CCV graduation speaker took an indirect path to her studies

  • Kirsten Kersey, of White River Junction, Vt., has been juggling work as manager of the vintage clothing store Nancy The Girl and studies at Community College of Vermont to earn her associate degree. Kersey has been chosen to be student speaker at commencement in Northfield, Vt., on June 4, 2022. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • Kirsten Kersey, of White River Junction, Vt., is the student speaker at Community College of Vermont's commencement in Northfield, Vt., on June 4, 2022. Studying behavioral sciences and allied health preparation, Kersey hopes to transfer to the University of Vermont to continue her studies. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Geoff Hansen

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 6/3/2022 5:06:27 AM
Modified: 6/3/2022 5:05:16 AM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Kirsten Kersey took a nontraditional route to the graduation stage at Community College of Vermont.

After missing a significant amount of school due to a medical condition, Kersey, who grew up in Burlington, opted to take the HiSET, a high school equivalency credential similar to a GED. The decision limited the colleges she could immediately attend, including putting UVM, her first choice, out of reach.

So Kersey, now a 24-year-old White River Junction resident, changed direction and enrolled at CCV.

“I thought CCV was the best option to prepare me to go to UVM as a transfer student,” she said, “and I’m so happy that ended up being the path I took because CCV has been just one of the most wonderful experiences.”

Kersey’s enthusiasm and gratitude for her time at CCV are among the reasons she’s slated to be student speaker for CCV’s upcoming graduation on Saturday.

Kersey arrived at CCV in 2017 with plans to become a nurse, drawn to the concept of helping others. Her goal shifted, however, upon taking her first psychology course, which led her to follow her passion — working with youths, specifically adolescents with eating disorders. Kersey’s interest in that area of expertise stems from her experience with a partial hospital program where at age 17 she met a number of eating-disorder patients.

Kersey chose to pursue an associate degree in behavioral science and a certificate in allied health preparation, an addition she and her adviser found “naturally tacked on” to her work as she was exploring a number of science courses.

Pursuing a degree during the pandemic, Kersey said, wasn’t always easy. Moving her studies online was difficult as she missed the opportunity to engage face-to-face. Zoom classes provided discussion-based learning as best as they could, but Kersey wishes that her last years of study had not been all virtual. She feels, though, that CCV did a great job of creating an environment where students could still access their work, and that many challenges were easy to overcome because of the openness and flexibility of the teachers.

Kersey credited CCV with changing the way she thinks about education.

In high school, the focus was on doing her work to get a good grade. While at CCV, she found herself engaging in class discussions, unafraid to participate even if she was unsure of her answers.

“I was excited to learn from my mistakes,” she said

CCV faculty and staff were integral to her success, Kersey said, especially in their willingness to adapt and work around Kersey’s medical condition that flared at times.

“The professors really encouraged students to learn for the joy of learning,” she said. “They treated coursework as a way to learn and not to be perfect; it felt like they wanted us to make mistakes because it showed we were trying.”

She named a few teachers who were particularly influential to her, including Fred Bennett with whom she took six classes — “He’s responsible for a quarter of my degree,” Kersey said with a laugh.

She also praised Sara Kobylenski, a former executive director of the Upper Valley Haven who taught Kersey’s social justice and public policy courses.

“She is the epitome of what I hope to be someday,” Hersey said. “She is just a rock star.”

While a little bit nervous, Kersey is excited to share this moment of accomplishment with her fellow graduates. It will be her first time walking in a graduation and she knows it is the same for many others as well; for some, it may be the first time someone in their family has graduated from college.

“The resilience of these students and how most of them have been able to balance life outside of school — working part time, full time or being a parent — a lot of hard work has gone into this degree,” she said, “and I think this will be such a beautiful moment to see all of them celebrating and taking in this accomplishment.”

Kersey was nominated to speak by her adviser Erin Wetherell, another positive influence in her CCV experience, and was chosen following an interview with CCV President Joyce Judy. She said her heart fluttered a bit upon finding out she was selected: “Over the moon. I was very excited, very flattered that I’d been chosen.”

Kersey will address her fellow students during Saturday’s 2 p.m. commencement ceremony, which is being held at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt.

After graduation, Kersey plans to continue working at the vintage clothing boutique Nancy the Girl in White River Junction and make plans for the next step in her education. She aims to resume her studies at a four-year college in fall 2023.

“It’s bittersweet to be finishing up my time at CCV,” Kersey said, “But I also know it’s not a closed door. I am just so thankful for my time at CCV. I am so grateful to CCV for leading this transformation in my approach to education.”

Molly Shimko can be reached at

The following Upper Valley residents graduated from CCV this spring: Lowell Antony Barrows, Thetford Center; Amanda Barry, Woodstock; Emily R. Boles, Sharon; Michael Scott Cannon, Wilder; Lauren Christine Clancy, Newbury, Vt.; Rachel L. Coro, Lebanon; Dezerae Currier, White River Junction; Jazmyne Danforth, White River Junction; Grace Dorman, Sharon; Sasha Mitzie Garfinkle, White River Junction; Jamie Lee Green, Claremont; Charity Fern Haggett, Tunbridge; Elizabeth I. Halatsis, Perkinsville; Sean Kathleen Hamilton, Quechee; KT Hartell, White River Junction; Jillian Hatch, West Fairlee; Geneva Cecile Panella Horster, Thetford Center; Keanan Joseph Kelley, West Windsor; Kirsten Marie Kersey, White River Junction; Nikita Lenahan, Perkinsville; Tanya Lynn Martell, Bardford, Vt.; Laurie Ann Maxwell, Piermont; Jodi A Mohn, Hartford; Heather L. Nichols, White River Junction; Shantida Mattea Oakheart, White River Junction; Jessica Lea Swihart Prouty, Bradford, Vt.; Ashley Lee Radicioni, Sharon; Victoria A. Richardson, White River Junction; Christian Joseph Schepici, Hanover; Bruce Clarence Scott Jr., West Lebanon; Justin Michael Severance, White River Junction; Noah A Thompson, White River Junction; Zachary J. Waldner, Fairlee; Rose Walker, Grantham; Kaili C. Walton, South Royalton; Amanda Lee White, Lebanon; Gretchen B. Wilson, Barnard; and Josephine Elizabeth Wysk, White River Junction.

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