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Ahead of the Class (Released: 5/16/98)

Office of University Communications.

Storrs , Conn. -- The University of Connecticut’s 1998 graduating class has had its share of triumphs and challenges. These are some of them:

Senior Class Representative is A-OK

SIMSBURY native Kristen A. Sandstrom, who took center stage Saturday when she presented the Class of 1998 to UConn President Philip Austin, is no stranger to the letter "A." During three years at UConn, including one at the Hartford campus, the psychology major has received only one "B." In every other course she took, the Babbidge, University and Honor’s Scholar earned an "A," giving her a four-year grade point average of 3.958 out of a possible 4.0. Sandstrom, whose is interested in clinical psychology, wrote an honors thesis on the effect of fathers on children with hyperactivity and attention disorders (ADHD). Sandstrom, who has landed a job at the UConn Health Center, expects to attend graduate school in the future.


A Major Change in Plans

Albert Lee of NEW HAVEN, graduating with a degree in vocal performance, had never even been to an opera when he came to UConn as a freshman to major in business. Today, the tenor is a star in UConn's Opera Program. When admitted to UConn through the Day of Pride Program, he had never taken a singing lesson or learned to read music. This fall, however, he will be attending the renowned Juilliard School. Lee, who has been performing the national anthem before UConn basketball games for the last four years, will be perform at graduation ceremonies.


L’Ambiance Plaza Survivor to Help Others

David Garth of MILFORD, is graduating with a degree in physical therapy from the School of Allied Health. Garth, 45, was a plumber and pipefitter. In 1987, he nearly lost his life — along with 27 others — in a construction site accident at L’Ambiance Plaza in BRIDGEPORT. He suffered severe head and neck injuries, leaving him in a coma and partially paralyzed. He went through a series of neurosurgeries and rehabilitation and became interested in a career in physical therapy. Married with twin daughters, he plays the bagpipes. He was recently awarded a courage award from the School of Allied Health.


Battling Her Way to the Top

Heidi Avila of NEW HAVEN and WINDHAM majored in political science. A University Scholar, she conducted a project focusing on welfare racism and its implications. Avila grew up in The Hill, an inner city neighborhood of New Haven. A single mother on welfare, she was homeless for a year. While a full-time student at UConn, she worked as a certified nurse's aid. She will be attending the UConn VCR’s to School of Law in the fall.


From VCRs to Robots

Barry Mapen of NEWTOWN, used his first set of screwdrivers to fix the family’s squeaking VCR. He was eight years old at the time. This week, when he accepts his degree in engineering it’s clear Mapen has moved beyond VCRs. Well beyond. In fact, he has spent his time working on robots and short range communication capabilities between two robots. The Babbidge Scholar (accorded to students who attain perfect 4.0 grade point averages in two consecutive semesters). Next fall, he will do graduate work at UConn.


Buckley High Alum Hopes To Go Home

When Aixa Couvertier attended Buckley High School in HARTFORD, she quickly learned something about herself: she didn’t identify with other Puerto Ricans. Not because her Puerto Rican heritage wasn’t relevant in her home, but because there were no other people of color in the advanced honors classes she was taking at Buckley. So Couvertier started buying into stereotypes: That Puerto Ricans were not intelligent. That they were all on welfare. That most young Puerto Rican women had children at an early age. But her perceptions changed after she graduated from high school and enrolled at UConn. Here, Couvertier found young Puerto Rican people who were excelling in the classroom and who were making a difference. Couvertier wanted to do the same. The Day of Pride Scholar, an education major, earned clinical experience at her old high school, where she also coordinated UConn’s Tutorial Program. Her thesis focused on factors affecting Latino achievement at Buckley High School. Now, Couvertier wants to return to Hartford again, this time to teach.


Hollywood Here He Comes

Nathan D. Williams, of FRAMINGHAM, MA has worked at Disney Studies in New York, at an ad agency in Boston, the Communications Office at UConn, and at UConn’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at UConn. And after graduation, Williams, a communications science major, and a Dean’s list student, will be working at the William Morris Agency in Los Angeles, Ca. He will be part of their agent training program, one of six hired from a candidate pool of more than 1,000.