CCV’s Student Leadership Scholarships are awarded annually to one student from each of CCV’s thirteen academic centers. Each $1000 award is given in recognition of exemplary leadership demonstrated through academics, volunteerism, and community engagement. This year’s Leadership Scholars will be honored at a luncheon with CCV President Joyce Judy on Thursday, May 25.
This year, CCV Now features the stories of 2017 Scholars Danielle Braverman of Brattleboro and Dagan Warner of Springfield.
On a New Path
“Things happen for a reason,” says CCV-Brattleboro student Danielle Braverman. She speaks in a thoughtful and trusting tone, as though she might be confiding in a close friend. She’s sitting in a quiet reading room at Brattleboro’s Brooks Memorial Library, a place that feels safe, warm. “I think that there’s a plan, even before we make it.”
The conversation mirrors the warm mood in the room, created by a space cushioned with books and words, a space rich with the tangible evidence of ideas and aspirations. Braverman is genuine, open, and honest; she gets misty when the talk turns to certain parts of her past, and some of the people who’ve supported her on her journey to this point—a place in which she’s finding contentment and joy, making peace with a troubling adolescence, and making room for defining, pursuing, and achieving new goals.
But the true impetus for her success lies not in other people but in herself. “Nothing was ever done for me,” she says of her childhood. “That didn’t happen for me. I had to do it on my own. As I grew older I encountered many, many challenges. I don’t like sitting and stewing in bad feelings. [I would think] ‘I need a resolution, what am I going to do to find it?’ I also have a really hard time asking for help, and so because of that I just seem to always find solutions.”
This is the attitude with which Braverman approaches her life to this day, and clearly it’s an attitude that yields results. On a blue-sky March afternoon, she sits across the table as the winner of the 2017 Leadership Scholarship for CCV-Brattleboro. Braverman is on her way to a nursing degree. She’s just been accepted to the nursing program at Vermont Tech, and she will start there in late summer. She wants to be an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) with an emphasis in holistic healing. She is one of CCV’s six Job Hunt Helpers, and works here at the library helping patrons look for and apply to jobs, school, and training.
CCV’s 2017 Student Leadership Scholars
- Jessica Leonard, Bennington
- Danielle Braverman, Brattleboro
- Erin Betters, Center for Online Learning
- James Sanchez, Middlebury
- Erin Christian, Montpelier
- Stephanie LeBeau, Morrisville
- Holly Lillis, Newport
- Trevor Gallo, Rutland
- Dagan Warner, Springfield
- Rachel Tatro, St. Albans
- Kimberly Payne, St. Johnsbury
- Lilian Dalton, Upper Valley
- Dodit Tshibamba Buabua, Winooski
Perhaps most important to her, she is the mother of a young daughter. “Having my daughter just gave me so much motivation,” she says of balancing being a student with being a mother. “Like, ‘okay, there’s a reason, and there’s a purpose. It’s not just for me, it’s for her, too.’” Among the many efforts that go into her role as a mother, Braverman works with the local group Building Bright Futures, which is trying to arrange affordable childcare options, especially for parents who are community college students or who work evenings.
Having been awarded the Leadership Scholarship, says Braverman, “means that I have to hold up to being a leader and a role model. Now I have to be conscious of it. It’s really an honor. I’m humbled by it. It helps on my challenging days.”
She says that on the day she found out she was being nominated for the award, she was running on two hours of sleep; she’d been awake most of the night with a sick toddler. She was on her way to grab a cup of tea when CCV-Brattleboro Academic Coordinator Leigh Marthe pulled her aside. “I have something that might brighten your day,” Marthe told her. Braverman says she was floored. “I had no idea this was a thing until that day when I had had two hours of sleep. That filled me right up. I didn’t realize that the things I was doing naturally affected [Leigh] in that way. She was constantly singing my praises.”
Braverman talks about the relationship she’s developed with Marthe, and the ways in which “the things I was doing naturally”—in a word, being a leader—contributed to her being awarded the $1,000 scholarship. Marthe has encouraged Braverman’s ability to seek solutions and take initiative, and to be the helpful, optimistic, hard-working citizen Braverman has become. “Danielle is a bright light at the CCV Brattleboro center and in the greater community at the Brooks Memorial Library,” says Marthe. “She wants to make a difference for her daughter, for her classmates in their studies, and for the people she works with at the library. Most of all, she sees her own potential to shine at CCV and in the world.”
“This time I am on a path,” Braverman says, sharing that her past relationship with Vermont has been volatile. After leaving home as a young adult and struggling to recreate a healthy sense of this place and its people, she says she has turned over a new leaf. “I’ve come back to not fear some of the things I ran from, to really take some of those challenges on. I had to really dig deep inside of me and make a lot of personal changes, and really come to grips with where I want to be, and who I want to be.”
