Middlesex graduates celebrate resilience and community on Meriden debut

MERIDEN – If there were any commonalities in Middlesex Community College’s debut exercises on Thursday night in the auditorium at Platt High School, they could be summed up in two words: resilience and community.

Middlesex chief executive Kimberly Hogan told members of Middlesex’s Class of 2022 sitting in front of her that they were the class of resilience. They overcame challenges, including sudden changes in their educational and personal lives spurred by the global pandemic.

“Resilience doesn’t make your problems go away. It doesn’t solve any of them,” Hogan said. Instead, it helps to cope, adapt and ultimately overcome adversity, she added.

In total, Middlesex has awarded more than 360 degrees and certificates to 335 graduates, hailing from communities in central Connecticut. Meriden and Middletown, both with 40 graduates, were the most widely represented communities in this year’s class. The commencement exercises themselves were the college’s first in-person commencement exercises in over two years.

Quenisha Williams, 41, from Meriden, was one such graduate. A small business owner, in addition to being a student, she has worked two jobs and is a single mother with three children.

Now she is also a college graduate. She leaves Middlesex with an associate’s degree in business administration.

“It was a lot of hard work and determination,” Williams said.

Williams said she always wanted to go back to school, but was afraid to do so. In 2017, she signed up, largely at the request of her eldest son.

For Williams, her time in Middlesex helped set the stage to grow her baking business and network. She enrolled in a business and leadership development program offered by the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce.

Some of Williams’ college professors were also involved in business organizations and helped her connect with these groups.

Williams navigated a tough schedule that involved raising a family, working and studying.

“I had to learn some very difficult time management,” she said.

One thing that inspired her was her late father’s encouragement.

Williams said her father died in 2019, at the start of the fall semester. She was encouraged to take time to grieve.

Williams decided she would move on. “My father wants me here,” she said.

“Open a door first”

Another graduate, Prudencia Aminawung, earned her associate’s degree in social work. Aminawung will continue his studies at Central Connecticut State University.

Aminawung, 40, is from Cameroon. She lived in the United States for 18 years and raised a family during that time.

Aminawung, as she looks ahead, said she was focusing on a saying her father always said: “First open one door, before you open another.”

“Right now, my mind is on this one,” Aminawung said, moments before she and her fellow graduates entered the auditorium.

“You All Came”

Jimmy Greene, a renowned jazz saxophonist and co-coordinator of jazz studies at Western Connecticut State University, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address. In the speech, Greene focused on the word “community.”

Greene described the importance of community when her family experienced a tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012. Her daughter Ana Marquez-Greene, then six, was among the lives lost in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. That day.

Greene noted that community members from everywhere — from Connecticut to her former home in Manitoba, Canada — reached out to offer support during her family’s darkest days.

Her son, now 18, does not remember what was said when these community members reached out, but he did remember who came forward.

“Speaking of showing up, everyone who’s sitting here today, who’s going to step onto this stage, showed up in huge numbers,” Greene said. “Many, if not most of you, began your experience in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which this world has not seen in over 100 years.”

Despite the setbacks and isolation caused by the pandemic, Greene said the community has found other ways to connect.

“No, it wasn’t ideal,” he said, of video conferencing and other disparate means of gathering, later adding, “…You all showed up.”

[email protected]:@MikeGagneRJ

About Bradley J. Bridges

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