Though we will have to wait to celebrate together in person, there are countless reasons to be excited about our College of Education and Social Services (CESS) Class of 2020.
Faced with unprecented adversity during their final semester of college, our seniors rose to the occasion, demonstrating resilience, tenacity and enduring compassion.
Here we highlight a few of our graduating seniors as they venture into the world to make a difference for schools, families and communities near and far.
"Having the opportunity to inspire young adolescents is very rewarding. I look forward to giving back to the community where I grew up," says middle level education major Ben Lovelette, who recently accepted a teaching position at St. Albans City School. He is excited and committed to providing the best education and classroom environment to students in his home town.
Ben says his time at UVM has been unforgettable. "From the moment I joined the program, faculty showed their commitment to professionalism and setting their students up for success as they enter the ever-changing field of education. As a student who has gone through this program, I believe that I am prepared to take the next step as a professional. I’m forever grateful for all that UVM provided me."
“Ever since I was in high school, I often pictured my future self as a school counselor, helping students,” says human development and family studies (HDFS) major Cassandra “Sands” Desranleau. After graduation, she will take a big step toward that goal, enrolling in the UVM Counseling Graduate Program’s track in school counseling.
Struggling to declare a major during her sophomore year, Sands discovered that an HDFS degree would put her on track for the career she always wanted. “For the duration of my senior year, I had the opportunity to intern at an elementary school, specifically working in the school counseling department. They allowed me to apply the HDFS material I learned in class to real-world experiences, which better prepared me for my professional career outside of UVM."
"I am so grateful for my undergrad experience as a social work major at UVM,” says Charlotte Wells, “and especially for my senior year field placement at the Howard Center’s Jean Garvin School in Williston. The other students in my cohort are some of the most dedicated and inspiring people I've ever met, and I'm thankful to have learned from professors who were always committed to my success."
In the fall, Charlotte will move on to graduate school, attending an advanced standing MSW (Master of Social Work) program with a clinical concentration in in children, youth at families at Boston University. She plans to pursue a career in child protection and welfare.
"The past four years have not only validated my passion for early childhood special education, they also gave me a new understanding of myself and the impact I have on the world," says Melissa LaPara, who also had concentrations in American Sign Language and Human Development and Family Studies. “The ECSP program provided me with all that I need and more to go out in the world and do amazing work with young children and their families. I will always have a special place in my heart for UVM."
Melissa recently accepted a developmental educator position with the Vermont Family Network in Children's Integrated Services-Early Intervention.
Above, from left to right: Musician Michael Dyke, School Librarian Heidi Huestis, Art Education graduate Kia'Rae Hanron, Painter Julio Desmont, Dr. Lydia Clemmons, and poet and fellow UVM graduating senior Harmony Edosomwan. Collectively, they facilitated summer reading program discussions and activities centerered on the civil rights movement and Book One from MARCH, written by Congressman John Lewis.
Kia’Rae Hanron is the new Arts Learning Advisor at historic Clemmons Family Farm. She believes the influence of art to change the world lies in its power to change individual lives. During her time at UVM, she overcame a series of hardships, including the death of her father, nearly losing her mother to illness, and a battle with mental health issues.
“Had I not found my passion and purpose in education, I would have dropped out of school," Kia says. "Since my first day as an education major, I have been in love with the discipline. Having meaningful goals to work toward, amazing teachers, and an advisor who went above and beyond gave me the hope, courage, strength, and love to achieve what I often felt was impossible – graduating college with honors in art education – which six years ago seemed literally impossible.”
Silas Mullin is thrilled about his selection for a position at Sierra Outdoor School in Sonora, California.
“Students from the surrounding towns and districts come on multi-day field trips where they learn about natural history, ecology, biology, and historical importance of the Sierra Nevada mountains,” says the secondary education major with a biology concentration and dual endorsement in special education. He says the whole point is to teach kids about this stuff in the environment and ecosystems where it actually happens.
"I'm excited to be able to work in the outdoor education field for a few years before I find a more permanent position in a public school."
”Experiencing fieldwork so early on in my education was a thrill, and it gave me confidence moving forward in my career," says social work major Marisol Garcia. "I’m so grateful to my BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) cohort and faculty at UVM for supporting me along the way. Knowing so many students and faculty members made it feels like a tight-knit community where my opinions are valued."
Marisol participated in several groups on campus advocating for change at UVM, including a leadership role on the CESS Student Advisory Board, a group of students from various majors who represent the student body in discussions with senior leadership. Through a partnership with the University’s Student Government Association (SGA), she joined the Diversity Curriculum Review Committee as UVM’s undergraduate student representative.
Following graduation, she will move on to an advanced standing Master of Social Work (MSW) program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Secondary Education major Abby Smith is excited to begin her career teaching 8th-grade language arts at Fort Morgan Middle School in Colorado in the fall.
“I am so grateful for the time I spent at UVM,” says Abby. “I had amazing opportunities in and out of the classroom and made great relationships with professors and advisors, especially Lia Cravedi, who helped me reach my full potential. Now I feel ready to move into my own teaching position.”
Social Work major Nyria "Riri" Stuart-Thompson received the University of Vermont Provost’s Commitment to Equity and Inclusion Award, which recognizes an academically outstanding LGBTQ+ student whose courage and persistence serve to advance equity, diversity, and social justice through programs, academic projects, advocacy, or other means.
Riri became well known across campus and beyond through her leadership with UVM Program Board, the Cultural Crossroads Learning Community, the Prism Center, the Womyn of Color Coalition, and other campus groups dedicated to serving the interests of marginalized people. Her relentless energy and compassion leave an enduring impact on UVM.
“I’m excited to have a career that allows me to help foster kind and caring humans, and to share my love of science,” says Secondary Education major Megan Guitard, who recently she accepted a position as a science teacher at Northside High School Jacksonville, North Carolina.
“UVM was the perfect place for me to find myself as a science teacher," she says. "I have learned so much from both my fellow teachers and the faculty in the secondary education program, and very grateful to have studied at UVM the past four years. I feel ready to move into my own teaching position.”
Following graduation, Samantha (Sam) Serrantonio will begin her career in education as a 6th-grade teacher at Highgate Elementary School near the Vermont-Canadian border.
“I am extremely thankful for everyone in the Elementary Education program at UVM for all they have done,” says Sam, who is particularly grateful for the mentorship of Lecturer Ellen Baker on her educational journey. "Ellen walked alongside me in the toughest yet most rewarding semesters of my time at UVM. She was always reminding me that I would make a great teacher someday, always there with open arms if I needed someone to talk to.”
Congratulations to all of our Class of 2020 graduates!