Northfield, Vt.—The Community College of Vermont (CCV) held its graduation ceremony today at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House.
More than 550 students from across the state received associate degrees at the event.
Students representing all 14 Vermont counties graduated along with students from 12 other states and 18 countries worldwide. The youngest graduate was 17 and the eldest was 66.
Also among the graduates were 41 veterans and active duty military personnel.
Spectrum Youth and Family Services Executive Director Mark Redmond and Governor Peter Shumlin addressed the Class of 2016. CCV President Joyce Judy officiated the event.
Redmond, spoke about the importance of grit and perseverance in achieving one’s goals.
“I can only imagine the challenges and difficulties some of you have overcome while in school: around transportation, around child care, around finances, finding the time to study while you are also working one or maybe even two jobs,” said Redmond. “Maybe your family wasn’t even supportive of you obtaining a college degree. But you did it. You didn’t give up. You got your college degree, and you know, very few people make it to the point you have.”
He also told the story of a young refugee whom he and his wife hosted when she first arrived in Vermont with her family from Kenya. She went on to graduate from CCV and is now an education student at the University of Vermont.
“She surrounded herself with responsible people and listened to their advice,” he said. “She surrounded herself with people who were role models for her, who could help her and coach her and mentor her. She recognized her dignity and what she deserved in life.”
CCV-Upper Valley student Ashley Andreas addressed the attendees as the student speaker. She spoke of her transformative experiences at CCV and the desire to create change in the world around her.
“CCV is not only an academic center; it is a community where everyone is included and valued regardless of socioeconomic standing, family history, past experiences or learning styles,” said Andreas. “It is the diversity of students that makes us unique, that makes us better prepared to cope with the real world, and that teaches us tolerance.”
Andreas passionately encouraged her fellow graduates to engage with their communities, citing public figures ranging from Florence Kelley to Bernie Sanders.
“While our individual successes are valuable and something to be proud of, I believe we sell ourselves short if we don’t give back to our communities and empower every person we come in contact with,” she said. “I believe my impact on others defines who I am. I have always been inspired by people who put the greater good of others before their own personal gains.”
In her speech to the graduates, President Judy spoke on the diverse backgrounds of the graduating class, and the experiences at CCV that united them.
“While you come from different towns and diverse backgrounds, there are common qualities and beliefs all of our graduates possess,” said Judy. “You share the determination that has been required to overcome many challenges and complete your degrees. You share the belief that education is the foundation of success. You share the experience of waving away any last doubts and walking through the front doors of the Community College of Vermont on your first day of class.”
Governor Peter Shumlin also addressed the graduates, congratulating them on their accomplishments.
“I’m here just to say congratulations. You will be the best Vermonters, because you know how to fight, you know how to overcome obstacles, you know how to make it work, you know how to use your imagination and your courage and your determination and your incredible intellect to get where you are right now. And I see in front of me huge successes ahead in each and every one of you.”
He also made a point of encouraging them to keep their talents in Vermont.
“You have made it. Many of you [will] go farther and that’s great. But just this huge accomplishment is going to lift your life and I’m just going to beg you to do it here in Vermont. You know there are 50 governors in America, but this I’m convinced of. There is nothing better than the Green Mountain State, to live, to work, to raise a family.”
Several individuals were recognized during the ceremony for both academic accomplishments and community service.
Tom Stearns, founder of High Mowing Seeds, received a community service award for his work advocating for Vermont’s agricultural community and healthy food systems.
CCV-Springfield faculty member Brad Houk received the faculty community service award for his dedication to inspiring students to become good citizens and active community members through innovative mapping.
CCV-Rutland student Amy McClure and CCV-Winooski student Luke Fountain were awarded CCV alumni scholarships.