CCV students, faculty, and staff from across the state gathered at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House on Saturday, to celebrate the Class of 2023. The day was one of smiles, tears, laughter, and proud moments shared by everyone in the CCV community as more than 450 graduates earned their associate degree.
CCV-Winooski graduate Vira Kambere was one of the first students to arrive on graduation morning. An international student originally from the Congo, Vira came to Vermont in 2021 to take classes at CCV. Vira attributes much of her success at the College to the staff and instructors who supported her along the way. “They genuinely want you to succeed,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be here today without all of their support. I came here expecting to only grow academically, but I also had a lot of personal growth…I learned a lot from them and their life stories.” While Vira was nervous to graduate and walk across the stage, she said that staff continued to support her on graduation day, “It means a lot to me…they’re like ‘oh, you already did the hard part, this is the easy part!’ I’m really proud.”
Graduate Kevin McGreal was the student speaker for the Class of 2023. Kevin served as president of CCV’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa national honor society and participated in CCV’s Student Advisory and Leadership Council, DEI Committee, and Academic Council, among other activities with CCV students and staff. At CCV, Kevin says he has increased his skills as a leader, critical thinker, and communicator. “While what each of us takes from this may differ, we all have shown up for ourselves and for our families, our communities,” he said. “Whether we started to gain skills or a certificate to improve financial security, or credits to transfer, or just to keep enriching our lives, we all share this.”
“Together we are building a culture of progress,” he said to his fellow graduates, reminding them: “you are successful, you are valuable, you are making a difference. If for nothing else for yourself, and man this is so important, because you deserve it.”
CCV welcomed Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of BETA Technologies, as the keynote speaker. He shared that when he was invited to speak at graduation, he was first excited, then apprehensive, wondering why he was the one asked to do this. But, “I walked in with the Governor, and two folks were taking a selfie, and the Governor said ‘oh I’ll take that for you,’ and he went and took a picture for the graduates…what state’s governor does that? That’s amazing.” He saw graduates that dance Zumba with his wife. One graduate’s husband works with him at BETA. That’s when he realized: “these are my people, this makes sense.” He told the graduates, “life after graduation is not a process, there’s no manual, don’t bother writing down a definitive plan of what you’re going to do…my advice is pick a vision, have some conviction towards that vision, and work with a soft-edged plan.”
Kyle offered advice that he has gathered over the years, both as a college graduate himself and now as a business owner. He advised graduates to get motivated by challenges and new, unplanned opportunities as they present themselves. “The one thing you have in control is your own hard work. Taking pride in everything that you do…extraordinary gain can only be made with extraordinary effort,” he said. “Just show up…your experiences will be pushed into an algorithm that you didn’t even know was in your head, this is what we call intuition. You’ll certainly use the experiences here to help you achieve your vision. Start making progress toward your vision now, and do it with your blinders off and an open mind.”
CCV President Joyce Judy officiated the ceremony. In her remarks, she recognized that CCV graduates represent a diverse population with unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives on life. She acknowledged various groups of graduates including those that worked full- or part-time jobs while taking classes; parents; high school students; first-generation students; Phi Theta Kappa honor society graduates; and veterans and active military members, acknowledging their “incredible resilience and determination in reaching this milestone.”
CCV-Upper Valley student Matthew Moore fell into multiple categories highlighted by President Judy. Matt started classes in January 2022, pursuing a degree in early childhood education while also working as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool. Matt started working in the field in 2016 after being a stay-at-home dad for his three children, all of whom were in attendance at graduation. Matt earned credits at CCV through the Prior Learning Assessment. “I was able to put myself out there and it was fully accepted…prior learning was really embraced and celebrated. Learning is not just at school,” Matt said. “I didn’t really like school [previously], but now I’m totally into it. [Graduating] means a lot.”
Several students, faculty, and community members were recognized during the ceremony. Bob and Lois Frey received the Community Service Award for their volunteerism in their community and their support of CCV through an endowed scholarship memorializing their daughter, CCV alumna Jennifer Frey. CCV-Winooski student Taylor Goodchild received the Student Service Award, while CCV-Montpelier students Jack Taylor and Raine Towns each received the Student Leadership Award. The 2023 Alumni Scholarship was presented to CCV-Middlebury student Ryan Francoeur and CCV-St. Johnsbury student Maia Mencucci, supporting their pursuit of a four-year degree. Faculty members Mary Ann Boyd, Stephanie Bush, and Lou Colasanti were honored with Teaching Excellence Awards.
CCV-Montpelier graduate Deeann Fassett celebrated with her family, including her adult children, who watched her walk across the state and receive her diploma as a first-generation college graduate. “They’re just extremely proud…I’m just so proud,” she said.