BRATTLEBORO -- A few local students are planning to celebrate their recent success.
Graduates from the Community College of Vermont got their diplomas this past weekend (June 7) at Norwich University in Northfield.
Tanya Brown, 42, of Hinsdale, N.H., received this year's student leadership scholarship in Brattleboro. A winner is selected from each of the 12 CCV sites plus another person taking online courses. As a result of getting the scholarship, Brown was invited to Montpelier to meet the college president Joyce Judy, where her efforts running the Harvest For Hunger for the Brattleboro site were noted.
"We threw out the challenge to all students and faculty to see how much food we could bring to the Drop In Center. We counted all the chairs and tables to see if we could put food at every place," said Brown. "All the classes got in on it and we ended up exceeding our goal. I think we wanted 300 and ended up with well over that."
At her age, Brown said she often felt like the mom in her classes. Although not all the students were younger, she had been out of the classroom setting for 25 years. She recalled using floppy disks then instead of USB flash drives.
Brown had made deals with other students in the beginning.
"I told them, ‘I'll edit your paper if you show me how to use PowerPoint,'" she said, referring to the slide presentation software. "It's kind of neat, all of the unlikely friendships made. It was definitely an experience.
Brown also started out in elementary education, which was a program that was discontinued so she switched to a liberal studies program that had her in classes ranging from basic math to vampires in literature to environmental biology.
She graduated with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
"It was not easy but it was a lot less harder than I thought it was going to be," Brown said. "The staff is amazing.
Although she is sad to be leaving, Brown was accepted into Union Institute and University in Brattleboro for a liberal studies program with a concentration in arts, writing and literature after Union had also canceled its elementary education program.
Brown hopes to ultimately teach people how to write after obtaining a bachelor then master's degree.
"I'll be 43 when I get this degree, 45 for the next and 47 for the next," she added. "I'm looking at 50 before I'm finished. It's amazing. I wanted to do it my whole life but I got sidetracked, raising kids and taking care of my family."
From her parents down to her three children, Brown will be the first of her family to graduate from college. She contributes a lot of her success to having the support of her husband, Dave Brown.
Paula Wright, 24, of Brattleboro, also enjoyed her experience at CCV and recommended the school for anyone looking into their options.
"It's so small. The staff's really, really dedicated. You get a lot of one-on-one time with instructors and counselors if you want it," she said. "I bothered my counselor all the time and got all the answers I needed."
Before changing it up a few times, Wright ended up with a major in early childhood education and looks forward to getting her bachelor's degree. She would like to pursue counseling and family therapy.
Throughout the experience, Wright maintained a good grade point average that she was proud of. In high school, she said she had not taken classes as seriously.
"Just caring about school in itself on my own was a really big change for me," Wright added. "I didn't do well in high school."
While studying at CCV, she learned to divide her time working full-time jobs. Her resume includes jobs such as paraprofessional at Windham Central Supervisory Union, au pair for various agencies and private childcare provider.
Those jobs gave Wright the ability to feel out the field she was studying. It made her realize she wanted to continue down that path.
For now, she plans on taking a break so that she can find a perfect program for early childhood education.
"I don't want to settle on anything," said Wright. "I want to see what an associate's in early education will do for me."
Her ultimate goal is to purchase a house and start a daycare center with her partner. Although studies could temporarily take Wright away from the area, she said would like to eventually raise a family in Vermont.
"I know I'll end up back here," she concluded.
Like Brown, Peter Geneseo, 48, also of Hinsdale, was out of school for 25 years before he started taking courses again. He had previously served in the Navy and started as a part-time student at CCV when he began four years ago.
"It's started a whole new career for me," he said.
Geneseo studied liberal arts at the college, where he preferred math classes. He currently plans to get his bachelor's degree in education at Keene State College. His plan is to teach high school math.
Of the Brattleboro campus, Geneseo said it was really friendly one.
"It's like a big family there," he added.
The decision to go back to school came when Geneseo could no longer perform construction work in the Navy and had some surgeries done. He was considered a disabled veteran.
While in the Navy, Geneseo went to places such as Spain, the Philippines, Korea, Australia, Kuwait and many more. He was on active tour from 1984 to 1993 then entered the reserves from 1993 to 2001. He was active again from 2001 to 2008. Upon leaving, his rank was second class petty officer.
Geneseo hopes to stay in the area. He would like to teach in Brattleboro, Keene, Hinsdale or somewhere close.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.