thanks, MxCC, for this opportunity, especially at my age.
Teacher of the Year
Greg Marrone, MxCC Class of 2002 and resident of Wallingford, Connecticut, was chosen Teacher of the Year 2013-2014 by Connecticut Regional School District 13. Greg earned his B.S. and M.A. from CCSU in Sports Performance and has taught Physical Education and Health at Memorial Middle School in Middlefield, for the past nine years.
“The caring faculty and staff at Middlesex were an exceptional part of my experience there. Ever accessible, they were always willing to go that extra mile for their students.”
Music School Owner
Frank Natter, who studied at MxCC in 2003-2004, owns and operates a music school in Deep River, Face Arts Music. He is an Alfred Publishing Author of several works on music, including The Total Acoustic Guitarist. Frank is also Enrichment Teacher for the Middletown Adult Education Program.
“I began my endeavors as an author and teacher before completing my degree in Music Theory at CCSU (2009). This was most certainly due to the education and encouragement I received at MxCC, which gave me the confidence to take on these challenges soon after finishing my experiences there.”
Frank thanks many professors for helping him reach his goals at MxCC including Professor Bynum, Professor Triay, and Professor Burstein.
Dmitri D’Alessandro, MxCC Class of 2000, says he’s been leveraging everything he learned at MxCC to run his business at Middletown Framing. “As a small business owner, had I not received that toolbox of skills in my Multimedia studies, I would have had to spend thousands of dollars to learn what I needed to know—from the creative to the traditional, it was all there.”
Middletown Framing is located at 502 Main Street, Middletown.
After struggling through a few years of college 20 years ago, it never occurred to me that I could go back and actually finish what I started. A friend helped me take those first steps, and my MxCC advisors took it from there. They gave me the guidance and confidence to tackle the hardest part–getting started! The rest is history! The experience has taught me how to succeed in every aspect of my life. Best thing I ever did and I reap the rewards every day.
Archeologist & Professor
Nicholas Bellantoni, MxCC ’73
Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni is an emeritus Connecticut State Archeologist and an associate adjunct professor in the University of Connecticut Department of Anthropology.
“MxCC was extremely important to my development, because I did very poorly in high school. I spent four years in the U.S. Navy (1968-1971) and used the G.I. Bill to go to school. MxCC accepted me as a returning veteran after I successfully completed their required probation courses. I took my first anthropology course at the community college and ended up making it my career!”
Graduating from Middlesex in 1973, Dr. Bellantoni attended Central Connecticut State College, where he earned a BA in anthropology and MA in biology. He received his PhD from UConn in 1987. In 2018, he published a book, The Long Journeys Home: The Repatriations of Henry ’Ōpūkaha’ia and Albert Afraid of Hawk. Dr. Bellantoni oversaw the archaeological disinterment and forensic identifications in returning these men to their respective Native families. The book chronicles these significant stories as examples of the wide-reaching impact of colonialism and the resurgence of Hawaiian and Lakota cultures.
He has served as an advisor for the Commission on Culture and Tourism, the State Historic Preservation Council, and has been a former president of the National Association of State Archaeologists. Dr. Bellantoni was featured in several television and radio shows on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel, as well as the BBC and PBS networks.
Master of the Web
Tom Barton, MxCC ’93
Tom Barton earned his A.A. in Accounting and B.S. in Finance, graduating Summa Cum Laude from Quinnipiac College, Hamden, Connecticut, in 1995. He is founder and CEO of Web Solutions, Inc., a digital marketing firm with over 20 employees located in Meriden and serving clients throughout the U.S.
“At the starting point of my college career, MxCC gave me the foundation I needed. Thanks to dedicated faculty members such as Professor Nancy Kelly of the Business Department, my experience at MxCC fostered my passion for learning.”
Michael Moller-Marino, a 1977 graduate, is no stranger to Middlesex Community College 40 years later.
Having grown up in Middletown, Michael was intrigued by the school’s new campus. He chose to study environmental sciences and characterized his experience at MxCC this way, “While it was a small program, the students were actively engaged, and it was a delight to be a part of a science department with such a great group of students and faculty.” During that time, he also formed a relationship with professor and future dean John Coggins, and they have been close friends ever since.
In 1975, Michael’s father, Anthony Marino, who was a former city councilman, became mayor of Middletown. Carrying on this public service spirit as a student, Michael became involved with several MxCC student organizations and was the vice president of the student senate.
While Michael was at MxCC, Middletown officials were promoting a recycling program along with the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority, which was created by the state’s General Assembly in 1973. Michael was instrumental in establishing a program using recycling bins at the Middlesex Community College before the state’s deposit/return program was officially enacted.
In 1977, while he was still a student at MxCC, Michael was among 2,000 demonstrators at the Seabrook Station in New Hampshire to protest the nuclear power plant being built there. He was even arrested, along with hundreds of others, refusing bail and taking 10 days to be released. After more protests and other delays, the plant eventually went online in 1992, but with only one reactor instead of two.
Following his graduation from MxCC, Michael moved to Vermont, but completed his bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1994. He worked in construction and in other flexible jobs before finding himself in the insurance industry for several years.
Through Michael’s association with the Rockfall Foundation, a local organization that promotes environmental education, Michael was introduced to current MxCC environmental sciences professor and program coordinator Christine Witkowski. He returned to the Middletown campus to speak to her students and help this year’s class with the annual energy/waste audit.
A competitive runner during his high school and college years, Michael is also a frequent participant in MxCC’s annual 5k road race. Now semi-retired, he uses the event to get back into his running form.
MxCC Alum Ken Wiseman Believes in Your Success
Whether he is leading a large consumer product fulfillment company, volunteering with a local sheriff’s foundation, or competing in an Ironman championship, former MxCC student Ken Wiseman is a believer in lifelong learning and giving back.
Eighteen years ago, the Portland, CT, native transplanted his business success to the Santa Clarita Valley in California, promising mom and dad Eunice and Dick Wiseman that he would be back in a few years. Once he and his family got to California, however, his business success and involvement in the community caused him to firmly plant some California roots. As the current CEO/managing partner of AMS Fulfillment, Inc., a full-service order fulfillment company, Ken oversees multiple distribution centers with more than 350 employees within 750,000-square-feet of warehouse space. The company’s working philosophy centers on approaching each client’s business needs as their own, because then everyone succeeds.
Ken and his company recently took this vision to heart through a groundbreaking collaboration with the College of the Canyons (COC), a community college in Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County. While he could attribute his business achievements to his MBA, he also believes that his early MxCC classes and bachelor’s degree in teaching created the foundation for a strong belief in the importance of a community college learning experience.
In 2016, his company and COC launched an innovative warehousing and shipping apprenticeship program for individuals to earn while they learn. The first of its kind in California, the program includes a learning center and classroom space at AMS and focuses on targeted efforts to recruit and employ underserved individuals.
At a recent education conference held at the AMS warehouse facility, Ken told educators from around the state, “What people need to know is that someone believes in them. We do, and hopefully this program will help our apprentices believe in themselves.” The conference was designed for attendees to discuss how community colleges and companies can partner with customized training.
