CCV’s Student Leadership Scholarships are awarded annually to one student from each of the College’s 13 academic centers. Each $1000 award is given in recognition of exemplary leadership demonstrated through academics, volunteerism, and community engagement. This year’s Leadership Scholars will be honored at a luncheon with CCV President Joyce Judy on Friday, March 29th.

This year, CCV Now features profiles of 2019 Scholars Krishna Bista of Winooski and Maija Chamberlain of Middlebury.

Krishna Bista grew up in rural Nepal, and moved to the U.S. with her family in 2012, just as she was beginning high school. She says adjusting to a new school in a new country wasn’t all that difficult—despite speaking almost no English.

Her secret? Friendships. “It wasn’t that tough because I had lots of friends who were already here who really helped me to get into it,” she said. What was tough was writing papers. But she persevered, and graduated from Burlington High School in 2016. That same year, she started taking classes at CCV.

Krishna says the decision was simple. “CCV was the most affordable. It’s also really close, so I didn’t have to waste a lot of time getting to college.” She also appreciates being able to stay close to family. “I just started taking a few classes as a second language learner, and then found that the faculty and staff were really helpful, and were really helping me to get into a track.” She decided to stay for a degree, and is working toward becoming a medical assistant. She’s also a work study student, which means she spends 20 hours each week at the Winooski center’s front desk, helping students navigate their classes, advising appointments, transfer paperwork, and all things CCV. She also assists faculty and staff, lending a hand in any way she can. “There is so much to do,” she says.

Krishna is outgoing, personable, and compassionate. It’s easy to imagine that she cultivates friendships wherever she goes. Indeed, she has thrived at CCV because of these qualities, and she plans to rely on them as she works her way through school and begins her career.

Tracy Moyer at CCV-Bennington, where she is studying in the Allied Health Prep program and works with classmates as a Peer Academic Mentor.

This spring, Krishna received the Leadership Scholarship for CCV-Winooski. She’s a little bit speechless about her award. “It means a lot to me,” she says after a pause. “I was just amazed when I heard about this scholarship because I wasn’t even thinking of it. I feel like this scholarship means that I am actually going in the right direction.”

She says she can see that her classes and her work study position are preparing her for what’s next. “As a work study I get to know a lot of faculty and staff. Also, it’s helping me to improve my communication with different people, and also meeting people with different backgrounds…I really love being around people from different communities. It really matters in my life.” She’ll use those same skills when she leaves CCV. “As a medical assistant, I’ll have to deal with different people…this job is really helping me to have good interactions with people, and also to know them better personally, and that’s what my job will be in the future.”

Krishna has been active as a volunteer for CCV-Winooski’s annual International Food Festival, which celebrates the ethnic and culinary diversity of the CCV community—she also loves to cook for the event, dishes like chicken dumplings and spicy chicken noodles. She also helps out with the center’s Empty Bowls dinner, which serves as a fundraiser for a local food shelf.

Last summer, Krishna attended the Social Justice Training Institute at UVM, which brings together students from all over the world to cultivate inclusion on college campuses. “I met many people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds and learned about their experiences. For example, I met students from a Black Student Union. They talked about how they try to help students access the same opportunities as other students,” she said. “I am being able to apply what I learned to the work and studies at CCV. When I meet or work with students from different backgrounds, or who did not grow up in the U.S., I know they might need more assistance or more patience.”

Krishna plans to graduate from CCV with zero debt. Between grants, scholarships, and her work study position, she’s been able to piece together the full funding for her education. She says she hopes to continue at either UVM or Vermont Tech, where she’d like to pursue an RN program.

Maija Chamberlain is a peer academic mentor, tutor, and office assistant at CCV-Middlebury.
Jade Premont, CCVMaija Chamberlain is a peer academic mentor, tutor, and office assistant at CCV-Middlebury.

Maija Chamberlain is CCV-Middlebury’s 2019 Leadership Scholar, and it doesn’t take long to understand why.

On the day of our interview, she leads a study session with a group of psychology students; she’s an embedded peer mentor in the class, but could easily be confused for the instructor. She’s perfectly comfortable in her seat at the front of the room, leading a discussion among a group of animated classmates.

In 2010, as a mother of five, Maija decided to take classes at Vermont Adult Learning and earn her GED. “I wanted to prove to myself that I knew what I needed to know, and that gave me the confidence to apply at CCV,” she said. Since then, she’s been working steadily toward her associate degree in human services. And she’s on track to graduate and transfer seamlessly to Castleton, through the Vermont State Colleges System’s Direct Admissions program. For Maija, the Leadership Scholarship “means that getting a bachelor’s degree will be a possibility.”

One thing that motivated her return to school was the desire to be able to support herself. “My husband got sick, and then I went out to get a job and I was stuck with minimum wage positions,” she said. “I thought, ‘I think I did this backwards. I should have gotten a degree so I’d have something to fall back on.’ And then it was, ‘well, you can do something about that. You can start moving in that direction right now.’” So, she did. “I think if my ten-year-ago self would meet me now, she would not recognize me,” she said.

Today, she is a person with an abundant love of learning. So abundant that she even loves the thought that the more she learns, the more she realizes there is to learn. “Every class expands not just what I know but how I view the world. My first class, my whole foundation was pulled out from under me…I came into it with a pretty narrow mindset, thinking that I knew what I knew, and then realized no, there’s a lot of other thoughts out there and they’re just as valid as mine. It was a humbling experience but I think I landed with a more firm footing than I’ve ever felt before.”

Maija’s five children range in age from 12 to 20. “I’m partly here for me, because I love learning,” she says, “and I’m partly here because I know how important it is to model the importance of education and not just talk about it, but do it myself.” One daughter is a student at Norwich University—Maija says one recent weekend when her daughter was home, they both happened to be studying the same content for their biology classes and spent time quizzing each other. “It’s just a whole new level,” she says.

When she isn’t working, studying, or being a mother, Maija is engaging with her community. She has participated in literacy activities at the Ilsley Public Library, and she currently volunteers at Middlebury’s Charter House Coalition, which works to provide food and housing support. She says these experiences have opened up a new way of thinking about leadership. “How can I be more intentional and proactive rather than just waiting for opportunities to come to me? What can I start, what can I spur on, what is something I’m interested in and how can I get other people brought into the conversation?”

This is the attitude she brings to her own work, and to her (albeit reluctant) acceptance of being recognized for her leadership and positive role modeling. “I’m trying to embrace this…so I’m trying to be more engaged…a lot of it stems from just my own intrinsic love of learning and the growth process I’ve seen in my own life from being a student here,” she says. “[It] makes me want to support anybody else who’s trying it out, like ‘go for it, do it.’”

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