Bysiewicz to HCC grads: Act now!

LINDA CONNER LAMBECK, CT Post

Article Last Updated: 05/30/2008 12:57:24 AM EDT

BRIDGEPORT — New graduates of Housatonic Community College probably didn't expect a civics lesson at their commencement ceremony Thursday.

That's what the newly minted 405 associate degree and certificate recipients received when they were addressed by Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz.

Bysiewicz not only assigned the Class of 2008 to vote in the fall presidential election but to change the world.

"Your generation will accomplish this because it has to," she said.

She reminded them that Thomas Jefferson was just 33 when he helped write the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King Jr. was 26 when he led the Montgomery bus boycott and Steve Jobs was 19 when he started a computer company in his parents' garage to be followed by Apple computers.

"So I urge you, take action now. Get involved now. Make a difference now," she said.

Arian Pagan, 40, of Bridgeport, does. Already working in the science field, her new associate's degree in clinical laboratory sciences and biotechnology is the steppingstone to a master's she plans to earn in neuroscience.

Aaron M. Best, 40, of Bridgeport, walked away from the ceremony with an associate's degree in banking. Next on his list is a bachelor's degree at Quinnipiac University, then on to a doctorate in theology.

"Trust me, they all go together," said the future minister.

Toward the end of the processional were friends Dan Butler, 47, of Bridgeport; Jeanne O'Leary, 22, of Stratford; and Elizabeth Cataldo, 23, of Stratford, all brought together by an interest in behavioral health care. The trio will use their certificates to pursue careers in addiction services.

O'Leary called the experience "so worth it."

The ceremony, the community college's 41st annual commencement, was held at the Arena at Harbor Yard. The graduating class was the second largest in the school's history.

College President Anita Gliniecki urged graduates to not only come back to take courses they didn't have time for while pursuing their degrees but to check out and enjoy the fall opening of Beacon Hall, an addition to the college that will double its size. As for the civics lesson, the secretary of the state told the graduates that voter registration among young people is up in Connecticut — more than 20,000 young people have registered to vote in the state over the past six months.

In addition to electing a president this November, she said Connecticut residents have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment — which she supports — that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections as long as they turn 18 by the general election. Bysiewicz also advised graduates to get mentors, if they didn't already have them. One of her mentors, she said, was the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso. Bysiewicz met her when she was 17 and was impressed by her desire to help people.

Bysiewicz said she now sits at the same desk in the same office at the state Capitol that Grasso occupied when she was secretary of the state.