Braverman dreams of building on the foundation she’s creating today. She says she’d like to be a school nurse, a motivational speaker, maybe teach at CCV. She wants to be a productive part of the Brattleboro community—at her daughter’s school, at CCV, at the library, in her workplace, and at home.
“I want to be able to use the gifts and qualities I was born with to do something positive in the world and make a positive impact,” she says in that same thoughtful, trusting voice she’s maintained throughout the conversation. By now, there’s an added layer, a tone of determination. “I love people…and I’ll continue to attempt to get better as a human being as much as I can. I just really want to be a positive impact on the world.”
It seems that Danielle Braverman has been awarded the Leadership Scholarship for a very good reason, indeed.
Sticking Up for Springfield
Dagan Warner recognizes that being a leader is a big responsibility. “You have to make sure everyone’s doing okay, everything’s going well. You have to plan ahead,” he says. In the next breath, he says he doesn’t think of himself as being a leader. Yet he’s the recipient of the 2017 Student Leadership Scholarship at CCV-Springfield.
Warner is engaged to be married. He and his fiancé haven’t yet set a date: they want to be more established first. He works full-time at the local McDonald’s, where he’s a crew trainer and vying for a management position. He is taking care of family members and finishing up his college degree. He’s also heading—this very afternoon, as soon as the interview’s over—to the department of motor vehicles to see about getting a commercial driver’s license. He says he likes the idea of having a backup plan, in case a job in his field doesn’t pan out right away. By all accounts, this is the profile of a life that includes making sure that everyone’s okay and things are going well. And it’s certainly a life that includes planning ahead.
Earning a degree is an essential element of that plan, Warner says. His father instilled this idea in him from an early age: A college degree is important. Simply put, if you have a degree, you’re more likely to be successful. Warner says he chose CCV because he wanted to avoid being in debt for the rest of his life. He’s working his way through school and planning to graduate in June. And there’s no doubt the Student Leadership Scholarship will help.
Warner is studying computer systems management, and his interests are varied. (“He wants to do everything,” his fiancé says.) Among those many interests is photography. “It’s not something I’m going to go for professionally,” he says, “but it’s something I might do on my own time.” But he’s being modest here, as it is this appreciation for photographs that played a major role in landing him the Leadership Scholarship.
Warner is a person who believes in the saying, “a picture’s worth a thousand words.” Last year, he participated in Springfield’s Photovoice project, a collaborative effort between CCV, local schools, and the Springfield group Project ACTION (Assembling Community to Improve our Neighborhoods) to bring awareness of local issues to residents and visitors through photography. Warner was included in the project as a student in an Interpersonal and Small Group Communications class taught by CCV-Springfield Academic Coordinator Deb Grant.
Warner says the Photovoice project was something he grew passionate about. “The goal was to raise awareness for the town. We all agreed that there was a problem, and the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it.” The “problem(s)” he’s referring to are complex. Springfield struggles with failing infrastructure and a dying manufacturing industry, as well as the social and economic effects of a drug epidemic. “The fact that we’re acknowledging the problem, trying to show the town that we have a problem and we’d like to fix it, to me, is a step toward trying to fix [it],” says Warner. “If you get people aware of it they might want to get more engaged.” (He mentions that in his own photography for the project, he focused more on abandoned buildings and neglected roads than on drug-related issues. “I want to be safe,” he says, “so I did what I could.”)
The project proved to be an opportunity for Warner’s leadership skills to shine. “During the Photovoice project, Dagan taught and mentored the students about the logistical pieces, facilitated deep conversations about community perceptions, and promoted the project throughout the community by presenting the project to many community groups,” said Grant. In late March, Warner and Grant traveled to Greensboro, North Carolina to attend the Gulf South Summit. The conference is a three-day event focused on service learning and community engagement in higher education, and Warner delivered a presentation on Photovoice to representatives from community colleges across the country.
“[The hope was to] raise awareness throughout the country, not just in Vermont, and have other colleges see how projects like Photovoice can help raise awareness in a town,” says Warner. “I’m hoping that other colleges will use the project to help with any challenges that they have in their towns.”
“Photovoice helped me because it allowed me to go out and see parts of Springfield I didn’t really see before,” says Warner. And using photographs as a medium was important. “Sometimes just reading the newspaper and seeing words, and not having that visual reference, is not enough. It doesn’t impact a person…You need the raw data or the raw materials. Pictures were that raw data.”
Warner’s review of the Photovoice project might be a good metaphor for the scholarship he’s just won: this award is a testament to his leadership. Hopefully, he’s seeing a part of himself he didn’t really see before.
*Correction – The March 31 luncheon was postponed due to weather.