An active volunteer in a number of Santa Clarita Valley community organizations, Ken is president of the SCV Sheriff’s Foundation, an active member of the Sheriff Search and Rescue team, chairman of the Mayor’s Committee for the Employment of Individuals with Disabilities, and a board member of the SCV Economic Development Corporation, among many others.
But Ken’s passion doesn’t end there. He has previously set world records in the Double Ironman (three times between 1985–91) and the Triple Ironman (1989) triathlon competitions. A Double Ironman is twice the Hawaiian Ironman, and the Triple is three times. Therefore the distance of the triple Ironman was a 7.2-mile swim, 335-mile bike and then a 76.2-mile run. Ken’s record was 39 hours and 43 minutes.
When asked what advice Ken would give to students, he explained, “Don’t allow yourself to be in a silo. Look for opportunities to try new things. In your job, try to find ways to experience other departments or other functional areas of the business. In your free time, try new things. Success in life is the balance you achieve between all that you do. MxCC filled a gap in my life as I was transitioning between Xavier High School and pursuing a teaching career. I took several courses in sociology and psychology, and it made me feel like I had a head start when I began my teaching career. Of course as life would have it, I ended up in business and getting my MBA at the University of Hartford. Never be afraid to let life show you new paths.”
Ken and his wife, Betty-Lou, have two sons, Justin and Eric, and three grandchildren.
From Middlesex to the State Legislature: Representative Joseph C. Serra
As a longtime public servant and lifelong Middletown resident, State Representative Joseph C. Serra has positively impacted the lives of many local citizens. But did you know he also was instrumental in the early history of Middlesex Community College?
In the late 1960s, Joe was working for the Department of Public Works in the City of Middletown when he enrolled at Middlesex Community College. The College was in its infancy and holding classes at Wilson High School on Hunting Hill Road. Since Middlesex was nearby, Joe found the convenience of attending classes in the evenings after work to be the best solution for him. He didn’t have to commute 30 miles or more to take college courses.
During his time at MxCC, the College moved to another temporary location at the Connecticut Valley Hospital and plans were soon underway to find a permanent campus within the city. Since Joe worked in public works, he was familiar with the sites in Middletown and collaborated with former Dean Bradley Biggs to find suitable land to build the new campus. Joe said former Middlesex President Philip Wheaton had considered two properties, not far from each other, before settling on what is now the current location on Training Hill Road.
The land negotiations occurred before Joe completed his degree at Middlesex in 1970, though construction of the campus buildings began a few years later. Joe then went on to earn a bachelor of science in public administration from the University of Hartford in 1975. In those days, transferring to four-year school was not as seamless as it is today, but Hartford was the only school offering the public administration program he wanted.
While Joe was attending classes at the University of Hartford, he also took a graduate economics course because the public administration program curriculum was not yet finalized. In a 2011 radio interview with former MxCC Interim President Jonathan Daube, Joe recalled a time when he was the only person in that class to answer a question correctly, and attributed his preparation to former MxCC professor John Makrogianis.
In 1979, Joe was appointed the deputy director of public works for the city and held that position until he retired in 1996. By 1992, he was elected to represent the 33rd District in the General Assembly, located within Middletown, and has been serving in that role ever since.
Joe is currently co-chair of the legislature’s Aging Committee and also serves on the Judiciary and Transportation committees.
“Middlesex provided me with the convenient opportunity to go to classes in the evenings after work. This would not have been possible if the College was not right here in Middletown,” said Joe. “I know graduates have gone on to Wesleyan, UConn and NYU. Middlesex is an excellent school.”
Quatina Frazer sings the praises of MxCC
Quatina “Tina” Frazer had a great role model while growing up—her mother, Sharon Locklear. As a middle school-aged child, Tina remembers being in the classroom with her. That classroom was at Middlesex Community College.
Flash-forward to 2005, Tina is once again at Middlesex, this time as a business student. While she thought it was cool to be in a college classroom as a child, it also inspired her to return years later, following in her mother’s footsteps.
But she had some challenges before that. Tina went to Middletown High School, and in 1999, before she was able to graduate, she became a parent of two boys. This did not deter her will, because in 2000, she earned her adult high school diploma from Middletown’s Adult Education program, graduating along with her maternal grandmother.
While she was working at Subway training managers, she thought, “Why can’t I be a manager?” So in 2005, she enrolled at MxCC, studying medical transcription just like her mother.
That program was later phased out, so Tina began working toward an associate degree in business administration. She excelled enough to receive scholarships, earn a spot in the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and was part of Connecticut’s All-Academic Team that was recognized at the state capitol in Hartford.
Tina graduated from MxCC in 2008 and easily transferred to Central Connecticut State University. However, now the mother of four boys and on the verge of a divorce, Tina discovered traveling to New Britain became harder to manage, so she continued her studies at Charter Oak College. She earned a BS, with honors, concentrating in business administration in 2011. Her mother also completed her bachelor’s in general studies from Charter Oak a few years earlier.
What motivated Tina as she collected her educational achievements? “My kids,” she stated without hesitation. “They are the reason to get out of bed each day. They are ‘my reason’ why I do what I do. I want to be a good role model for them, just like my mother was for me.”
Tina praises MxCC for giving her the tools and knowledge to advance in the workforce. In addition to her degree, she earned valuable experience as a work-study student in MxCC’s enrollment office. In 2009, Tina returned there as a part-time educational assistant. She appreciates the good advice of her former MxCC supervisor, Mensimah Shabazz, who counseled her while at Middlesex, and fondly remembers business professors Patricia Raymond and Ben Boutaugh. Tina also recognizes her audio production instructor at MxCC, John Bergeron.
What else does Tina sing about? Well, she really does sing at her church, and has written music, hoping to record in the near future. Plus, like her grandfather, The Rev. Howard Locklear Sr. who is also a MxCC graduate, Tina is a reverend, ordained in 2013, and can officiate at weddings and funerals.
Tina and fellow MxCC student Alan Marshall are also involved with N.U. Generation (Noble and Unique), an organization that equips teens and young adults into leaders using God’s principles. They participate in community projects with the organization such as B.O.O.T. Camp, partnering with Shiloh Christian Church in Middletown and N.U. Generation’s Leadership Academy.
Currently, Tina is employed as a full-time administrative assistant in the Graduate Liberal Studies Program (GLSP) office at Wesleyan University. Soon she can sing even louder, as she is halfway through earning another achievement, a master of arts in liberal studies from Wesleyan.
Meanwhile, the Frazer path at MxCC continues today, as Tina’s oldest son Isac just began his first semester at Middlesex this month, studying computer information technology. He has helped his mom with her songs and hopes to someday become a music producer.
Tina’s three younger sons, Andre Jr., Mackenzie and Elijah, also stepped into an MxCC classroom last month, earning certificates from Professor Donna Hylton’s summer camp for area youth, where they learned how to code game apps.
When asked what she would tell others going through similar life challenges, she said, “Don’t focus on the time, focus on your ‘reasons’ and on the end result.”
