On Saturday afternoon, CCV awarded more than 500 associate degrees to students from across the state at its 50th commencement ceremony.
Thousands of family members and friends gathered to watch their loved ones walk across the stage and reach the much-anticipated moment of accepting a college diploma. And in keeping with the spirit of CCV, which builds intimate learning communities across thirteen distinct centers, Saturday’s commencement was a testament to the power of the personal.
Student speaker Levi Costa, who graduated from the Morrisville academic center with a degree in business, spoke about the struggles he faced along the way to commencement. “Reaching out for help is what I started to do when I felt down, and I always had someone willing to lift me back up,” said Costa. “When taking classes at CCV, I met people that I could trust to help pick me back up.” And, he said, he’s confident he wasn’t alone in that experience. “I think I can safely assume that something unifying all of us is that we have each endured and overcome both challenges and struggles during this incredible educational journey we embarked on.”
Costa closed his address with a suggestion for his classmates. “Now that we are all college graduates, I want to challenge all of us to be on the lookout for extended hands asking us for help, wherever we may be in life. I think we should do this as a sign of our gratitude for those who lent us their hand in our time of need.”
CCV President Joyce Judy officiated. She congratulated the graduates and urged them to keep working hard in pursuit of their goals. “I encourage you to take time to reflect on the hard work that got you here, and to celebrate this moment. I also want to emphasize that this is not an ending. Though you have finished your time at CCV, I hope that your drive to succeed has yet to run its course.”
She went on to acknowledge the persistence of this year’s graduates. “You committed to your goal of earning a college degree, and you stuck with it. I know that all of you faced obstacles on your way to this day, and that you found ways to overcome them,” said Judy. “You have the ability to roll up your sleeves and dive into your work. What’s more, you have the desire to keep going… Creating a better future will require you to keep asking, keep trying, and keep learning.”
Vermont Governor Phil Scott also addressed the class of 2017. He offered congratulations as well as a small piece of his own personal story. “To those of you who aren’t quite sure what you’re going to be doing, here’s a little secret: I wasn’t always sure either, there are still days when I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.”
He encouraged students to view uncertainty as a positive. “It wasn’t a straight line from point A to point B for me and I know it hasn’t been for some of you either. My point is this: You never know what hand you’re going to be dealt, where your college experience will lead you, where you’re going to go or how you’re going to get there. And that’s okay, because that’s what makes life so interesting. So embrace the challenges ahead. Be bold.”
South Royalton, Vermont native Eben Bayer was this year’s keynote speaker. Bayer is co-founder and CEO of Ecovative Design, a biomaterials company that produces safe alternative products for packaging and building. He spoke about the experience of growing up on his family’s farm, and said three things come to mind when he thinks of Vermonters: self-sufficiency; support of family, friends, and neighbors; and persistence. “I still find persistence seems to infuse the ethics of Vermonters,” he said.
Bayer confided that in his experience as head of Ecovative, he’s had to employ incredible persistence to overcome challenges. “Sometimes I joke with my friends that the last ten years could be described as a series of spectacular failures,” he said. “The reality is we’ve just begun our work. There’s so much more to do.”
In this, Bayer’s message to the graduates echoed President Judy’s. “Your presence in this auditorium is a testament to your grit,” he told the class. “What’s going to take you forward from this day…is the tenacity and effort you displayed in getting [your degree.]” He encouraged the graduates to persist. “The trick after today is to keep going, keep striving, and remember, you’re Vermonters. And Vermonters sure have a lot of grit.”