By JEN CARDINES
Each year, the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSUS) system—with campuses in New Britain (Central), Willimantic (Eastern), New Haven (Southern), and Danbury (Western)—honors a dozen of their most outstanding students with the Henry Barnard Distinguished Student award. The CSUS foundation presents the award every year at a banquet.
This year, a trio of locals topped the list.
Brandon Brush, Nick Charnysh, and Elizabeth Del Buono graduated from Southington High School in 2013, and each pursued their education at Connecticut state universities. Once again, they rose to the top of a prestigious list. The three former classmates each earned a 2017 Barnard Award. To be considered for the award, a student must have at least a 3.75 GPA, a record of community service, and be nominated by their respective university president.
The award is named for Henry Barnard, the first U.S. commissioner of education, and a distinguished Connecticut educator who was the state’s first superintendent of schools and principal of what later became Central Connecticut State University.
Brush is in the Honors College at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU). He’s currently finishing his studies to receive a degree in communication with a focus in film, television, and digital production. He’s also pursuing a minor in theatre.
“Southern was a great school for me because it allowed me to live away from home and learn about myself and explore all that New Haven has to offer while also allowing me to easily drive home for family events or Sunday dinners,” Brush said.
Also at SCSU, Charnysh is in the recreation, tourism, and sport management program with a concentration in community recreation and youth development. This summer, he will continue serving as the director of the counselor-in-training program at YMCA Camp Sloper.
“I enjoy spending my summers working at YMCA Camp Sloper gaining real-world experiences,” said Charnysh.
Del Buono is a biology major at Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU) and is currently applying for graduate programs in genetic counseling. Genetic counselors are experts in both medical genetics and counseling who personally help patients make the best decisions about their genetic health.
For the past three years, she has been conducting undergraduate research in this field.
The three scholars are each involved in different clubs and organizations at their schools, as well as different career paths and schools of study. But they are no strangers.
“Nick, Brandon and I have been friends for years,” Del Buono said. “We all participated in Southington youth summer theater and the SHS drama club together for most of high school.” Charnysh and Del Buono have also been dating for five years.
Their involvement in the community started in Southington and followed them to their campuses. Whether it’s student government, research work, honor societies, extra-curricular activities, or performing, the three friends remained active through their collegiate endeavors.
“I have grown tremendously as a person,” said Brush, “and I have enjoyed serving my family, friends, and community.”
For Del Buono, the award carried an even bigger weight. “I am a first generation college student, so this means a lot to me and to my family,” she said. “Receiving the [award] means so much to me because my parents have worked very hard to provide me with the opportunity to attend college.”
It was no easy feat to have three students from one town achieve this distinction in the same academic year.
The university system enrolls approximately 35,000 students across their four campuses. The four universities offer graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 160 subject areas with more than 86 percent of system graduates residing in Connecticut after graduation.
“This award gives me a great sense of accomplishment,” said Charnysh, “and will be my constant reminder to always work hard and make good change to the community around me, wherever I go.”
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.