Yvonne Page Illustrates Her Dream
Since she was three years old, Yvonne Page always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. Her dream after graduating Middletown High School was to attend Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
However, fate had different plans for her. The day Yvonne graduated from high school was the same day her first son, Jacquai, was born. While this temporarily changed her initial college hopes, she gladly found nearby Middlesex Community College. Not only did she enroll as a student at MxCC, she has been a full-time employee there since 2010.
But first, Yvonne worked at a day care center and in retail before deciding she needed to go back to school to advance her career. She began classes in fine arts and graphic design at MxCC in 2002, and she enrolled her son in the preschool that was there at the time. Yvonne was also a student worker in the grants and marketing offices prior to graduating with an associate degree in 2005. Her freelance and part-time work with the College helped her land the full-time role of webmaster and graphics specialist.
Yvonne illustrated for several magazines and greeting card companies over the years. Now married with three boys, she shares comics about her life as well as the struggles and joys of being a mom with a large following on social media.
Never forgetting her childhood dream, Yvonne committed herself to completing the book she started 12 years ago, and in 2017 began her foray into writing and illustrating children’s books.
Drawn by hand using pen and ink, Yvonne scanned black and white illustrations for the book into Adobe Photoshop and layered them with scanned watercolor backgrounds. While the final drawings are enhanced and refined digitally, they authentically tell the story of a girl named Victoria and her pet cat. Entitled, “Stinky Poo,” the 40-page picture book also includes an activity section in the back for children to color and play games based on the story.
Yvonne credits Professor of Fine and Graphic Arts Judith de Graffenried for helping her with the first mock book she designed as a Middlesex student. She patiently learned about perspective drawing and watercolor from now retired teacher Lucinda Patrick. Yvonne is also grateful for the support from current faculty members Matt Weber and Rick Eriksen.
These days, you can find Yvonne in a quiet space upstairs in Founders Hall, producing projects ranging from the MxCC website to brochures and advertisements. She appreciates her time as a former MxCC student. “Financial aid, flexible hours, and the work-study program made everything easier for me when I was a single mother—as well as the support from my parents,” Yvonne said.
She hopes Jacquai, now 16, can also seek out his creative writing dream, possibly also at Middlesex.
To find the book online, visit yvonnepage.com.
Faith Jackson, MxCC ‘99
Director of the Human Relations Office for the City of Middletown since 1997, Faith Jackson is responsible for planning, organizing, and administering multi-dimensional programs to ensure diversity and inclusion in the use of City programs and services. She is past president of both the Middlesex County NAACP and the Middlesex United Way and currently serves as Corporator for Liberty Bank, Middlesex Hospital, and the Middlesex Community College Foundation.
“MxCC provides a positive means for anyone wanting to further his or her education. I highly recommend it. It does not matter how slowly you go—as long as you do not stop.”
Dale Griffith MxCC ‘89
Dale Griffith attended Middlesex in the 70’s and 80’s while raising her children through difficult marriages, graduating with honors finally in l989. Earning her BA at Wesleyan (l992) on scholarship, Dale was then hired by the York Correctional Institution to give writing workshops with author Wally Lamb to female inmates. She earned an MA from Wesleyan in 2005, became an adjunct instructor at MxCC, then full-time member of the English Department in 2007, and is now a full professor.
“Middlesex changed my life. When I enrolled for the second time, my personal life was in shambles. My self-esteem was low. While Wesleyan later polished the rough edges, it was MxCC and its wonderful teachers who helped me to find some treasure in the rubble of my life.”
Izzi Greenberg MxCC ’03
Izzi Greenberg graduated from MxCC in 2003 and earned her BS in Government at Wesleyan in 2005. She served on Middletown’s North End Action Tem (NEAT) for 12 years and as its Executive Director for the past eight. Izzi now leads the Middlesex Coalition for Children as its Executive Director.
“My experience as a student at the Community College was very positive. I have created lasting relationships with several of my wonderful Middlesex teachers.”
Civilian Dispatcher Trainer
David Boyce, MxCC ‘99
Graduating from Middlesex with an Associates Degree in Broadcast Communications, David Boyce then went immediately to work for the City of Middletown as a 911 Dispatcher. A lifelong resident of Middletown, David is the Civilian Dispatcher Trainer in the City’s Central Communications Center where he conducts quality assurance on police, fire, EMS, and 911 calls and provides preliminary and continuing training for new and current dispatchers. David is also an EMT, Justice of the Peace, and a Notary Public. He is Chairman of the City of Middletown’s Human Relations Commission.
“At Middlesex I enjoyed serving as Vice President of the Student Senate and appreciated the dedication given by so many of the professors there.”
Noah Golden MxCC ’10
Noah Golden, a life-long resident of Guilford, Connecticut, earned his Associate’s Degree in Broadcast Communications from MxCC in 2010 and, in 2013, received his Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Quinnipiac University. He is a video producer for the Yale School of Medicine where he has produced over 30 videos. On the side, Noah is also an actor/singer/drummer both onstage and behind the scene with multiple local productions including Long Wharf Theatre, Vista Arts Center, and Swing Bridge Arts Alliance.
“Middlesex provided a nurturing environment throughout my work in the BC Studio with Rich Lenoce, Pete Galgano, and Patience Hettrick; in acting class with Dic Wheeler; and on the Flying Horse Newspaper under the guidance of Terry McNulty and Dale Griffith.”
Emily Ward Shovelin MxCC ’11
Formerly of Middletown and now residing in Glastonbury, Emily was a Human Services major at MxCC, receiving her B.A in Psychology in 2013 from Simmons College, Boston. Continuing her education, she earned a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Southern Connecticut State University in 2015. Emily now works as an In-Home Family Therapist for the North American Family Institute in Rockville, Connecticut.
During her years at Middlesex, Emily rose to the position of Managing Editor of “The Flying Horse” student newspaper and thanks Professors Dale Griffith and Terry McNulty for taking her under their wings. “Professors and staff members at MxCC became like a family—they genuinely care about their students and thrive on their successes.”
Middletown Arts Advocate
Richard Kamins MxCC ‘68
Member of the first graduating class of MxCC, Richard was a wine and liquor retailer (1971 to 2005) and now teaches as an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University while also serving the community as a Middletown Arts Advocate. Following MxCC, he received a B.A. in English from University of Connecticut in 1974 and an M.A. in Liberal Sciences/Arts from Wesleyan University in 1993.
At Middlesex, Richard remembers meeting and learning from many fine educators and taking part in the College’s first dramatic production, Arsenic and Old Lace.
Health Store Manager
Steven Kovach MxCC ‘11
Steven Kovach discovered his interest in history at Middlesex. He credits he community college as “a fantastic transition period for me between high school and the university where I was able to develop academically.” Following MxCC, Steven earned a B.A. in History from Wesleyan University in 2013. Now a manager at It’s Only Natural, he also serves on the Middletown Zoning Board of Appeals.
Producer for Connecticut Network
Bill Flood, MxCC ’89
Portland resident, Bill Flood received his associate degree from MxCC in Broadcast Communications in 1989 and now produces for Connecticut’s public access network, “the CSPAN of the Constitution State,” with events designed to encourage civic engagement.
