Former punk rock bassist. Comic book aficionado. Indie film enthusiast. CCV Middlebury, meet your 2013 student leadership scholar.
Actually, if you were to pass Stephen Andolfo on the street, you’d probably think ‘that guy ought to be a bouncer at a roadhouse.’”
Andolfo stands 6’ tall, he’s a got a lot of tattoos, and he carries himself with an enormous air of confidence. But give him your ear for 30 seconds and any preconceived notions you may have formed disappear, replaced by a sense of awe for an affable man whose humility is inspirational and whose enthusiasm for life is infectious.
“I don’t necessarily see myself as a student leader,” Andolfo says. “I see myself as someone who’s just here to learn, and if I can help other people along the way, I will.”
And that’s why Andolfo has been chosen as one of CCV’s 12 student leadership scholars this year, because he helps, all the time, in any way possible. His nomination information submitted by CCV Middlebury staff states: “He is a classic leader by example, showing his love for the educational process and inspiring his peers to work their hardest.” Andolfo serves as a peer tutor in Middlebury, sits on the Community of Student Representatives, and says he relishes any opportunity to help his fellow classmates with writing and research issues.
CCV’s Student Leadership Scholarship
Each year CCV awards the Student Leadership Scholarship to 12 students who represent each of the College’s academic centers. 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 2013 scholars are:
- Stephen Andolfo, Middlebury
- Tanya Brown, Brattleboro
- Lindsay DeCell, Springfield
- Chad Herman, Morrisville
- Janette Johnson, Bennington
- Domenic Laurenzi, Newport
- Lisa Martin, Saint Johnsbury
- Wayne Miller, Upper Valley
- Aline Mukeshimana, Winooski
- Susan Pregent, Saint Albans
- Tracy Staples, Montpelier
- Nicholas Trapeni, Rutland
“The thing is I see the other students in my classes, and I’m no better than anyone else that comes to school, we’re all trying to get to the same goal, we’re all trying to get somewhere. But some people are a little timid, or a little scared, or they don’t have the life experience, and I just like to help people.” Andolfo says. “It makes me feel good to help people. It makes me feel good to tell somebody, ‘you have an amazing idea, but you need to word it better, and here’s how you can do that.’ I get happiness out of helping people feel more confident in themselves.”
The Long Island native arrived in Vermont four years ago with his wife, Kristin. Both had lost jobs during the recession, which prompted the move up north for a new start. At 30, Andolfo said, he’d gotten tired of working dead-end jobs, and so he figured he’d give college a try. Now, three years later, the liberal arts major is set to graduate in June and transfer into Castleton State College’s communications program.
College, Andolfo says, is the perfect laboratory for dissecting ideas, questioning theories, and debating everything, a practice he refers to as using “punk rock brain.” This desire to use punk rock brain and encourage others to do so inspired Andolfo to start a classic literature club at CCV Middlebury. Although the club never took off due to a lack of interest and time, Andolfo says his goal this semester is to start a classic audio book club to get others into using punk rock brain to pick apart the classics.
“I know there are open-source copies of Moby Dick audio books, and I just want to hand them to people and say, ‘listen to this in your car, and let’s come in every two weeks, meet for an hour or so and just discuss what we’ve listened to or read,’” Andolfo says. “I just want to introduce people to the fact that just because it’s classic literature, doesn’t mean it’s boring, or stuffy, or that you can’t enjoy it.”
Forty miles north Aline Mukeshimana sits in a CCV Winooski classroom. Described in her nomination information as “the total package,” Mukeshimana will graduate in spring with her medical assisting degree and finish her CCV career as Winooski’s 2013 leadership scholar.
As a young girl Mukeshimana fled war-torn Burundi, Africa, to a Tanzanian refugee camp. After ten years in the camp, she and family members immigrated to the United States. Dropped into Burlington High School at 14 without speaking any English, the soft-spoken 20 year old is now fluent and talks at length about her volunteer experience, her desire to help others, and her appreciation for CCV.
“I’m the kind of person who loves to help and through that I have been doing a lot of volunteering experience,” Mukeshimana said, explaining that last semester she volunteered on Fletcher Allen Health Care’s pediatric floor working with sick children. She went on to talk about her experience volunteering with Partnership for Change, a program that works within the Burlington and Winooski schools to remodel education to better prepare students for the world.“Hearing about it I thought about how I wanted to help the students who are back in high school, you know, they are like our younger sisters and brothers, so I thought about how it would be nice to be in there and give my thoughts,” Mukeshimana said. “I loved being there, listening, and just giving ideas of what can help out the younger ones in high school.”
Helping younger children is nothing new to the Burlington resident, either. At home, Mukeshimana lives with an older sister and her husband, the husband’s mother, and six nieces and nephews. As the main English-speaking adult in the household, Mukeshimana said she helps out quite a bit with the children and works to serve as a positive role model, encouraging the younger family members to study hard and prepare for college.
“My older niece, she’s now in high school, and she told me I’m one of the people she looks up to,” Mukeshimana said. “And when she heard that [I’m getting the scholarship], she was very happy, and I’m sure it made her feel that if she would be able to work very hard maybe she would receive something better than I have received.”
And it’s not just the younger generations that Mukeshimana dedicates herself to. She has a part-time job working with elderly in an assisted living home, and at CCV she works with her peers as an orientation leader and as a member of the Community of Student Representatives. What’s most remarkable is that in her own words, she’s “a very shy person” who hasn’t always wanted to participate. Yet somehow Mukeshimana has developed an almost uncanny ability to overcome fears and convert them into strengths.
“It’s hard but, if I don’t do it, it’s going to be stuck in me, and it’s a good idea to just let it go and try and see the results,” she said. “And once I did something, the feelings I got afterwards help me go on to do something else.”
Does this add up to the total package, though? Maybe, maybe not. But what seals the deal is the gratitude Mukeshimana shows for the opportunities she’s been given. There are no complaints, and no could have, should have, would haves, there’s only heartfelt thanks.
“I am very thankful to the staff at CCV for the warm welcome and the encouragements they gave me, especially Tuipate Mubiay, who has always been there for me, giving me advice, pushing me and introducing me to volunteering opportunities,” Mukeshimana said. “I was able to improve my skills and overcome many hardships with the help of CCV staff members, CCV’s help resources, and myself trying and doing my best to succeed.”