CCV graduation speaker has Upper Valley ties

  • Kevin McGreal, of Winooski, Vt., who attended Comunity College of Vermont’s Upper Valley and Winooski academic centers, will be the college's student speaker at their June 3, 2023, commencment. McGreal will earn a degree in liberal studies and plans to continue his education to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the social sciences. (Courtesy photograph) courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2023 5:20:57 PM
Modified: 6/2/2023 5:20:32 PM

WILDER — Kevin McGreal first enrolled in classes at Community College of Vermont’s Wilder campus in 2017, following Donald Trump’s election to the presidency.

Trump’s election the previous year “was kind of a big deal for me,” McGreal, now 31, and preparing to serve as student speaker at CCV’s graduation this weekend, said in a recent phone interview. “I knew I just wanted to start learning more. Getting my feet wet in education made a lot of sense.”

Now McGreal is among more than 450 people slated to receive associates degrees on Saturday in CCV’s ceremony at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt.

But in 2017, he was working at Lou’s Restaurant & Bakery in Hanover and living with his partner in Wilder. He had moved from upstate New York to the Upper Valley in 2014 and had graduated from Finger Lakes School of Massage in 2011. In spite of that credential, he was uncertain about pursuing massage as a career.

He had applied to some four-year colleges after high school, but he lacked passion for that route and was discouraged by the price.

“I knew I wanted to do something that was going to help people and help the world,” he said. But “taking (on) that debt didn’t really make sense.”

Lou’s, he said, was a good place to work, and his first couple of courses at CCV, cultural anthropology and world history, offered a “good launching point.” Still after those first classes, he said, “life got busy.”

It took another event with worldwide implications, the COVID-19 pandemic, to inspire him to return to his studies full time.

“Working in food service was too risky for my family,” McGreal said. He had some family members who were immunocompromised. “It was too dangerous.”

Aside from one class in his first semester in 2017 and one class in his last semester last fall, McGreal’s courses were online. Some included weekly Zoom sessions with his classmates and professors, while others communicated primarily via an online discussion board. McGreal said he enjoyed the flexibility of the online format.

McGreal took some classes via CCV’s Upper Valley location and others via its Winooski location after he moved to the Chittenden County city in 2021. En route to earning his associates in liberal studies, he’s taken a wide range of courses, from guitar to a nonprofit management class, as well as web development and more history courses. After moving to Winooski, he also resumed his work as a massage therapist.

Beyond his coursework at CCV, McGreal became involved in a variety of student leadership positions, including the Student Advisory and Leadership Council, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee and CCV’s Academic Council. He served as president of CCV’s chapter of the national honor society Phi Theta Kappa, and as student facilitator for the New Student Orientation Committee.

For the broader Vermont State College system, McGreal participated in a student group that developed an anti-racism pledge.

CCV faculty member Melissa Holmes nominated McGreal for the speaker’s role and in her nomination credited him with being “a voice for his generation on demanding diversity and inclusion on college campuses and beyond,” according to a CCV news release.

McGreal said his interest in DEI work stemmed from his “learning about white privilege and confronting that in myself. It’s a tricky area to navigate, especially as a white male.”

He enjoyed the opportunity that work gave him to see the way the institution functions administratively.

“I just wanted to get a broad picture of how a large institution works,” he said. “Getting involved in all these different areas made a lot of sense to me.”

He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the fall but hasn’t yet determined where. He’s interested in studying economics and political science and hopes to start his own nonprofit someday.

This Saturday, however, McGreal said he hopes to celebrate the feats that brought all of this year’s CCV graduates to this point.

“Everyone’s stories have been so inspiring,” McGreal said. “How hard we’ve worked. I just want to capture that.”

The ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m., also is slated to include a keynote address by Kyle Clark, founder and CEO of the Vermont-based BETA Technologies, which works to electrify aviation, as well as an address from Republican Gov. Phil Scott.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

Upper Valley graduates: Allison L. Clayton, East Thetford; Brittney Moriah Murphy, Chelsea; Carissa Lee Lasure, North Haverhill; Elizabeth Swift, Lebanon; Elyse Merone Patriquin, Wilder; Erin Kate Nichols, Windsor; Gillian Marie Nichols, West Lebanon; Grace Ann Veracka, East Thetford; Heather L. Nichols, White River Junction; Isabella Valeria Bardales Yirka, South Strafford; Jacob Everett Mangum, Norwich; Jamie L Masterson, Vershire; Jennifer Anne Steck, Fairlee; Jessica Lea Swihart Prouty, Bradford, Vt.; Jessica Lynn Rodimon, Newport; Judith W. Powell, Randolph Center; Justin Michael Severance, White River Junction; Kaleb Durelle McIntire, Bridgewater Corners; Katie A. Rikert, White River Junction; Kitty C. Russell, Claremont; Rand K. Frazer, Springfield, Vt.; Raven Carlos Gabriel Ocasio, Hartland; Rebecca E. Fisher, Chelsea; Sarah Nicole Bacon, Brownsville; Shaline Stevens, Randolph; Shaunna P. Hafford, Windsor; Shea Caleb Bean, White River Junction; Shelby K. O’Brien, Corinth; and William J. Flynn, Bridgewater Corners.

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