“At MxCC, I enjoyed the small class size, the diversity of ages and experiences among my fellow students, and the teachers. When I took John Shafer’s Media Aesthetic course, something clicked. I started hanging out in the studio, where we got to play with all sorts of toys—tools, I should say. The same tools the professionals were using in live broadcasting at the time. That’s important. MxCC was a part of the real world. We were constantly encouraged through internships and other ways to work on real projects. People on the staff and fellow students had work and world experience they were living every day. MxCC connected me with WTNH where I got a job as a broadcast journalist. And I was off!”
Grace Cotnoir MxCC ‘10
Meriden resident Grace Cotnoir graduated from MxCC in 2010 and earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of New Haven in 2013. She is an Engineer with Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, where she currently supports a helicopter development project ass a member of System Requirements Development Group.
“One of my favorite memories of MxCC was math class with Professor Steve Krevisky. Additionally, I enjoyed my time as a Peer Tutor in the College Learning Center. Middlesex benefited me by giving me the chance to explore and decide what direction I wanted to go in for my Bachelor’s degree.”
“Young Optometrist of the Year”
Aarlan Aceto MxCC ‘95
Following his the completion of his Opthalmic Design and Dispensing Program at MxCC, Aarlan graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2003 from the University of Connecticut. He earned his Doctor of Optometry Degree in 2009 from the New England College of Optometry in Boston, Massachusetts. He is now Assistant Professor at Midwestern University, in Downers Grove, Illinois where he is Director of Externships while both teaching and practicing optometry at the University Eye Institute. He was named “Young Optometrist of the Year” by the Connecticut Association of Optometrists.
“Without question, the most positive experience of my time at Middlesex was the program instruction, particularly Professors Ray Dennis and Skip Rivard. There is more to any one program than simply attending class and passing tests. To really excel in a career, one must truly become involved and engaged. That spirit and passion was evident in the faculty of the O.D.D. Program, and they have served as role models for me in my journey to where I am today. The community college, the O.D.D. Program, and the profession of Opticianry are better because of Ray Dennis and Skip Rivard.”
Executive Vice President
Tim Ryan MxCC ‘78
“As one of 8 children, I took advantage of what MxCC offered: a sound, affordable education. I recommend the community college to everyone.”
After earning his Associate’s Degree in Marketing from Middlesex, lifelong Wallingford resident Tim Ryan transferred to Quinnipiac University where he became a Magna Cum Laude graduate in Marketing in 1989.
During his 36 years with the Record Journal, Tim Ryan worked his way up from an entry level position to become the Executive Vice President of the corporation. He served on the Board of Directors, had oversight of the company’s out-of-state holdings in Rhode Island, and was President and Publisher of Sun Publishing Company. He also served as CEO of VS Publishing in Orlando, Florida. After retiring from publishing, Tim was offered the position of Economic Development Specialist for the Town of Wallingford.
Bartender / Marketing Assistant
Phyllis Gasperini MxCC ‘08
Old Lyme resident Phyllis Gasperini balances her day job with her night job. Formerly a marketing assistant with the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, now working with local consulting and design company, Spa Solutions, she tends bar at Chips Pub III in Clinton during the evening.
“The flexible schedule at Middlesex allowed me to continue working in hospitality at night while taking classes during the day. I found everything I needed at MxCC to begin building my bridge to a second career.”
Alina Gonzalez MxCC ‘98
“I struggled in high school in Meriden. Things didn’t start clicking for me until it was too late. I decided I needed to start anew. When I started Middlesex, it was like a breath of fresh air. I was able to receive extra support to help me in my writing. Teachers were available to talk and I met students who were also excited to learn. We met to help each other with our homework. When I admitted that I had not really thought about what I wanted to become in the future, a tutor suggested I take a personality test. Three of the top five results had something to do with teaching and I eventually realized that teaching was a passion of mine!”
Following Middlesex, Alina transferred to the University of Hartford where she earned a degree in Secondary Education in 2001. Now a resident of Branford, Alina teaches at Jared Eliot Middle School in Clinton.
Elementary School Teacher
Lisa Harlow MxCC ‘99
Lisa, a lifelong resident of Higganum, earned her Associate’s Degree from Middlesex in 1999 and, two years later, received her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Saint Joseph University in West Hartford.
“My coursework at MxCC laid the groundwork for a very successful college experience, which continues today as I work towards my 6th year degree. At the community college, I enjoyed serving as co-president of Phi Theta Kappa which provided an opportunity to foster my leadership skills.”
Willis J. McCaw, MxCC 2000
Reverend Willis McCaw, a lifelong resident of Middletown says, “I am truly grateful for my years at Middlesex Community College and the connections I have made with students, professors and staff. The College served as a defining moment for me—it helped make me a lifelong learner.” Rev. McCaw earned his AA from MxCC in 2000, his BA in history from Central Connecticut State University (magna cum laude) in 2003, and he earned his MDiv from Yale Divinity School in 2008. He served 10 years at the Faith Center Church in Meriden, was chaplain of the Gospel Church of Trinity College in Hartford, and is a teaching fellow for pastoral care at Yale Divinity School. Now as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Middletown, Rev. McCaw also serves as a chaplain for the Connecticut Department of Correction and is currently pursuing his Doctor of Ministry degree at Hartford Seminary.
New School – New Start
Tol Butler MxCC ’69
I was one of Middlesex Community College’s very first students. I enrolled in the General Education Associates Degree program in 1966 and graduated in 1969. Prior to attending MxCC, I really felt I was adrift, with no goal or plan for what to do next in life. After I graduated from Cromwell High School, I spent the summer trying to envision what my future could hold, but I just couldn’t find a path. That September, when MxCC (then known as MCC) opened its doors, I saw an opportunity and took the first steps towards a better future. I honestly feel that the education I received at MxCC was the foundation for my career as a business owner and upper management in the commercial construction industry. For more than 45 years, I worked in construction, building a successful career that supported my family and that was a positive part of our local economy. As I think back on that summer after high school, I realize MxCC was just starting out too – and I’m glad that I was part of something special.
Alene Harrison ’12 Finds a Legacy in Human Services
Working at the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction and then at River Valley Services in Middletown, where she was living, gave her the chance to directly help people in need. She wanted to make this her life-long work, but that meant building her academic credentials. Fortunately, Middlesex Community College was right next door.
Alene enrolled in MxCC’s highly regarded Human Services program, and once she started taking classes, she appreciated the smaller size of the College, making it easier to connect with her classmates and professors. Alene was drawn to the ways Judith Felton, coordinator of the program, would push students to work harder and get out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves. The connection deepened when Alene learned that Judith had, ironically, worked with and admired Alene’s grandmother early in her own career.
Alene’s passion for social work does indeed come from her grandmother (also named Alene). She often watched how her grandmother made a difference in other people’s lives.
Now, Alene was motivated to show these two influential women that she would succeed in their shared profession. And as an older student, Alene felt she was more tuned in to how college was important to a great career. She dedicated herself to learning and working, scheduling her classes and meetings around her full-time job. Individualized feedback from professors helped her improve as a student—a great relief to Alene after realizing age was not a factor in her success.
