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CCRI's first Opticianry class graduates
July 12, 2011
For a college of 57,000 alumni, graduating nine students may not seem like an occasion for particular celebration, but when those students are trailblazers, it is a different matter.
On July 6, the Community College of Rhode Island held a pinning ceremony for its first ever graduates in the new Opticianry program. Faculty, staff, family, students and friends gathered at the Newport County Campus for a small, intimate ceremony with big implications for the graduates and for the college.
“For a small state, Rhode Island is home to a lot of firsts,” CCRI President Ray Di Pasquale said, citing among other things the first female newspaper editor and the first 4th of July parade. “Tonight we’re here to celebrate a CCRI first.”
Two years ago, Janetta Donovan, Ekaterina Flowers, Paul Geller, Yelena Kurchina, Mallory Pacheco, Matthew Parente, Allyson Reigstad, Dorothy Silva and Teira Tar began taking classes unique from all other CCRI students such as optical dispensing, optical anatomy, optical laboratory techniques and optical theory.
Succeeding in these classes brought each of the graduates to the pinning ceremony and will lead them into careers in a growing industry in which they will help patients have the best sight they can. As opticians,these graduates will fit patients with eyeglasses and contact lenses, or perhaps even design eyewear.
The Opticianry graduates completed an online, distance learning program that required particular dedication and independence. The students were in frequent communication over the Internet and sometimes met up for study sessions. They had to make sure they were staying up to date with their course requirements while paying attention to jobs and families.
“Some of us started families and some of us expanded families,” said graduate Mallory Pacheco during the ceremony. She added, “We leaned on each other for help with homework and throughout the entire process.”
Pacheco also thanked the students’ family members and the Opticianry program’s faculty and staff. “Without your tremendous support, we would not be here,” she said.
In a second address, graduate Matthew Parente also thanked the members of the Rhode Island Association of Registered Dispensing Opticians, known as RIARDO, for their help in starting the CCRI program and for creating a strong professional environment in Rhode Island that the graduates will now enter. He said that the graduates look forward to working with the RIARDO members no longer as interns and students, but as colleagues.
“We possess the knowledge and wisdom necessary to create success,” he said.
Opticianry Program Director Robert Burgess said the creation of the program was a long process. He thanked the college administration, RIARDO and the program’s many financial donors for their support.
“I feel a special connection with this first graduating class,” he said. “It has been a gratifying journey.”
Rehabilitative Health Department Chair Kimberly Crealey Rouillier said that as the first graduating class, these students will always have a unique place in the history of the program, and that their feedback can be valuable for future students.
“We look forward to hearing from all of you when you have finished,” she said. “Not just with the education and testing part, but what comes after that, because the job is the fun part.”
Also present at the pinning ceremony were CCRI Vice President for Academic Affairs Lela Morgan and Dean of Health and Rehabilitative Sciences Maureen McGarry.