Aurora Dziadul ’18

Photo of Aurura DziadulAt 14 years of age, she’s not old enough to drive and she’s too young to vote. She’d like to go to law school and get a PhD in psychology, then join the FBI as a special agent—lofty goals for the average teenager.

But if you talk with Aurora Dziadel of Griswold, you will soon discover she is well on her way to attaining those goals. You will also be amazed at what she has already achieved.

That’s because Aurora started early. After attending Griswold Middle School and two years of homeschooling, she enrolled at Quinebaug Valley Community College at the tender age of 11. On May 24 she will join her much older classmates at the college’s 46th commencement, graduating summa cum laude with an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences.

If that isn’t remarkable enough, Aurora was selected to be the student speaker and will address the graduates and audience members.

“I will be sharing a message of acceptance,” she explained. “Throughout my time at QVCC, I have encountered acceptance from every person at the college, whether it be professors, advisors, or students. I wanted to share my experience with others and explain how much that has meant to me,” she added. “I choose QVCC because of this strong sense of community and the acceptance that was given to me.”

While Aurora admits it was a difficult transition from homeschool to college, especially due to her own shyness, she soon found both the students and professors to be welcoming. “I quickly felt at home,” she said.

It is clear that QVCC has been a good fit for Aurora. “I have immensely enjoyed taking classes in every subject, from math to science to Spanish to Humanities,” she noted. “I learned so much in all of my classes, not just about the subject at hand but life lessons as well.” Not only was she named to the dean’s list for four straight semesters, Aurora was invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for community and two-year colleges. This spring, after less than a year of Spanish, she won 3rd prize in the Julius Sokenu Poetry Awards in the Spanish non-heritage speakers category.

When she’s not at the college, Aurora trains and competes at Thames Valley Academy of Gymnastics from December through May. She also enjoys swimming and biking, listening to music, and reading novels.

In the fall she will be transferring to either Salve Regina University in Newport, where her grandparents live, or to the University of Connecticut—she is weighing the pros and cons of each school. No matter which college she chooses, Aurora knows she will probably be the youngest student in the junior class, “but I’m used to that,” she laughed.

Her parents will continue to provide transportation until she gets her driver’s license. But she may have her bachelor’s degree and be heading to graduate school before she can take her driving test.

Faculty Member’s New Poetry Book Honored

Part of English Professor Jon Andersen’s fall 2016 sabbatical was dedicated to finishing his second full-length collection of poetry,  Augur. The book has been named the recipient of the 2017 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize and will be published by the literary arts press Red Dragonfly Press. The book will be available in early May.

Red Dragonfly Press is based in Minnesota and has been operating for 20 years, publishing work by emerging voices along with established poets and writers like Robert Bly, Louise Erdrich, and Barry Lopez. “The poems in Augur are attempts, in prescribed and open forms, to ‘decode’ the signs of a world in the midst of tremendous and often bewildering upheaval,” said Andersen. “The augurs of ancient Rome were charged with studying natural phenomena, like the flight habits of birds, in order to look for propitious or unfavorable omens,” he explained. “Written from the interlocking perspectives of father, husband, son, brother, educator, and citizen, the poems seek to engage life with clarity,” he added.

Andersen’s first book, Stomp and Sing, was published by Curbstone Press in 2005 and is currently available from Northwestern University Press.

March 2, 2018

Kevin Champagne

Kevin Champagne never dreamed he would be a college student. Originally from Baltic, he graduated from Windham Tech in 1981 having completed the electrical course program. He spent eight years at Electric Boat, lived in Atlanta, and worked in construction, all the while battling the demons within – addiction, depression, the inability to hold a job. He ended up homeless.

But something inside told him he could get out of the endless cycle his life had become. He was fortunate to find support from local physicians and therapists as he started his road to recovery. He applied for disability benefits and then found a counselor who recommended he consider going back to school.

“I felt like I finally had someone on my side, who really listened to me,” said Kevin. “I was not comfortable with what I was doing with my life. I did not want to live on disability indefinitely. After 17 years in recovery, I wanted to make a better life for myself.”

However, the idea of going to college at his age—more than 36 years after finishing high school—was daunting. “I always hated school,” he said. “How would I fit in? My preconceived notions about college education kept me away. I didn’t think it was possible for someone like me.”

But in late August last year, Kevin walked in the door of Quinebaug Valley Community College, submitted an application, applied for financial aid, and completed placement testing—all within one week. Several days later he was sitting nervously in a classroom..

Much to Kevin’s surprise, he discovered that it was possible for him to attend college and succeed. Starting with two courses in the fall semester, one of which was “the first English class I ever enjoyed,” he gradually assimilated himself into the college culture. “I love the diversity of the student body,” he explains.

Kevin credits his professors, the library staff, and the Student Success Center for providing the help he needed to navigate his first year as a college student. Now in his second semester, he feels “connected” to QVCC and has an extended family of students and staff who provide “a lot of backing and support.”

“Now I know it is possible for someone like me to attend college,” says Kevin, adding, “it makes you feel good inside.” His next goal is to make the dean’s list—in his words, “a big deal.” While he is thinking of transferring into the drug and alcohol recovery counselor program at Manchester Community College, he now realizes that success in colleges means he can do anything he wants.

“When life throws you a curve ball, you learn to hit a curve ball,” he laughs, adding, “so that’s what I’m doing.”

Mikayla Gagnon ’12

I chose QVCC because I wanted a college where the professors knew me by name and cared about my success.

Josh Pratt ’05

I had to start off slow. I needed small class sizes and professors who could really focus on my learning. QVCC did just that for me

Jon Gorman, RN, BSN

Many adjunct faculty members at Quinebaug Valley Community College bring years of work experience and the latest expertise to the classroom, most often to specialized programs such as allied health, computer science, and manufacturing.

One of those adjuncts also shares his skills with the community – mostly as a volunteer.

Jon Gorman, who teaches Basic Life Support at QVCC, is a nurse at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge who has worked in health care for 35 years. In addition, he works tirelessly as a volunteer trainer of CPR at many community events, schools, and other venues.

“My passion is for education for everyone, from health care providers to members of the community,” he explains. “After my father died of a sudden cardiac arrest early in my nursing career, I wanted as many people as possible to know what to do if the event ever happened to them.” Gorman has been teaching CPR and other advanced courses for close to 20 years.

Due to the costs for CPR classes, he started reaching out to the community and teaching Hands Only CPR in conjunction with the American Heart Association. Earlier in September he and the Harrington team offered Hands Only CPR training to attendees at the Eastern States Exposition Fair in West Springfield. He will spend Columbus Day weekend certifying people at Old Sturbridge Village.

Gorman was recently honored by the New England Regional Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee at its meeting in Manchester, NH. He was presented the 2016-17 Outstanding Volunteer Award for having trained more than 3,500 people in Hands Only CPR during the year.

Gorman is enjoying his first semester at QVCC. “The teaching experience has been wonderful,” he says. “It is always a joy to teach individuals who want to learn!” QVCC students are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn from an adjunct faculty such as Jon Gorman.

Olivia Hussey

Received an A.S., degree in Engineering Science last spring. Attending Wentworth Institute of Technology this fall.

Jenna Haines

Transferring to Smith College to study government Continue reading “Jenna Haines”

Joel Benjamin

Received two degrees and one certificate and transferring to CCSU
Continue reading “Joel Benjamin”