“It is never too late to go back to school, no matter what age,” she said with a smile.
In 2012, Alene received her hard-earned associate’s degree in Human Services from MxCC. She then graduated magna cum laude from the University of Bridgeport with a BS in Human Services.
“My grandmother often said since each person is different—a good social worker needs to work with each person differently,” Alene said. “After working in this field for many years, I now know what she means, and I keep her words close to my heart. I feel MxCC follows that same philosophy—working with each person differently and treating each person as unique individuals.”
Laura Krueger '89
MxCC Alum and Parent
Laura Krueger earned her associate degree in Broadcast Communications from Middlesex Community College in 1989 and is currently the director of public relations and marketing for The Salvation Army, Southern New England Division.
“It is that unique experience, learned at MxCC, that has made me marketable to one of the largest charitable organizations around—and I owe it all to my wonderful college experience,” said Laura, who is originally from Middletown and lives in Meriden.
Laura’s superb experience at MxCC also made Middlesex her family’s top pick when choosing a college for her son Kevin. “I knew he would enjoy taking classes there, especially in the digital media production program,” Laura said. “There’s a supportive feeling of community, and the faculty is top notch!” Kevin just finished his first year at MxCC and plans on graduating with his associate degree in 2018.
“I am continuously surprised at the ways in which MxCC has given me the tools needed to span the course of multiple careers, “ Laura explained, reflecting on her time at the College. “As a dance studio owner for 21 years, the broadcast training helped me put together the technical side of dance recitals. Everything from sound, lighting, video and rigging, to directing, technical cues and show production. I had all of these things in mind during the course of the year as I choreographed routines.”
“This enabled me to produce events and marketing at Westfield Shoppingtown in Meriden. As performing groups came in, I could speak the lingo of the equipment needed, and if the sound system needed phono jacks or 3-pin XLRs. I was able to work with radio and television stations for commercial advertising, news pieces, telethons and radio-thons,” she added.
As a production manager for cable, Laura knew the ins and outs of putting together television commercials and programs—even creating and teaching a television production course for public access users, using one of her favorite books at MxCC. Having learned all the positions of broadcast news, she could easily jump from floor director, to camera operator, to teleprompter while working at FOX 61.
One of the things Laura enjoyed most at MxCC was her time as the president/station manager and disc jockey at the College’s radio station. She continued doing this for Silver City Sound and Video for oldies cruises, weddings, car shows and events, and was a videographer for these and corporate productions as well. Having worked with the media, she was asked to manage national advertising and media for Cecchetti USA, a classical ballet organization.
Along with her MxCC degree, this extensive background has prepared Laura for her work with The Salvation Army. She has a connection to television and radio technicians, reporters and anchors. She knows what they need on their end to make their news pieces come together because she’s been there.
Laura also is an active member of the MxCC Alumni Network and is interested in supporting the MxCC Foundation’s efforts in strengthening the College’s presence in the community and beyond.
Laurie Lynne Zlotowski, MxCC ’96
Meriden native Laurie Lynne Zlotowski always had a flair for the creative and entrepreneurial sides of life. Using the fruits of her 1996 MxCC associate degree, which included both design and business classes, Laurie Lynne has taken the customized parties she has been arranging since the age of 18 and turned them into a dynamic business. She recently opened Creative Girl Studios at a charming location on Main Street in Middletown. Children and adults will find excitement and networking opportunities by participating in the Creative Girl experience, either by joining a scheduled workshop or calling Laurie Lynne to design your own. Learn more about this MxCC alumna’s passion for helping you create the perfect experience at www.creativegirlstudios.com.
Expressing Confidence Through Movement
When a very young Kerry Kincy roamed the halls of Middlesex Community College in the early 1980s, little did she know the experience would later give her the confidence to move forward with her life and career.
Growing up in the neighborhood where MxCC now stands, she remembers building forts and walking the trails behind the campus. In those halls, she and her sister took advantage of free movies there on Wednesday nights. And because this familiarity grew into a sense of comfort with the school, it also gave her the confidence to enroll as a student in the general studies program after high school.
This newfound motivation fueled Kerry’s love of learning. While at MxCC, she signed up for a “portfolio development track,” where she was able to earn credit for both work and life experience. In particular, her instructor, L.E. Tronco, gave her the encouragement she needed to bring value to her life. She also praised her statistics professor, Stephen Krevisky, as “amazing.”
After graduating from MxCC in 2002, and while working part-time at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Kerry fell in love with the arts. This inspired her to enroll in Trinity College in Hartford. As an adult learner, she was hired to work in admissions which was an experience she found to be less intimidating and gradually gave her even more confidence. She wandered aimlessly at first, exploring many different classes, but then designed her own major in learning, movement and social development. Through this unique program, she discovered how dance and movement could connect a love of learning with the arts.
She later rounded out her education with a master’s in community psychology from the University of New Haven, as well as completing a certificate program in expressive and creative art therapies from Salve Regina University.
Along the way, Kerry had the privilege to work with troubled young women at the Children’s Home of Cromwell as part of her thesis. Her specialized class allowed them to find trust and respect by performing their stories through movement, giving a voice to express struggle by connecting mind and body. She provided similar counseling at schools, senior centers and even prisons. This therapeutic program became known as Telling Voices.
Today, Kerry works as an expressive arts therapist, providing children and adults in underserved areas of the community with the opportunity to explore creative expression. She is a core faculty member with the Shared Abilities Dance Ensemble, where dancers with and without physical disabilities work in partnership to create performances.
Visit https://www.tellingvoices.net/ to find out more about Telling Voices.
Aleta Gudelski MxCC ’86 Landscape Artist
Adjunct Fine Arts Instructor at MxCC since 1986 and former Department Chair of Fine Arts at East Catholic High School in Manchester (1992-2001), Aleta Gudulski received her “best design and theory instruction at MxCC…The hands-on approach of my fine art instructors helped me to gain confidence in the skills I already had, and the experience challenged me to grow beyond my comfort zone. The personal attention and professional expertise at Middlesex provided an excellent foundation for my own teaching at every level.”
Aleta earned an Associates Degree at Middlesex in 1986, a B.A. in Art and Education from Southern Connecticut State University in l981, and an M.A. in Arts and Liberal Studies from Wesleyan in l991. She resides in Durham.
Middlesex Hospital Director/Officer
Audrey Livingston MxCC ‘93 Middlesex Hospital Director/
“My daughter was instrumental in encouraging me to attend MxCC. As a single parent of two, my choices were limited, and the community college provided the perfect opportunity for
Following graduation from Middlesex, Audrey continued her education in the New Dimensions Program at Albertus Magnus, earning her Bachelors Degree in 2000. She has been employed by Middlesex Hospital for 36 years, as the Director of Volunteer Services for 13, and now as the Middlesex Loaned Executive to the United
“It’s never too late to pursue a goal or fulfill a dream. Thank you for being there, MxCC!”
