Enfield High School and Asnuntuck Community College (ACC) graduate Robert “Bobby” Berriault’s story is inspirational. He has and continues to overcome obstacles most would have believed to be insurmountable. A product of five foster homes and two group homes, he graduated from Enfield High School in 2008, after having attended the former Enrico Fermi High School for the first three years. He then continued on to Asnuntuck Community College.
He was determined that he wanted to pursue a college education. He had little to no money available to him when he reached high school but he took advantage of Asnuntuck Community College’s free High School Partnership classes and several College Career Pathway classes, offered through Asnuntuck, that are taught at the high school and provide free college credit. He earned 12 credits toward his degree for free.
“The reality is I had a really tough life growing up. I knew I wanted to go into college ever since I was in middle school and that I really wanted to go into the fields of law and politics. I’ve experienced so much pain from being abused and neglected, and I wanted to go into politics and law so that no person would ever have to suffer like I did, and no child would ever have to go through being abused and neglected, without a family of their own, without food or heat in the winter or being loved.” His dreams included college, law school and involvement in politics.
Bobby credits Asnuntuck with helping him become involved in politics. “Asnuntuck Community College is the reason why I was able to get a job in the Governor’s re-election campaign in 2014 and subsequently get a job at the State Capitol working for the House Democratic Caucus as well as the Office of Legislative Management.” He explains, “To put things in prospective, six years ago I had no car, no home, no money, and very little. There was no way I could have traveled to a nearby community college in Hartford or Manchester or Springfield.” He continued, “I was extremely lucky to be living in Enfield at the time that I graduated from high school. While $20 was a lot of money to put forth for the acceptance fee, I saved up and I was able to put forth the funds. Luckily, because I was low income and had no family and a ward of the state, I was able to qualify for full financial aid which even paid for my books and other expenses for college. If I didn’t qualify for multiple Pell grants or scholarships, there would be no way I would have been able to succeed. I would have ended up homeless, in jail, or dead. I am absolutely certain of that.”
Berriault, who suffers from Asperger’s, said despite that fact that his choices for post-secondary were limited, he feels Asnuntuck was the best choice for him. “The faculty, administrators and staff at Asnuntuck were all so welcoming, understanding, and helpful. I was able to get one-on-one support with my academics, and with helping me get through my life struggles. I would have never been able to get my needs met at a larger college or university.” He was enrolled as a full-time student at Asnuntuck in the fall of 2008 and he graduated in December 2011. Berriault obtained an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts from Asnuntuck.
He shared, “I was successful because of the fact that I was encouraged and everyone was understanding and empathetic of my situation. In addition to my four classes, I was involved in the Student Senate for the full two and a half years that I was there, and I helped out with the student activities club as well.”
His education continued at Central Connecticut State University, where he majored in political science and minored in communications. It was then on to Western New England University School of Law where he obtained his J.D., and following brain surgery (his second brain surgery), he has sat for the bar exam and he is now enrolled at the University of Connecticut School of Law to obtain his L.M.M. (Master of Laws) in human rights and social justice. He is an intern at The Connecticut Legal Rights Project.
Interim Dean of Students Tim St. James and former ACC advisor Maki McHenry, along with others at Asnuntuck,encouraged Berriault that Central Connecticut State University was the place for him to go to pursue his bachelor’s degree. They were right, said Berriault.
A critical need for Berriault, that many other schools couldn’t provide, due to housing shortages, was a single room. Central did. “I lived at CCSU 365 days a year for two and a half years. I had no other home or family. For the first time in my 23 years of my life, I was truly happy. I loved Asnuntuck Community College, but the worst part of everyday, was having to leave campus to go back to my group home. I absolutely loved it at CCSU.”
He explained, “While I was the first student in the 150+ year history of CCSU to live on campus 365 days a year, I am happy to say that I wasn’t the last.” He explained, “At first, the administration was hesitant to help me in the manner that I needed, in order to literally survive.” He says with pride, “But today, there are other foster care students like me who have no home, who because of the newly created CCSU C.A.R.E.S. program-which I inspired the administration to create-no person will be denied an education just because their parents abandoned them and they have no family.”
He said, “I am extremely happy to have ended up at CCSU and later WNEU Law and UConn, and I couldn’t have done it alone without the help, guidance, and support from Asnuntuck.”