Bennington celebrates CCV graduates

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BENNINGTON — Every year, before the statewide commencement ceremony, the Bennington campus of the Community College of Vermont holds a special celebration for its own graduates and their families.

This year, 31 students, from virtually every imaginable background, will leave CCV Bennington with their associate degrees. Some had been thinking about college for a long time and finally decided to take the plunge; others started taking courses at CCV while still in high school; others were encouraged by their families to go for their degrees; others were looking to advance in their current careers; others wanted to try something new; others were looking for new careers after being losing their jobs.

"It is humbling to hear all your stories," said CCV President Joyce Judy. "I would encourage you, as you go forward as college graduates, to watch for people around you who might need that little nudge to invest in themselves."

The statewide CCV commencement ceremony will be held this Saturday, June 2, at Norwich University.

Judy praised the hard work the students put in, but also took a moment to recognize their families and support systems. "None of us do anything alone," she said. "Graduates, I admire and respect your grit, your willingness to stick with a goal, and your determination. But I think it's important to also thank the people around you who helped make this possible."

Faculty speaker Tricia Weill imparted the students with some wisdom of her own. "I hope you failed enough to appreciate the times you succeeded, and to realize things that you really excel at," she said. "What you learned here and experienced here is really quite immense, not just in terms of your studies, but in your relationships with your classmates and your professors... The knowledge you gained here will serve you well out there. Life is a school. Keep learning, keep growing."

"Allow yourself the freedom to grow with joy," she said in closing.

This year's alumni speaker was Heather Hassett, who described herself as a life-long early childhood educator and is the co-founder and co-owner of Bringing You Vermont on Main Street in Bennington. She graduated from CCV last year with a degree in liberal studies.

"Obtaining an education is a precious opportunity," she said. "There are people who never get to experience that... You have been given a privilege and an opportunity and that comes with responsibility."

"I implore you to use your gifts in the defense of those who either are or perceive themselves to be powerless," she said. "Help them find their power and use it for good."

The students also heard from two local political figures.

"Be more like (Hassett)," encouraged State Senator Brian Campion. "Heather does not sit on the sidelines. When we're working in Montpelier, people like Heather always reach out to let us know what we're doing they like, and what they don't like. Hopefully from here on our we'll be hearing from you... I encourage you to become active participants in your own democracy."

"We are proud of you and we are happy for you, this is a huge accomplishment," said Bennington Select Board member Donald Campbell. "When I see you folks here today, I'm so thrilled to see strong, smart, hardworking people ready to make a difference in their community."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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