Dental Office Manager
Faith Fraulino MxCC ’83 Dental Office Manager
“My Associates Degree from Middlesex (1983), allowed me to move into a position as Assistant to the Marketing Director at Liberty Band, then to Aetna as an underwriter, and ultimately, for nearly thirty years, to the Middletown dental practice of Dr. Michele Salonia where I am Office Manager.
“MxCC also allowed me the flexibility of working while I earned my degree. The professors were sympathetic to the fact that students came from various circumstances and extended themselves to help us achieve a higher education.
“I know that Middlesex offers its students today the same individualized attention, flexibility, and commitment that I fondly remember because our son just graduated (2016). He had the same wonderful community college experience that I had 33 years ago.”
Jule Crawford MxCC ’79 Connecticut
Jule Crawford has been a practicing family lawyer in Middletown for over 30 years. She has served on the Board of Directors of the MxCC Foundation since 2011, was awarded the Distinguished Service Award (2016), and became Chairwoman of the Board in
Upon graduation from MxCC in 1979, Jule received the prestigious Pritchett-Taylor Award (highest GPA) and became an Etherington Scholar at Wesleyan University, where she graduated with honors (English/Political Science) in 1981. She earned her Law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law, graduating with honors in
“Middlesex gave me the flexibility (I was raising 3 children when I attended), encouragement, and, most important of all, the enthusiastic support I needed to relaunch my education after having been away from school for seven years. Thank you, MxCC.”
Principal / Lead Designer
Lisa Davenport MxCC ’88 Principal / Lead Designer
With an Associates Degree from Middlesex in Commercial Design and continuing study in Interior Design at Paier College of Art, Lisa went on to become Principal and Lead Designer of Lisa Davenport Designs, with offices located in Durham, Connecticut and Bonita Springs, Florida.
“Middlesex offered an excellent option for my education when I didn’t have a solid direction to go. The Community College Art Department provided me with a strong, solid basic foundation in both drawing and design.”
Thought for Food
It’s not unusual for a Middlesex Community College student to be someone who did not enroll in college immediately after high school graduation. This was the case for Carolyn Russell, a native of Middletown, CT. She first managed a local coffee shop for several years before realizing she wanted to pursue a career helping people. Knowing MxCC as a local and affordable school, she registered there to study human services.
During her time at the College, Carolyn greatly valued her internships. This experience gave her excellent exposure in learning what it’s like to work for nonprofit organizations. Her first assignment was at the Stork Club Preschool in Rocky Hill, CT, working with infants and toddlers. Next she worked at an outpatient program for children at Elmcrest Hospital in Portland, CT. She also interned with the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth organization as a case manager.
After graduating from the human services program at MxCC in 1999, she moved to the Seattle area to be near her sister. On a whim, she responded to a newspaper ad for a position at a food bank, not expecting to get the job. But to her surprise, she was hired as the food resources coordinator at Food Lifeline, a Feeding America network member food bank and distribution center, serving more than 300 hunger relief organizations. Her role involved soliciting food donations through government programs, food distribution warehouses, wholesalers, retail stores and farms.
At this point, Carolyn was hooked. She really enjoyed doing good and helpful work as a career.
Being from New England, she decided after seven years in Seattle that she wanted to move back to the East Coast. She first headed to Maryland’s Delmarva Peninsula, where she became the operations and food sourcing manager for the Maryland Food Bank–Eastern Shore Branch, also part of the Feeding America network.
The following year, Carolyn was offered the chance to return to Connecticut to work at the Connecticut Food Bank, now located in Wallingford. Today, she is the procurement director there, responsible for securing more than 23 million pounds of food, which is distributed to nearly 600 hunger relief organizations throughout the state each year.
Her desire to continue her education in a field related to the nonprofit work she has accomplished throughout her career motivated her to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in organizational management from Ashford University, an online college founded in Iowa. She successfully transferred all her MxCC course credits to enroll in the program.
Looking back, Carolyn appreciates the personal attention and motivation professors Judith Felton and Greg Horn gave her while attending MxCC. She loved the smaller class size and how it led to a good and different learning experience for all students.
“The professors knew who you were, and that was a big deal,” she added.
Law Enforcement/Elected Official
John Szewczyk studied at MxCC in 1996 enroute to earning his B.A. from Trinity College in 1999 where he majored in Political Science and Educational Studies. For the past 14 years he has been a member of the Hartford Police Department where he currently holds the rank of Sergeant. Additionally, he has served on Durham, Connecticut’s Board of Selectmen since 2007.
“The quality of instruction at MxCC was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed the coursework I completed at this fine institution.”
Community Living Specialist
Michael Fraulino MxCC 2015
Graduating from Middlesex in 2015, Michael went on to pursue his B.A. at Goodwin College. He is a Community Living Specialist in the mental health field with The Caring Community of Colchester.
“MxCC was the answer I was looking for to jump start my college education. It offered flexible course offerings for an adult working full-time, and small class sizes allowed for added attention and guidance from the faculty. The expertise of Professors Horne and Felton in the Human Services field coupled with their genuine interest in seeing their students succeed was truly touching–and something you wouldn’t necessarily find on a large college campus. They for me sparked the compassion I needed to succeed in the Human Services Program and field overall.”
Financial Adviser- Edward Jones
Bill Passarelli of Meriden, CT, worked for a stainless steel manufacturer for almost 20 years. During that time, he saw much of the company’s work moving overseas. He realized it was time to change careers and came to Middlesex Community College to pursue a degree in business administration. He also enrolled in a pathway program at the University of Connecticut School of Business.
While at MxCC, Bill was the Phi Theta Kappa honor society president for two years. This gave him the opportunity to give back to the College and the community in a meaningful and lasting way.
“MxCC was the best choice I could have made. It was a great education, it was convenient, and it was affordable. It prepared me well for my future,” he explained.
After graduating with an associate degree in 2009, he attended the University of Connecticut and earned a bachelor’s in business administration as well as an MBA degree.
Since UConn, Bill has achieved his lifelong dream of becoming a financial advisor. He currently works for Edward Jones Financial Services in Meriden. Now he can help others achieve their long-term financial goals.
“I would have not made it to this point without my start at Middlesex and their amazing faculty and staff!” he added.
“MxCC Made Me What I Am Today”
While working at a small Middlefield grocery store in the late 1960s, Durham native Norman Hicks had no idea how it would lead him to a successful career in education.
As a senior at Durham High School, Norm wasn’t sure where he could apply to go to college. He claimed he didn’t have good grades and struggled with financial support. But one day at the store, a customer told him about a start-up school in Middletown that was offering open enrollment. He thought this might be his last chance to be accepted at a college.
In the fall of 1967, this start-up school was known as a branch of Manchester Community College. Norm enrolled, took classes and walked the halls of the early buildings that would later formally become Middlesex Community College. At first, those classes were held in Middletown’s former Woodrow Wilson High School, but only in the afternoons and evenings. He even remembers taking a history class that started at 9 p.m.
By 1968, the school became independently known as Middlesex Community College. “This was a big deal for everyone at the time,” Norm emphasized.
