Spellers fill QVCC coffers

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Jan. 27, 2014
(L to r) Dragonflies of Day Kimball Healthcare were Denise Oles, Lucy Luneau, Jonathan Scott and Donald St. Onge. Photos by D. Coffey.
(L to r) Dragonflies of Day Kimball Healthcare were Denise Oles, Lucy Luneau, Jonathan Scott and Donald St. Onge. Photos by D. Coffey.

Quinebaug Valley Community College faculty and staff took home the gold at the fifth annual QVCC Foundation Spelling Bee on Jan. 23. They beat out 19 other teams for the coveted awards by spelling the word, “Beelzebub,” correctly. The Money Mavens of Putnam Bank took second place and the Putnam Rotary/Quinebaug Valley Regional Rotaract Club took third place. More than $15,000 was raised in what’s become one of the area’s most highly charged and playfully competitive gatherings.

Referees Dr. Murray Butner and QVCC Director of Community Engagement Monique Wolanin, wearing black and white striped shirts, were on hand to make sure teams followed the rules. There were seven: Writing materials and electronic aids were not allowed. Team members could only consult one another. Teams had 45 seconds to consult, ask for a definition and spell the word. Teams on deck had to wait in a staging area. Each team had one “buy back” during the evening. And each team member had to take his or her turn spelling.

“There were some teams in the past that kept sending their best speller to the microphone,” Butner said. Stage presence or fright might have been another factor. “It can be terrifying to stand alone at that microphone while everyone is looking at you,” Butner added.

WINY Radio’s Gary and Karen Osbrey moderated the event and kept time, respectively. QVCC Foundation President Thomas Harney was the official judge. He called the event a success before it even began. Since it was first held in 2009, the event has brought in $60,000. That amount is a drop in the bucket compared to the $160,000 the Foundation gave in the form of scholarships, financial aid and block grants to students last year alone.

“It’s incredible what the foundation does for this community,” Harney said. “In the last three years, not one student has left QVCC with one penny of college debt. That’s an amazing statistic and we want to shout it from the rooftops.”

Wolanin said the college touches the lives of everyone in the community. “Students are coming to get their associates degrees,” she said. “There are business and industry partners who want to improve their workforce. There are Learning-in-Retirement members who want to take courses. There are moms who want training certificates to better the lives of their families. We have the Quinebaug Middle College. I could go on and on. It impacts everyone.”

Some of the students directly impacted by the foundation’s work participated in a student team. Sheena Giaquinto, a second year general studies major, was one of them. When Giaquinto had a son, it put her educational plans on hold. “It took me seven years to get my foot back in the door,” she said. This past year she was awarded a $1,500 foundation scholarship. “I love QVCC,” she said. “I was really supported by the staff. They went above and beyond for me. Now I try to be a part of as much as I can.” 

“This community needs two things,” Harney said, “Day Kimball Hospital and QVCC. The lives that the foundation has been able to transform with the support of the community have been tremendous. We’re the third smallest community college of the 12 community colleges in the system, but we have the second largest foundation endowment.”

"We might be the Quiet Corner, but we’re anything but when it comes to community support of QVCC," he said.

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