Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Andria Benjamin of Eden smiles back at her daughter during commencement ceremonies Saturday in Northfield for Community College of Vermont.
NORTHFIELD — Community College of Vermont celebrated the largest graduating class in its history, awarding 687 associate degrees on a sunny, hope-filled Saturday at Norwich University.
Gov. Peter Shumlin addressed the graduates, sharing that he has dyslexia, that he struggled to read as a child, and that he too had earned an associate degree at a two-year college.
He told the graduates he understood how hard they had worked and asked proud parents and friends to stand and applaud — which they did with enthusiasm.
It was the second standing ovation of the day, as an earlier one celebrated the accomplishments of the 41 military veterans in the class of 2014.
Stuart Comstock-Gay, president of the Vermont Community Foundation, was the commencement speaker. He encouraged the graduates to “Join and show up, because magical things can happen,” in life.
“Be willing to give of your time and your money,” he said. “Contribute what you can. It will be good for you, and for your community. ... Giving, quite simply, is good for all of us.”
He urged the graduates to make priorities and focus on them. “Fill your bucket of time with the most important rocks first,” he said.
Those “rocks,” he said, could be family, friends, health, religion, or something else. “The big rocks,” he emphasized, “are the things that are most important to you.”
Several thousand people filled Norwich’s Shapiro Fieldhouse, where CCV President Joyce M. Judy said it was the one day that the entire class of 2014 came together, as CCV comprises more than a dozen campuses across the state.
Many graduates in the class of 2014 were the first in their families to attend college. Judy said half of the class will go on to study toward four-year degrees.
The student speaker was Olivia Smith-Hammond, a Burlington native who earned her degree in human services.
“We’ve all overcome challenges to get here today,” she said. “I thought the odds were against me. Completing the coursework felt like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen.”
She called on her fellow graduates to count to five and to reflect on the mountains they each had to climb. “And let’s celebrate our accomplishment,” she said.
Shumlin helped sum up the mood when he noted that he wouldn’t miss a CCV graduation for anything.
“I know that you and the people behind you who were just cheering for you worked harder than any other graduates in Vermont to be here today,” he said. “I am just so happy to be a part of this celebration.”
In addition to Vermont, the graduates came from nine other states and 15 nations altogether. They ranged in age from 17 to 67.
Presented with the two student community service awards were Aline R. Mukeshimana and Michael E. Washington.
Mukeshimana immigrated to Vermont from Burundi, Africa, unable to speak English when she arrived here as a teenager. Six years later, she earned her degree, and has volunteered at CCV, at high schools in Winooski and Burlington, and at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. She also works part-time with the elderly at an assisted living home.
Washington also volunteered a great deal, primarily in the area of substance abuse with the Department of Corrections. He hopes to become a substance abuse counselor one day, Judy told the audience.
The college’s Community Service Award was given to Steve Costello, a longtime resident of Rutland Town and a vice president at Green Mountain Power. Costello has long been active in numerous community-service projects and boards in the Rutland area.
The Faculty Community Service Award was presented to Melanie Meyer of Montpelier, who teaches science, allied health and humanities courses at CCV. Service learning projects are incorporated into her courses related to nutrition and hunger awareness issues.MORE IN Central Vermont
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