Castleton University kicked-off homecoming week by welcoming home four alumni with different career trajectories to share their advice with current students at the annual “Making a Living, Making a Difference” panel.
The Third Place
During his time at Castleton, Rhode Island native Andrew Breting ‘16, was an active member of the community, playing four years of football and participating in the Castleton mentoring program.
Breting always wanted to be a state trooper, but he says his thought process changed two years into his studies and he realized he wanted to help people rather than put them away. After switching from Criminal Justice to Sociology, Breting learned about the third place, where people spend time besides home and work.
In his senior year, he developed the concept of his own third place, where the Castleton community could build connections.
“I wanted to create a place where people can talk to each other like humans, because that’s what we are,” he said.
After graduation and a job at Park Street Program in Rutland, Breting opened the doors to Third Place Pizzeria on Main Street in May 2017.
“It’s not just a restaurant. We see ourselves as something bigger, we just happen to serve food,” he said.
Breting offered this advice to the students: “You can go with the crowd, go with norms, go with what your friends are doing, or you can go with who you really are.”
From the classroom to the newsroom
Ike Bendavid ‘16, was a transfer communication student who stayed busy playing football, reporting for the video magazine, doing play-by-play broadcasts for athletics, and acting in campus plays.
“I don’t even remember not wanting to be in broadcasting,” he said. “I would turn the tv off and do play-by-plays.”
While touring WCAX, he met fellow Castleton alumni Darren Perron, who offered him an internship. Bendavid worked at a restaurant and was crashing with a friend on an air mattress until his unpaid internship turned into a full-time job. He now works as a producer and reporter for WCAX.
Bendavid encouraged students to continue to find new ways to push themselves.
“Taking advantage of opportunities is one thing I did, but I wish I had done more,” he said.
A time for CHANGE
Jaklyn Van Manen ‘09, was the founding student leader of CHANGE, Castleton’s gender equity and violence prevention initiative and became the first administrator for CHANGE, creating the Peer Advocates for CHANGE (PAC) program.
“I didn’t know when I was creating CHANGE almost 10 years ago with Linda (Olson) that it would impact hundreds of people and change the way our community views issues of violence,” she said.
After Castleton, she completed a master’s degree in Trauma and Violence Studies at New York University and has since worked with the Department of Veterans Affairs leading clinical trials to find better treatment options for veterans with PTSD. She was also a founding staff member of the One Love Foundation, created in honor of Yeardley Love, a University of Virginia student who was killed by an ex-boyfriend.
Van Manen now works as a leadership and strategic engagement consultant and is launching a collegiate leadership series.
“Castleton taught me how to channel my passion into making a difference and creating a career for myself,” she said.
Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!
After graduating with a dual degree in Political Science and Philosophy, Megan Harris ’14, joined the Vermont Democratic Party as a field organizer, a job that demanded 85-hour work weeks.
After that experience, Harris thought she could never do that again. Then a call came to be a nationwide organizer for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and she was motivated to continue the work for someone she was passionate about. After the 2016 election, she joined several political campaigns in Virginia, becoming the finance director for Elizabeth Guzman’s historic campaign to become the first Latina to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Harris helped Guzman’s campaign raise more than $1 million from small-dollar donations.
Harris shared her hope that current students aren’t afraid to try new things.
“For me, it was a place where I wasn’t afraid to fail. Try things, fail, then try again,” she said.