For two years, Norm continued studying science and education during those early years of Middlesex. He got to know faculty members, especially Skip Wiley, professor of chemistry and physics. Skip offered Norm a job in purchasing, something he knew little about but was grateful for the opportunity.
“Middlesex made me what I am today,” declared Norm in his interview.
In 1968, Norm also worked as a lab assistant at the school. He fondly recalled when Middlesex conducted classes in former Connecticut Valley Hospital buildings, particularly Stanley Hall, where some equipment was stored in old prison cells, and the science lab was in the “tin shop.” The school also received discarded lab equipment, sinks and benches from Wesleyan University. Norm’s office was in an old shower stall. In Weeks Hall, the AV department was next to the morgue, which at the time was still being used by the hospital. (These places don’t exist any longer. MxCC’s present campus was built in 1973 on new property.)
During his time at Middlesex Community College, Norm met his future wife, Charlene Serra, through friends. Charlene graduated from MxCC with an associate degree in business and went on to enjoy a highly successful career in marketing beginning at Middletown-based Weekly Reader.
Norm had transferred all his MxCC course credits to Eastern Connecticut State College (now University) and received his BS in education in 1971, making the dean’s list. He already had a teaching job lined up with East Hampton Public Schools, where he taught for a year after graduation. Norm was then offered another teaching position with the Guilford Public Schools. There he taught science, mathematics, social studies and reading in the same middle school classroom for 37 years before retiring in 2009.
In 1996, Norm was elected to the Regional School District 13 Board of Education (Durham and Middlefield), eventually serving as it’s vice chair, developing policy and handling budget issues. Because of this role, he became chairman of the board at Area Cooperative Educational Services based in North Haven. ACES provides educational resources such as special needs placements and staff development to school districts in New Haven and Middlesex counties.
After Eastern, Norm went on to earn additional advanced degrees—a master’s in biology from Central Connecticut State University in 1978 and a sixth-year diploma of advanced graduate study from Southern Connecticut State University in 1988.
When asked what he would tell prospective students about MxCC, he exclaimed, “Come to Middlesex and get everything you can out of it. It has so much offer!”
Ann Pellegrini, MxCC ’85, earned her Associate’s Degree through evening classes plus one summer session between 1982-1985. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management from Albertus Magnus in l998 through the New Dimensions Program and received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration as well as a Professional Certificate in Finance from the University of New Haven in 2002. Ann is now a Financial Advisor with Edward Jones in Clinton, Connecticut.
“Middlesex Community College launched my pursuit of lifelong learning and provided a strong foundation for further higher education. I remember particularly the debate class I attended; it truly helped me to learn the skills necessary for effective public speaking, which I use to this day.”
June Rae Merwin, Distinguished Scientist
A former licensed practical nurse, June began her career in the 1970s while raising her children, but soon thought, “Why not get a college degree?”
With her husband supporting the family financially, June—at age 33—enrolled at Middlesex Community-Technical College (the College’s name at the time). A convenient commute from Clinton to Middletown, the school provided her with the best value.
Competing mainly with 19-year-old classmates, June received her associate degree in general sciences from MxCC in 1981. She was honored to be the class valedictorian and also received the top biology student award as well as the history award.
Her next wish was to attend Wesleyan University. However, due to cost, she transferred to Southern Connecticut State University, receiving a “triple BS” degree in biology, chemistry and education in 1983.
But that’s not all. After student teaching in Branford, June received a full scholarship to study for Southern’s master of science degree in microbiology. She completed her thesis in the infectious disease lab at the Veterans Administration Hospital in West Haven.
In 1985, June became a doctoral graduate student at the Yale University School of Medicine, first working toward a master of philosophy (MPh) in experimental pathology and then earning a PhD in the same discipline in 1990.
Afterward, June served as a post-doctoral fellow at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Wallingford, researching vascular cell adhesion molecules in the oncology department. By 1998, she had moved on to Pfizer Inc., working in several pharmaceutical research capacities over the years and retiring in 2012 as global senior director. Her primary contributions there were to oversee Pfizer’s Phase I clinical research units located in Ann Arbor, MI, Belgium, Singapore and New Haven, CT, where “first-in-human” clinical trials were run. Her responsibilities included the harmonization of the four locations, ensuring standardization and compliance, which involved substantial travel to Europe and Asia
Today, June is a global consultant for clinical drug trials, mainly in emerging countries such as India, Russia, Korea, Poland, Brazil and China. The medical institutions leverage her experieInce and knowledge as they prepare to operationalize Western pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials that require significant commitment, time and resources.
Looking back to her days at MxCC, June fondly remembers her first biology class with Professor Evelyn Moulton (retired). “All the benefits of community college—convenience, choice, location, transferable credits—and after 50 years, there is still something for everyone,” June explained.
June and her husband live in Clinton, CT. They are active skiers, kayakers and cyclists as well as volunteers with the Boy Scouts and at the Lutheran Church of Madison. Being retired, they spend a great deal of time roaming about in their RV.
A unique hobby that June recently picked up is chainsaw carving. Driving down her street, you can see wooden carved bears peeking out from behind trees in the woods. Snowmen and a full manger scene appear in the winter, and each holiday will have a carving to represent the celebration.
June’s philosophy is to constantly be in a position where there is an exponential learning curve. Her primary goal is to keep her life balanced with family, church, sports and work.
ESPN-Inspired Finance Career
Old Saybrook native David LaMay wasn’t looking to go to college right after high school back in the late 1970s. He decided to take a year off before attending college, which turned into five years.
In 1980, he received a catalog from Middlesex Community College and found some interesting courses, so he enrolled as a part-time student. He commuted to Middletown for classes while working in an auto parts store and at a local nightclub.
David took business classes, which lead to cable telecommunications courses. During this time, Aldo Sicuso, then media services director at MxCC (retired 2003), acquired grants to update the studio at the College and became David’s inspiration in the broadcast cable field, as well as his mentor and friend, even years later.
By 1985, David graduated with an AS in cable telecommunications. At first he worked full-time producing and editing commercials for cable companies in Middletown and Branford. But he really wanted to work for broadcast TV and finally landed a studio technician job at ESPN in Bristol.
While working in technical operations, he became interested in the area that oversees the financing of the ESPN’s programming. To work in that department he needed a degree in finance. So he enrolled at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire, taking courses at night, while working full-time selling broadcast equipment. Franklin Pierce accepted many of the credits from MxCC, allowing him to earn his bachelor’s in financial management in two years.
When David returned to Connecticut, he went to work for Merrill Lynch as a financial consultant and returned part-time to ESPN, where he learned that working in the network’s finance department would require an MBA degree.
Again, David returned to school at night while he continued working full time as a financial advisor and part-time with ESPN. He received his MBA from the University of Connecticut in 1999. David is currently employed by Essex Financial Services, celebrating 25 years as a financial advisor.
It’s important for David to give back to the community, so he volunteers as a member of the Middlesex Hospital Philanthropy Advisory Council, is chairman of the Old Saybrook Board of Finance, a member of the Old Saybrook Fire Department, and previously served six years on the Xavier High School Alumni Board of Directors.
