Meet several members of the Tunxis Class of 2018

Published on Wednesday, 30 May 2018 21:10


FARMINGTON - With several scholarship offers from selective universities, Eric Dougherty, 26, of Plainville, will attend Bard College in the fall on a near-full scholarship of $50,000.

That’s just one of the many stories from this year’s crop of Tunxis Community College graduates, who received their diplomas and certificates on Wednesday night at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

Dougherty received his degree in liberal arts and sciences from Tunxis and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in anthropology. His choice was driven by a service learning trip he took to a Navajo reservation in the Southwest in 2017 with a Tunxis professor who has connections to the tribes. During the trip he tested uranium levels in the water at various locations on the reservation.

He started at Tunxis part time in 2015 after a five-year break from his studies during which he toured the Northeast with his band playing in clubs and other venues. He juggled two jobs with his studies at Tunxis when he came back, often going to class in between a 3 to 11 a.m. shift and an evening job at a restaurant.

As vice president of leadership for the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Tunxis, Dougherty designed a questionnaire on student homelessness for a service project and was involved with the Homeless Coalition. During his time at Tunxis he started the student Philosophy Club and helped launch a Humanities blog ( ).

Outside of college, Dougherty has done fundraising for a charitable organization, The White Light Foundation.

Arielle Denise Pease, 26, of Bristol, was the salutatorian for the Class of 2018, graduating with a 3.97 GPA. She received an associate in science degree in visual fine arts, and a $24,000 artistic merit scholarship from the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School, which she will attend in the fall.

Pease was one of four Tunxis students selected this spring for “Community,” an annual art exhibition at the Hartford Art School that features emerging young artists attending Connecticut’s community colleges. She also exhibited in shows at the college during her studies at Tunxis, favoring oil painting and pen and ink.

An immigrant from Vietnam who was only in the United States about a year before enrolling, Tram Nguyen, 28, of Bristol, will receive a general studies degree from Tunxis and has been accepted into the nursing program at the University of Saint Joseph.

Nguyen has been selected for a paid research fellowship this summer at UConn Health Center where she will do hands-on research related to iron physiology for medical applications, working alongside mentor faculty at UConn.

Nguyen was vice president of scholarship for Phi Theta Kappa. She also worked in the Tunxis Library, tutored students in biology and math, and was a volunteer note taker for the Academic Success Center.

After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Nguyen plans to work as a registered nurse.

Despite a busy work schedule and health challenges that caused her to have to put her studies on hold at times, Linda Connors, 63, of New Britain, will receive the associate degree in visual fine arts - photography, that she started in 2005.

Connors has worked full time as registered medical assistant while juggling her schedule to fit her courses in by using vacation days and leave time, and enrolling in evening and weekend classes to complete her degree part time. In 2009, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to put her studies on hold, so that she could undergo cancer treatment.

Now cancer free and working full time as a registered medical assistant, Connors wants to continue her education in photography and hopes that her art will become a retirement career. A mother and grandmother, she plans to continue to take photos of her family, document her travels and exhibit her work.

A few months before graduating, Kyle Kalisz, 21, of Newington, was offered a full-time position as a project coordinator in the energy management field while interning at Total Energy Connections in Berlin.

Kalisz is one of the first graduates of the Tunxis Energy Management program, which began in 2016. He will receive an associate degree along with certificates in Energy Accounting, Energy Core, and HVAC Energy Analysis.

The valedictorian of Tunxis Community College’s Class of 2018 has the first draft of a young adult novel complete and two other books in the works. Danielle Victoria Dalena, 25, of Unionville, has a 3.98 GPA. She received her associate degree in liberal arts and sciences.

Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain, Plainville on Wednesday, 30 May 2018 21:10. Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2018 21:12.