Charter Oak graduates its Class of 2018

Published on Sunday, 3 June 2018 20:59
Written by Erica Drzewiecki


NEW BRITAIN – Five hundred graduates representing “the new majority” walked across the Welte Auditorium stage at Central Connecticut State University Sunday.

The campus serves as the brick-and-mortar home base for Charter Oak State College’s online degree program, which reaches more students than ever in today’s day and age.

“Your story is now the mainstream story for American higher education,” College President Ed Klonoski told graduates, most of whom were older than 24 and managed work and families while attending school.

“Most of you have arrived at this moment along a non-traditional path, often after a number of false starts, and over far more than the usual number of years,” Klonoski pointed out. “Only 14 percent of the college-attending population is full time, living in a dorm, and 18 to 24. In contrast, nearly 50 percent of those attending college today are over the age of 24, attending part time, and managing both a family and a job as they attend. I assume that this represents nearly 100 percent of you.”

Klonoski went on to ask graduates to redefine this new normal.

“I charge you with your first post-graduation responsibility. You must tell your story. Explain why you came back to school to finish; describe what it took to get through; detail how that made a difference to your career and let people know that it took a special institution to get you across the finish line.”

A prime example of this “new” type of student was class speaker Shelly Carter, 39, whose husband and four sons joined the entire student body cheering during her speech.

“Going back to college after 28 years was definitely an adventure,” Carter said.

She is currently the only black, female Fire Instructor for the State of CT.

Sixty-nine percent of Charter Oak’s Class of 2018 lives in the state and 69 percent are women. Students hailed from a total of 34 different states as well as Canada and China.

From a local perspective, 11 graduates live in New Britain and 10, in Bristol.

Among the class award winners was Bristol resident Kathy Alves, who earned her associates degree with a 3.9 grade point average.

CT State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian counseled students to make sure they define their lives’ events – not the other way around.

“I ask that you commit from this day on to your journey,” he added. “Not the outcome, but the journey.”

Honorary Doctorate Degree Recipient Brenda York chronicled for the audience her personal tale, a particularly unique one.

She left college the first time around after four years and no degree, to marry and raise a family. She home-schooled eight children, all of whom went on to graduate from Charter Oak, except two still completing their degrees. It wasn’t until they were grown that York went on to pursue her own education.

“Within nine months – much to my amusement – my degree was completed,” she said. “We are so grateful for the innovative teachers at Charter Oak who gave us this opportunity.”

Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, General News on Sunday, 3 June 2018 20:59. Updated: Sunday, 3 June 2018 22:02.