For the past eight years, David has taught Introduction to Finance course at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. The teaching bug finds him looking back to MxCC, even stopping by on occasion.
“Middlesex is a great place to start college. It provided me with an excellent educational foundation, which I’ve continued to build upon. I enjoyed all my time there and would like to come back and teach at some point,” David said.
The Center for New Media is light years ahead of the studio he studied in, and he is glad to know MxCC students intern at ESPN. David keeps up with the technology even though it has changed so much and regularly meets up with a fellow MxCC classmate/friend.
A Lifetime Fulfillment
When I graduated from high school, I wanted to go to college, but, unfortunately, in my generation, girls took a business course and got a job. I worked as a bookkeeper.
I attended Middlesex off and on for 16 years. I just took a course now and then until I decided to go for a degree in General Studies. In my final year at MxCC, I became a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and finally received my Associate’s Degree in 2014. I was 78. Graduation from community college was a lifetime fulfillment for me.
Middletown Police Captain
MxCC was my second chance at higher education.
But before that in 1985, I graduated from East Hampton High School and received a dual scholarship for soccer and baseball to attend Mitchell College in New London, CT, the next year. My major was business administration.
Unfortunately, I was more interested in athletics than books, and I did not do well that first year. Although I was due to return the next year, I decided to explore the U.S. Armed Forces. My brother is a Vietnam Navy veteran, and my father and uncles are WWII Army veterans. The thought of war did not pique my interest, but the concepts of the Navy and what it had to offer did. I decided not to return to Mitchell College and joined the Navy.
Leaving behind the opportunity to play the sports I loved was difficult, but I could also play in the service, and it absolutely fulfilled my needs. My first ship was a guided missile destroyer (USS Barney DDG-6) stationed at Norfolk, VA. Trained as an operations specialist, I used radar and tracking equipment in the ship’s Combat Information Center. We also had a soccer team that played teams in other countries as we traveled.
The Barney decommissioned in 1990, and I was reassigned to the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy CV-67. The Kennedy was like a floating city! We had 5,200 sailors on board and several aircraft. The Kennedy and its battle group were involved in the Persian Gulf War and assisted in missions across the Mediterranean Sea. Upon return from the Gulf War in 1991, the ship was docked for many months for an overhaul. While in port, the Kennedy team participated in the Norfolk Naval Base Soccer Tournament against some of the best athletes in the area. Keep in mind, Norfolk is the largest US naval base in the world. Our team won the championship that year going 10-1, and yours truly was named the most valuable player. Believe it or not, having that connection to the sport I loved kept me thinking about home. My parents were always big supporters of us growing up, and I truly missed them. I was only 24 when I separated from the Navy after four years, so I returned home to Connecticut.
Then I applied to the Middletown Police Department, not really knowing what to expect. Having matured over the years, I needed to consider going back to school. Law enforcement seemed like a natural option. I loved community, family, helping others and the uniform. My father was an auxiliary police officer in New York many years ago, and we discussed this decision. He had reservations but ultimately agreed, as did my mother. She also stressed that going back to school was very necessary, and that I would need my education going into this or any career. She was right. During my time in the military, I further understood the importance of a quality education and a solid foundation to which my life would be built upon.
So, midway through my law enforcement career I found all of that at MxCC! After working for almost six years in Middletown, I knew that it was time to get back into school. When I began to consider options, I knew that my veteran status would be helpful. MxCC was the perfect choice for me. It had been many years since I had set foot in the classroom, and this was my second chance at college. I tested exceptionally well for placement, but I knew that a smaller, close-knit, environment was the best thing for me. The advisers who I worked with initially were like family. Always helpful, always there to answer questions, always took the extra time to clear up any concerns. I often wondered, “What took me so long to get here?”
We jump-started my educational journey with the Portfolio Development course which allowed working, experienced students like myself the opportunity to turn documented life experience into good, quality, educational credits. I earned 33 credits that semester, so coupled with my transferred credits from Mitchell College, the military and the police academy, I was well on my way to my associate degree. What also worked out well for me at MxCC was the veteran tuition waiver, and the City of Middletown reimbursed me for books and fees. I must admit that living nearby was also a plus. Finally in 2009, I proudly received an associate degree in criminal justice.
The staff at MxCC has been so helpful, trusting and vested in my future that our personal relationships continue to this day. Whether I am invited to campus for a meeting or a special event, the filming of a commercial, or as a special guest of President Wasescha on her radio show, I have always been blessed to have such great support around me. My experiences at MxCC have played a major role in my advancement in law enforcement. All my career successes have been supported by my education from MxCC.
Finally, I am extremely proud to have worked with the MxCC’s criminal justice coordinator, Rebecca Rist-Brown, on a very important topic—internships. Together, we have reshaped our agencies’ relationship. MxCC interns interested in law enforcement now work hand in hand with Middletown detectives in the Investigative Services Division, which I oversee. The experiences and relationships that have been formed under this new initiative have been invaluable.
I would like to thank everyone at MxCC for being my solid foundation!
Catherine Epright attended MxCC fresh out of high school. Unsure of her desired career path, she chose to focus on the basics. After falling in love with her job at a floral shop, she entered the Marketing Program 10 years later to learn more about small business management in order to open her own shop. She realized that she knew a lot about flowers but needed to brush up on her knowledge of business. GREEN DAHLIA was opened in 2011, and Catherine now looks forward to completing her degree as soon as she can find the time to get back to MxCC.
Music Education Teacher
Jessica Grote MxCC ‘2012
As both the Junior Coordinator of the Deep River Fire Department and active Music Education major at CCSU, Jessica Grote finds her days and evenings filled to the brim.
“At Middlesex I became a Student Senator, joined SPEAK (Students Promoting Equality, Acceptance, and Knowledge), and earned the grades to become part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society. Much of my time was spent in the Student Activities Office where Micki Charton supported the students in every way possible. She was the person to go to if anyone needed help, and if she didn’t know an answer, she always sent you on to the person who did. With the ongoing support of the Student Activities Office, I was able to balance my classes, club activities, and the Fire Department as well.
“At Middlesex, every student has at least one faculty or staff member they can trust and count on. Getting involved gave me opportunities to practice teaching and expand my cultural horizons.
“Having completed all of my general course requirements, as a Music Education student at CCSU, I am now able to focus specifically on music. As a firefighter I can use the interpersonal skills and event coordination experience to further my fundraising and community involvement beyond my regular day-to-day activities. As a future teacher, I am inspired to offer my own students the same positive experience I have known.”
Aspiring Art Therapist
Jill has been working in the Follett Bookstore at MxCC since 2010 and now serves as Assistant Manager. Graduating from the College in General Studies in 2012, she is now pursuing a second community college degree in Business Management with the goal of eventually earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Therapy. Her plan is to create a non-profit business which will serve to help others through the creative expression of art.
“If I hadn’t attended MxCC, I truly would not have become the person I am today. I am particularly grateful to each of my professors in the Art Department who guided me along the way as I pursued my first degree. Middlesex Community College has had a most positive influence on my life.”