I am a proud 1994 graduate of Castleton and in my eleventh year as a special education teacher at Ticonderoga High School. Before I can begin to explain what Castleton State College did for me and how influential my years there were, I think it is necessary to tell you how I got to Castleton. I often tell my students the story of my road to college. My family and I went to the obligatory college fairs, which resulted in being inundated with brochures and viewbooks from colleges all over the Northeast. This was before the day of the common application and since each application fee averaged $50, my father told me I could apply to five schools. We set up interviews at four different schools, three in New York and one at a small school in Vermont whose viewbook included photos of small classes being held outside and students walking down snowlined walkways. The photos intrigued me. Castleton was the first campus I visited. When we drove up the main drive, I saw Woodruff Hall at the top of the hill and said, “This is where I want to go.” My mother, of course, suggested I meet with the admissions counselor and perhaps take a tour before making such an important decision.
I did meet with an admissions counselor (now alumni board resident) named Dennis Proulx. Even though I visited three other colleges, my instincts told me that Castleton was for me. It was not my mother’s first choice, she liked Alfred, nor my father’s who favored the two SUNY schools and their price tags. After my four applications were sent in, the waiting began. Finally, an envelope arrived from Castleton State College inviting me to be part of the Class of 1994. While that letter was followed by ones from the other schools, the first is indeed the sweetest, and I could breathe a sign of relief because someone wanted me. I was going to college!
I have to admit that when my parents dropped me (and three times more stuff than I needed) off at Castleton State College in the Fall of 1990, I was naive. I had gone to a large high school where I was very active in school activities and had many friends, but overall I was sheltered. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know I was so “green.” The friends I met in New Hall (what you all now refer to as Babcock Hall) to this day are the nearest and dearest in my heart. I am a firm believer that the people you meet as a college freshman are the people who know you better than anyone because it is at that time, your first time away from home, when you are thrown together in a foreign environment. You immediately have a bond that cannot be taken away. You are students at Castleton.
Castleton afforded me the opportunity to become my own person, to become the person I am today. I am one of the rare people who entered college with an intended major, never changed it and am gainfully employed in that profession with no plans of leaving it. While at Castleton, I had opportunities that even my large high school could not provide. I had the opportunity and privilege to be a student leader, to have my voice heard and to make a difference on a campus I grew to love. At Castleton, I had the experience of not only learning from amazing professors, but also befriending them. One of the most important lessons I learned was that wanting to do well is not always enough, you have to do the work and sometimes even that is not enough. I got chicken pox while in college, and I had to get them the semester I had Dr. Bergen’s Psych Research. This taught me three important lessons. The first was that even the best-laid plans get interrupted. The second was that colleges send you home when you get the pox, and the third was that having to retake a class is not the end of the world.
These lessons and countless others have guided and molded me into the teacher and person I am today. I do not shy away from hard work, I am always willing to step up and help where needed, and I value the friendships that I made while Castleton, especially those that remain so strong today. Every Castleton grad has his or her share of memories and stories that they cherish and enjoy retelling at weddings and reunions. These stories include accomplishments made in the classroom, ‘walking the Dog,’ having dinner with the president, the annual Pig Roast or from the candle ceremony, and mine will always remain with me and put a smile on my face when I think of them.
Despite being scattered from Colorado to South Florida to Northern Vermont, the group that I spent so much time with while at Castleton still remain close. We all seem to end up at the Boston reunion, celebrate with each other at weddings, and even support each other in times of struggle, including recently when a fellow alumnus lost her long battle with breast cancer.
Castleton was the right place for me, and it did not take long for my parents to realize it too. They knew immediately when I did not come home until the residence halls closed. There is a candle that sits on a shelf in my house; it has been lit only twice. It was lit by a group of strangers during Freshman Orientation as we walked through the gates into Castleton together, not knowing what to expect. Four years later, on the night before Commencement, it was lit again. This time I stood with friends who together walked back out of those same gates towards an uncertain future, but knowing that Castleton had prepared us for what lay ahead.