By JEN CARDINES
Each year, two or three students from the Central Connecticut State University graduating class are recognized during the commencement ceremony due to their inspirational stories.
The XL Center in downtown Hartford was filled with the annual pomp and circumstance on Saturday, May 20 as CCSU presented the class of 2017 to proud parents, family members and friends. Of the 2,500 graduates, Plainville’s Christopher Marinelli was one of two distinguished students among his peers. He and Paul Small of Southington were “highlighted at CCSU’s Commencement because their personal stories epitomize the triumphs and challenges so many of our students must overcome to earn a college degree,” said CCSU media relations officer Janice Palmer.
Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Susan Pease addressed the crowded arena with remarks about Marinelli’s journey through the foster care system, Plainville High School, and higher education.
Pease said that Marinelli was 9 years old when he and his sister were put in foster care. Though he was adopted at age 13, he struggled at home and in school. However, he connected with PHS teacher Jeff Blanchette, “whose guidance and support helped Chris believe he had potential,” said Pease.
“There are a small number of students who overcome extraordinary obstacles to be successful in school,” Blanchette said. “But Chris has gone far beyond the traditional success of good grades.”
Pease said that college would not have been an option for Marinelli, but he discovered that as a foster child, the state would cover most of his expenses.
“After three semesters at Tunxis Community College, Chris brought his potential to CCSU,” she said.
Marinelli received his degree in journalism with a minor in linguistics. He was a reporter and editor for the school newspaper “The Recorder,” chaired the social justice committee in the Student Government Association, and was involved in various campus activities. He even testified at the State Capitol on behalf of the foster care system.
“Chris Marinelli, through his work on campus and off, is changing the world,” Blanchette said. “When I heard my name mentioned at the CCSU Commencement, my initial reaction was shock. I had tears in my eyes because it is Chris who inspires me.”
This fall, the recent graduate will begin teaching in a Hartford elementary school through Teach for America while pursuing a Master’s in Elementary Education.
“He hopes to affect his students as Mr. Blanchette and others at Plainville High School influenced him,” Pease said.