Passion to Succeed

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Dionne Small
Manchester, Conn. – (May 28, 2010) . . . Dionne Small graduated on Thursday, ten years after first enrolling at Manchester Community College, and she leaves having learned a valuable lesson. “Never ever give up,” she said. Small, 28, of East Hartford, is hardly the first MCC graduate to need more than a few years to earn an associate degree, but her story is unusual because of the detours she took while trying to figure out what to do with her life.

Twice she returned to London, where she spent the first 13 years of her life. She also moved to Chicago for seven months, during a phase when she was contemplating a career in fashion. But now, she’s back in Manchester, not only graduating from MCC but working part-time in the college’s admissions office.

“MCC has always been there for me and welcomed me with open arms,” she said. “I have a great appreciation for this institution.” The feeling is mutual, according to Cynthia Zeldner, associate director of admissions, who said Dionne has been a valuable addition to the staff. “She has really shown initiative,” Zeldner said, citing Dionne’s willingness to work at outreach events and conduct campus tours for new students. “She has personality, and she’s very patient when she talks with people.”

Dionne said she can empathize with students who are a bit overwhelmed and unsure of things when they show up at MCC, because that’s just the way she was when she first arrived for the fall semester in 2000. Her life to that point had been marked by movement.

Dionne grew up in Leyton, a borough in East London, until she moved with her family to St. Croix to be near relatives. After just a few months, her family moved again, this time to Connecticut, where other relatives lived.

A smart but sometime mischievous student, Dionne graduated from Manchester High and then somewhat reluctantly started classes at MCC. “I knew I needed a degree, but I wasn’t sure what my passion was,” Dionne said, adding she wasn’t overly enthused about MCC because it felt like “high school all over again” and she was stuck taking some classes in the old portable classrooms that have since been razed.

Looking for “a real college experience,” Dionne transferred to Southern Connecticut State University in the spring. After a year and half there, she returned to London, and then went to Chicago for a spell, then back to London. “But I had no direction,” she recalls. “I felt very lost through my whole college experience.”

She kept returning to Manchester, though, to be with her mother. Finally, four years ago, Dionne became a mother herself – when daughter Zoe was born. “That’s what caused me to buckle down,” she said. And MCC has become her anchor.

“It feels like home here,” she said, noting that work-study jobs in the dean’s office and Academic Support Center helped her establish supportive relationships with MCC staff. “I’m used to it. It’s what I know.” As she completed work on her general studies degree, Dionne also began to discover her passion. “I’ve always been the go-to person for friends and family when they wanted to vent,” she said, explaining that she began dabbling in motivational and inspirational speaking. She also has started a weekly on-line television show, called “Le Styliste,” and a blog, that explore the same themes.

She especially likes to connect with teenage girls, urging them to think about their fashion choices, encouraging them to “present themselves with dignity.” Dionne says her view of MCC has changed a lot in the past ten years. Her ambivalence is gone, and she now is proud to champion a school that she believes offers high-quality instruction and myriad opportunities at an affordable price.

Needless to say, Dionne has changed a great deal, too, and she knows why.
“All goals can be accomplished,” she said, “especially here at MCC where everyone is willing to help and most of all believes in you.”

Story written by Jim Farrell.
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Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The College offers over 60 programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. MCC is situated on a park-like campus and is easily accessible from I-84.
News Item Posted On: May 28, 2010
For Additional Information Contact: Endia DeCordova-Murphy at (860) 512-2914