How does one go about getting a check for a cool grand in the mail from CCV?
Here’s a recipe: To start, contribute in class and keep your grades up. Next, spend a good amount of time helping your fellow students succeed. When asked for help, give freely. And finally, do lots of selfless acts to strengthen your community. Essentially, act like a leader and you’ll be rewarded as a leader.
“There are times in my life that I lost sight of it, but I’ve always had a knack for helping people,” says Casey English, a CCV-Morrisville student studying human services. “It really gives me satisfaction knowing that I made somebody happy today, or maybe that I helped to improve their life. That makes me feel good.”
English, along with 12 of his fellow students has been named one of CCV’s Leadership Scholars for 2014. Now in its third year, the scholarships are awarded to 13 students representing each of CCV’s academic centers and its Center for Online Learning and consists of a $1,000 cash award and lunch with CCV’s president. To be eligible for the award, students are nominated by fellow students, faculty members, and staff at the College, and then a committee comprised of representatives of the aforementioned groups make the final decision. And it’s tough decision.
CCV’s Student Leadership Scholarship
Each year CCV awards the Student Leadership Scholarship to 13 students who represent each of the College’s academic centers and its Center for Online Learning. During their time at CCV these students have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities by balancing commitments both to their studies and to extra-curricular initiatives such as staffing CCV’s Learning Centers and peer tutoring or mentoring; volunteering at their local schools, libraries, and hospitals; and as active members in the College’s Community of Student Representatives. In recognition, each student receives a $1,000 award, a certificate of achievement, and an invitation to a private luncheon with the College’s president held in their honor.
The 2014 scholars are:
- James Lawton, Bennington
- Patricia Gilbert, Brattleboro
- Elizabeth Fish, Center for Online Learning
- Susan Stroud-Speyers, Middlebury
- Samuel Jensen, Montpelier
- Casey English, Morrisville
- Gladys Chambers, Newport
- Emily Weber, Rutland
- Emily Watcke, St. Albans
- Brittney Stevens, St. Johnsbury
- Rachel Arbuckle, Springfield
- Ashley Andreas, Upper Valley
- Umesh Acharya, Winooski
“Each year it’s gotten harder and harder to narrow down the choices from each center,” said Ryan Dulude, Assistant Director of Financial Aid and the scholarship committee chair. “This is in part because we’re seeing more nominations each year, but mainly it’s because of the really great things our students are doing.”
As in years past, the 2014 scholars are very much worthy of being awarded. The work they do runs the gamut from volunteering as an EMT to working with the homeless to advocating for racial equality. The common thread that runs through all of the work is that it’s fueled by a desire to change the world from the ground up. It is the “think globally, act locally” catch-phrase set in motion.
“I’m focusing on the things in my community,” said the Upper Valley’s scholarship recipient, Ashley Andreas. ”And that’s kind of what I found my answer to be: to solve the world’s problems, build up your community, build up those around you, and hope that that spreads.”
Although only 22, Andreas has had a long journey before landing at CCV. She briefly attended Millersville University in Pennsylvania before dropping out. She’s worked numerous day jobs, spent time living in Florida hanging around with homeless people, and eventually hitchhiked to Vermont. Now in her third semester at CCV, she says her experiences have taught her that the world isn’t a perfect place, but positive change can happen, and she can contribute.
As a member of the Community of Student Representatives, she’s actively involved in the academic center’s wellness week activities, she spearheaded the Upper Valley’s Harvest for Hunger Campaign, and is currently hard at work on a clothing drive to support the Upper Valley Haven, an organization that provides temporary shelter and educational programming for homeless families and adults. The drive itself, she says, was the brainchild of a fellow student, but when the effort appeared to be faltering, Andreas decided to lend a hand by extending the drive and collecting clothes herself.
Along with the volunteer projects she regularly completes, Andreas holds down three part-time jobs and is a single mother. School, she says, is a way to move forward to a better and less stressful life.
“The amount of stress that comes from living in poverty or a low-income situation is the stress that I don’t want to deal with anymore.”
To that end Andreas is studying business and says that while it’s not her favorite subject, she understands that her long-term goal of building intentional communities through small, locally-connected endeavors will require a foundational understanding of running a business. And, more importantly, an associates degree in business will provide short-term opportunities to bridge the gap until her dreams become reality.
“You’ve got to make money to support the people,” Andreas says with a wry smile, and so she’s happy to take a conventional path that will hopefully lead to unconventional results.
English is no stranger to these ideas either. In Lamoille County, the 31-year-old father of two has devoted his energy to strengthening his community by volunteering at the North Central Vermont Recovery Center. It was through that organization that English, along with three others, founded GYST, or, Get Your Stuff Together, a men’s support group that’s helped dozens of 17 to 26-year-old men from the Morrisville area move forward in their lives in a positive way. The group has been so successful, English said, he and the others are now working to take it state-wide.
If there’s anyone well-suited to helping people right themselves, it’s English. His warm smile and laid-back demeanor are in some ways incongruous with his past. English admits to having made some poor decisions as a younger man, and speaks openly about spending time in a Vermont correctional facility. Although he acknowledges the mistakes he’s made, he also values the lessons he’s learned and understands that his past, rough patches included, has led him to this point in his life. In fact to some extent, he says, it opened up his eyes to the idea of returning to school.
“I had a little bit of experience with that while I was incarcerated because they offered high school-level classes that I would take for fun. You know, it was better than staring at walls and I had to do something to keep my mind active and improve myself physically, spiritually, and mentally,” English said. “It was then that I started to realize that I had a brain, that I enjoyed learning.”
English said it wasn’t long after he was released that he started up at CCV. From the beginning, he said, CCV was a perfect fit. Small classes in a welcoming environment where people knew his name and greeted him when he walked through the door all made college feel very doable. Now, on the verge of graduating with a degree in human services, English says he plans to go on to a four-year degree at UVM, followed by a masters program, and eventually he’d like to work on social policy at the state level.
“I’m thinking in terms of substance abuse, and people who wind up in trouble with the law because of substances,” English said. “The policies that surround that situation create barriers in people’s lives that are hard to get past and I think it holds a lot of people back and it keeps that negative cycle going. That needs to change.”
Both Andreas and English have big plans for their futures, but for now, they’re both starting out close to home, following a similar guiding principle that building better communities starts with helping people.
“If you can make someone feel good and comfortable and show them that you value them,” Andreas says, “then they start showing you the things that they might be nervous to talk about or show, and that’s where the good stuff is.”