Ashley Andreas is out to change the world. A few weeks ago she was elected to serve as a district-level delegate to the Democratic National Convention. She’s actively running as a candidate to represent White River Junction in the Vermont House of Representatives. And on Saturday the 23-year-old Pennsylvania native will have the opportunity to pass her message of positive change along to thousands when she delivers the commencement address at CCV’s 49th commencement ceremony.
“I was completely surprised to be chosen,” Andreas said last week. “I’ve felt valued here at the Upper Valley by staff and faculty but to be recognized by CCV as a whole feels really good.”
Andreas, who graduates on Saturday with an associate of science in business, said it was a little shocking to find herself in this position. Directly following high school she attended Millersville University in Pennsylvania but dropped out soon after starting. There, and in high school, she didn’t have great grades and wasn’t what you’d call a strong student, she said. After kicking around in Florida for a bit working day jobs, hitchhiking to Vermont and settling down, then having a child, things changed. She decided to return to school. And it was different this time around.
“My perception about what I was learning changed,” she said. “I came to CCV because I wanted to learn, and I found my passion.”
CCV’s 49th Commencement Ceremony
Saturday, June 4, 2016 2:00 p.m.
Norwich University‘s Shapiro Field House
158 Harmon Drive
Northfield, VT 05663
On Saturday, she’ll join over 550 fellow students representing all 14 Vermont counties, 12 other U.S. states, and 18 countries of the world, all of who will walk across the stage at Norwich University to receive their degrees. Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services will deliver this year’s commencement address. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin will also address the crowd.
Although Andreas was surprised to have been chosen to deliver the commencement message, she is no stranger to trying to inspire people. Throughout her time at CCV she’s been a passionate and outspoken voice for civic duty and doing good in the community. In 2015, she was chosen as the CCV-Upper Valley’s Leadership Scholar for her outstanding contributions to the College and her community through working on projects related to those themes. Inspiring people to be more civically engaged is a goal, she said, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if that’s what her classmates hear on Saturday.
Andreas said that the problems she currently sees in her community, drug addiction and mental illness for instance, are ones that can and should be solved through more community engagement. Seeking funding for programs and facilities to deal with those issues, doesn’t go far enough, she said. Rather, each individual in a community should play a role in the addressing the issues, and in doing so, each person will be invested in the process of building a healthier and happier community.
“We need to start focusing on prevention, and that comes from every individual feeling like they have an important role,” she said. “Everyone should just feel validated for who they are and for the purpose they serve.”
Even though she’s graduating on Saturday, the Upper Valley doesn’t have to worry about Andreas heading off to inspire others somewhere else. She’s currently working on a second degree at CCV in environmental studies with a certification in sustainable building, so she’ll be at the College for a few more semesters. Possibly more importantly, she’s hoping voters from the town of Hartford will send her to Montpelier for the next legislative session to represent them and bring her message of change to a broader audience. But is there one core message she feels people need to hear? Yes. The same one she’ll tell her two-year-old daughter Dahlia when she’s old enough to understand it:
“Don’t ever give up or sit quietly or hold back something you want to say that you know is right just because the status quo says differently,” Andreas said. “If the status quo says to do something that you know in your heart is wrong, even if everybody is doing it, you need to use your voice and say what needs to be said.”