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The Annual Extraordinary: Stories from the Class of 2014

Congrats to the entire class of 2014!

Read more about these and some of our other extraordinary 2014 graduates.


Christopher Lionel Calderón of Providence. Civil Engineering. 2010 Valedictorian of Central High School; next up: grad school at URI.

“I have been challenged more than I expected by both my field of study and by the hardships in my life, one of which includes the loss of my parents. Everything is what you make of it. The gift I received from my mother: The importance of preparing for the future.”


Sylvia Bogusz of South Kingstown. Communication Studies. Survivor of near-fatal hit from drunk driver in 2007; advocate for tougher drunk-driving laws.

“I don’t get too excited about graduating because it’s always been my goal to be successful. I’m not scared even when I speak before hundreds, but sometimes I cry because it’s still emotional. I persevere. I don’t want anyone to pity me. There’s more to life.”


Maria Briones of East Providence. Civil Engineering and Spanish. Built wastewater treatment facility in Guatemala with student group; next up: grad school, Peace Corps.

“Maybe I’ll work for a government agency or maybe I’ll establish my own organization to help people get access to drinking water. I understand the technical side of the issue and the health-related aspect, and I know I can help.”


Dave Powers of Cumberland. Mechanical Engineering and German. Saxophone player, Ultimate Frisbee competitor, grad school candidate for industrial engineering.

“I don’t want to make the motor of a car; I want to make the seats. It’s more interesting to make something that has to account for the human, that works the way you want it to. When the average person uses a product, do they have to read the manual first?”


Matt Gusto of Bath, Maine. Master of Oceanography and M.B.A. Boat captain, former lobsterman, will work in maritime-technology and climate-change fields.

“A lot of things are going to be happening in the maritime world, especially with the Arctic opening up. There are so many industries that need people with both a technical and business background, and there aren’t a lot of graduate programs that offer that.”


Nancy Wilson of East Providence. Human Development and Family Studies. Lost son in street shooting; advocate against gun violence; plans master’s in social work.

“People ask, ‘You’re going to a crack house to talk to kids?’ But what’s the worst thing that can happen to me? I’ve already had the worst thing happen. I decided to make something good out of it. URI’s staff and teachers see value in my life. That’s what keeps me going.’’


William Janes Jr. of Newport. Kinesiology. Track and Field star (hammer throw, indoor weight throw, all-academic honors) and team captain; Elks volunteer working with veterans, people with disabilities.

“Some of my favorite times were traveling to meets with my teammates. Team awards are better than individual ones because everyone shares the victory. My dream career is to become a physician’s assistant. I want to help patients with getting better.”


Brianna Blank of Westbrook, Conn. Journalism. Editor of The Cigar; founder of student talk show on healthy eating, fitness; helped her mother lose weight.

“This is my passion now. You only get one body. You should treat it the best you can. I feel so much more comfortable in my skin now. There are times I look in the mirror and say, ‘Wow, I actually did it.’ If I can lose 150 pounds, anything is possible.”

3 comments to “The Annual Extraordinary: Stories from the Class of 2014”

  1. Nancy wilson comments:

    I would like to congratulate all of the extraordinary fellow classmates of 2014. For some of us this journey has been challenging but in the end it was a rewarding experience. In life, obstacles are tools to strengthen us to overcome, so that we can move foreward and enhance our talents and gifts. There are people behind the scenes who have been instrumental in our success, although we, as students, are at the core. I would like to thank the teachers, advisors, and fellow students who bonded together to get us to this point in our lives.

    --Posted: June 23rd, 2014 at 8:41 pm
  2. Nancy wilson comments:

    While pursuing my MSW, I am seeking to lease an office space that will be a safe haven, as well as a learning environment, for disadvantaged youths or juveniles at risk. It will be a place to build self esteem and alternative behavior towards violence. Many of our troubled youths don’t have positive role models or incentives that they are worthy of being successful. Sometimes people need someone to believe that their life is meaningful, before they realize the meaning of living.

    --Posted: June 23rd, 2014 at 9:13 pm
  3. Nancy wilson comments:

    Brianna, I am commending you on graduating and your weight loss story. Do you have a weight loss web page? I would like it if you could advise me on losing weight. I want to live.

    --Posted: June 25th, 2014 at 3:58 pm

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