At times, Chris Marinelli sits and thinks about what his life could have been.
He reflects on much of his childhood, when he and his sister were living in poverty, spending many nights curled up with their mother in her car until heading to school in the morning. He thinks about their time in foster care, wondering what would be next, and if they would stay together or be separated.
Those hardships instilled in him a sense of determination, a will and desire to do whatever it would take to succeed, and to defy the statistics that show foster children rarely getting a college education.
According to the youth advocacy group Promises 2 Kids, only 10 percent of former foster children attend college, and only 3 percent graduate. Only 50 percent even graduate from high school.
With the help of the Marinelli family — which welcomed Chris and his sister into their Plainville home, officially adopting both, when he was 14 — he not only graduated from Plainville High School in 2013, but is on his way to earning a degree in journalism and linguistics from Central Connecticut State University.
He said he owes so much to his parents, Peter and Sue Marinelli, for the love and support they’ve provided him, as well as reiterating the value of making the most of his education.
He also said the bonds he’s formed with his professors at Central, and previously at Tunxis Community College, have opened doors for him, to a life far better than he’d have imagined 10 years ago. Losing those professors, he said, would be detrimental not only to himself, but many others.
That’s why he’s speaking up against the Board of Regents’ controversial contract proposal that would allow for state university and college system professors to be moved to another institution without notice, and would provide less funding for research and curriculum development.
“As far as being in college, I really beat the curve, and part of beating the curve is the support I’ve had from my professors and the faculty. From my first couple of semesters at Tunxis before transferring to Central, I have had phenomenal professors,” Marinelli, now in his junior year, said. He added that his professors have urged him to spread his wings, to research and to study in places he never thought possible.
With the help of the CCSU linguistics department, Marinelli spent a summer on a linguistics research project in the Amazon rain forest in Peru.
“My story isn’t unique, there are thousands of other kids that have their own stories, their own tribulations in life. It’s so important for the Board of Regents to understand that we need our professors because they’re the ones that help us beat the curve like I have and to be able to go do things like research in the Amazon rain forest,” he said. “It’s so important that they understand how important they are to us.”
CCSU professors, such as Gil Gigliotti, feel the same way about their students, and their community. Gugliotti said he’s adopted New Britain as his hometown, noting that the CCSU campus and the people on it are now in his heart and soul.
Gigliotti came to CCSU in 1992 and he doesn’t want to go anywhere else — certainly not without his consent. He said he’s had offers to go elsewhere, but the school community, his peers and the passion and dedication of the students are things he doesn’t want to leave behind.
Thanks to his professors, Marinelli knows that his past is indeed in the past, and that with them in his corner his future is a bright one.
“I’ve always had lots of ambition and passion. I still do. I wanted to make a better life for myself. I looked back and I saw the life I came from and the family I come from and that’s not the life I wanted. Through education I can find a life that’s worth living,” he said. “I chose to go to Central because of the environment and affordability. So many choose Central because there is such a quality return on their investment. This proposal dilutes that return. It hurts the quality of education the professors can give to the students. That’s one of the saddest things I can imagine.”
The Board of Regents and the professors union (CSU-AAUP) are in contract negotiations.
Johnny Burnham can be reached at (860) 801-5069, email@example.com.