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May 12, 2012
Contact: Kevin Coburn, Director of Communications

Green Mountain College Hosts 175th Commencement, Graduates Largest Class

POULTNEY—As tradition dictates, Green Mountain College graduates made the half-mile walk from the Methodist Church on Main Street to the Griswold Library lawn on campus. This year the parade was a bit longer than usual. Green Mountain awarded a record 156 undergraduate degrees and 27 graduate diplomas at commencement exercises today.

One big surprise occurred during the presentation of degrees when Army staff sergeant Erich Schmidt appeared on stage to hand Chanleigh Casey of Granville, N.Y. her diploma. Casey’s father is serving in Kuwait and could not be present at the ceremony, so Schmidt, a long-time family friend, was there to greet the delighted graduate.

Speaker Majora Carter, a notable entrepreneur and community organizer, charged students to work hard toward equality in their chosen field.

“Historically, greater equality has always brought about greater prosperity. Every time the social order was disrupted and brought closer to equality, economic prosperity followed,” she said.

The youngest of ten children growing up in the South Bronx, Carter graduated from Bronx High School of Science, studied film at Wesleyan University, and received an MFA from New York University in 1997. While at NYU, she had to return to her family's home in Hunts Point for financial reasons, inadvertently launching her career.

She began volunteering for a youth development and arts organization and secured a $10,000 grant to provide seed money for river access restoration projects along the Bronx River on land dominated by blighted post-industrial landscape. Working with other community groups, corporate neighbors, and the New York City Parks and Recreation department, Carter leveraged the grant into over $3.27 million in funding to build Hunts Point Riverside Park.

Carter later founded and led Sustainable South Bronx (SSBx), a non-profit organization dedicated to economic and environmental development under the guiding principle: “You shouldn’t have to leave your neighborhood to live in a better one.”

Since 2008 her consulting company The Majora Carter Group has developed climate adaptation, urban agribusiness, and leadership development strategies for business, government, foundations, universities and economically under-performing communities.

Cater drew the connection between environmental degradation and social problems in inner cities. Places like the South Bronx, she said, contain a disproportionate number of sewage treatment plants, industrial waste facilities, chemical plants and transportation infrastructure that creates an unhealthy environment for inhabitants. Those who cannot afford to leave the inner cities are vulnerable to toxic air and water, poor education and health. She called on students to use their education to support environmental equality.

“The very best thing you can do is help others,” she said. “People are aching for leaders to inspire them to believe there is another way and you can provide that.”

Also receiving an honorary degree was Cornelius “Con” Hogan of Plainfield, who served as Vermont secretary of human services from 1991 to 1999 and as commissioner for the Department of Corrections from 1977 to 1979. He is also a member of the Green Mountain Care Board which is charged with oversight of health care policy in the state.

Student speaker Elizabeth Cerezo, a cum laude graduate majoring in psychology from Puerto Rico, described the past four years as an exercise in building a new family.

“When am I going to be immersed in this kind of family again? Once again, I have to leave home and start over in a new place. But for now, for today at least, I can enjoy the intersection of the family that made me and the family I made together here with people who were once strangers.”

Cerezo recently received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and has been accepted into a Ph.D. program in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Washington.

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