500 to receive degrees at CCV graduation on Saturday

By LUKAS DUNFORD

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-31-2024 7:30 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Among the more than 500 people poised to collect their associate degrees from the Community College of Vermont on Saturday is Josh Cray, a first-generation college student and Fairlee native.

Cray, 34, a father of two toddlers and a U.S. Army veteran, will be graduating with a degree in business.

“Saturday, when I graduate will probably be the biggest memory,” Cray said in a phone interview about his time at CCV.

The celebration comes after two years of hard work, during which time Cray had to fit in his course work around his other responsibilities.

Cray, who has lived in Hartford since 2016, chose CCV because it was “local, they had a full online course schedule, and the money aspect — it was fairly cheap to go there,” he said.

CCV was also “familiar” to Cray — he’d first enrolled just after graduating from Rivendell Academy in 2008. But his plans changed, and he “realized it wasn’t for me at that time,” he said in an email.

Cray has worked several jobs since, and he’s been working in “shipping and receiving” at Hypertherm, a Lebanon-based manufacturer of industrial cutting systems, robotic software and consumable products, for the past three years.

After the birth of his first child, Cray decided to return to school to expand his career opportunities.

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Though he had a clear focus and purpose, Cray was willing to take a risk with the unknown: “I didn’t really know what to expect, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into,” he said.

With a child and a career, his start at CCV was “stressful,” he said on the phone. It was “a lot of late nights. Basically, my wife and I would work together, get the kids to bed, and then I’d stay up until whenever doing assignments,” he said.

This was partly because he front loaded his two years at CCV with “all the mandatory classes to graduate” with a degree in business. Throughout the two years, Cray progressively added courses — starting with two, and ending with five this past semester.

He distinctly remembers the feeling that he got “after finishing my first full-time semester” of four classes because, “once I completed that, I realized that the completion of it wasn’t as far away (as) I thought; that this was going to happen a lot sooner than I expected.”

After his youngest daughter was born in October, the juggling got more challenging. “I’ve only been a father of two for a little bit of my college career, but those last two semesters were pretty stressful,” he said.

CCV’s format made it easier than it would have been otherwise. “Everything’s been online, which has been super helpful with two kids,” he said.

And, having completed most of the business courses early on, “this last semester, I’m taking a little bit more fun classes,” Cray said. Among these, he’s enjoyed “a Vermont History class” and “an Intro to Rock and Roll class.”

In his main area of study, he’s taken courses on the “computer side of business” as well as effective workplace communication and conflict. “Hopefully I can integrate all of that into my job,” he said.

Post-graduation, Cray plans to stay at Hypertherm, where he works in “shipping and receiving” and use his education to progress his career there. Academically, he has loose plans to “go back for a bachelor’s, which “definitely” seems more realistic to him now, he said.

The commencement ceremony will be at Norwich University’s Shapiro Field House in Northfield, Vt., on Saturday at 2 p.m. The ceremony will feature keynote speaker Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids, Vermont’s child care campaign. Gov. Phil Scott will also address the graduates.

Lukas Dunford can be reached at lukasdunf@gmail.com.

Upper Valley graduates

Jacob Hudnut, Lyme; Sarah Nicole Rose, Orford; Martha Marjorie Adams, South Royalton; Namya Michelle Benjamin, Thetford Center; Eleshia M. Borriello, Fairlee; Samantha J. Bruce, South Royalton; Porter Brown Burkins, East Thetford; Carmen N. Clarkson, White River Junction; Skyra Violet Coulter, Thetford Center; Joshua Cray, White River Junction; Michelle Lynn Davenport, Fairlee; Noah Avery Dickerson, White River Junction; Aura Rand Dove, Randolph Center; Christina Jean Flesch, Tunbridge; Grace Cranston Frazier, Quechee; Shoshana Geller, Hartford; Jessie Lynn Giffin, White River Junction; Shaunna P. Hafford, Windsor; Charity Fern Haggett, Tunbridge; Logan McKenna Haley, Windsor; Kimberly Susan Hargis, Thetford Center; Lilly Ross Hudson, South Royalton; Natalie Ann Martin, East Corinth; Matthew A. Moore, Sharon; Sarah K. Nichols, Wilder; Samantha Ordway, North Hartland; Matthew Putnam-Pouliot, White River Junction; Ashley Lee Radicioni, Sharon; Jessica L. Roberts, White River Junction; Katherine Elizabeth Robinson, Sharon; Rachael A. Shumway, Bradford, Vt.; Rebekah Rachel Smith, Woodstock; Chelsea Elizabeth Sunn, White River Junction; Kasey A. Tatro, White River Junction; Seamus Andrew Jackson Toler, Wilder; and Hannah G. White, Bethel.