Lori Kipp of Clermont and Kiana Kipp, her daughter, of Red Hook both agree Kiana is the “shy one.”
However, she recently met her fear of public speaking head-on, delivering an address at the Columbia-Greene Community College Community First College Experience Completion Ceremony – a transitional special education program for which she volunteered, using modified college curriculum to help students integrate into their communities.
Across the stage, one of her classmates wiped away tears as Kiana – who will earn her associate’s degree in Human Service with honors on Saturday, May 18 – read her speech. Only a few people in the room realized it was her mom: a fellow honors graduate also about to earn her A.S. in Human Service, as proud of her daughter’s accomplishments at C-GCC as she is her own, and that they did it together.
“We’ve both grown a lot here,” said the elder Kipp.
Indeed, while Lori and Kiana Kipp didn’t start out in the Human Service program together – Lori first enrolled at C-GCC to pursue a nursing degree, and Kiana began as a Criminal Justice major – both found themselves attracted to the degree program and its many career options. For Lori, it was the ability to “help people be heard and have a voice” that resonated; for Kiana, it was also the breadth of jobs she had the opportunity to explore.
“I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to help,” Kiana said, noting that she began with an interest in art therapy, but has since shifted focus to working with people of all ages with special needs, in part due to her experiences with the Community First program.
“When I got involved, I was in a situation that, at first, terrified me,” she said. “But I took the time to learn about each individual, I started to make connections, and I realized how empowering it is to work with people who all have different abilities that set them apart from every other person in the room.”
Mother and daughter also agree that their shared college experience hasn’t been one of competition, but of collaboration.
“We’ve worked on similar projects, but in different ways,” said Kiana, noting she and Lori both serve as Community Ambassadors and were instrumental in this year’s addition of a part-time, on-campus mental health counselor at C-GCC.
At one point, Associate Professor of Human Services Dawn Defino alerted them to the fact that they’d been working concurrently on a project to install emergency phones in classrooms, an effort to combat safety issues caused by poor cell-phone service inspired by Lori’s 30-year commitment to the Rhinecliff Fire and Rescue Squad, unbeknownst to one another.
After graduation, Lori and Kiana will continue to pursue parallel goals. Lori has been accepted into Cazenovia College’s bachelor’s degree in Human Services on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College – a program specifically designed for individuals with full-time jobs – and hopes to ultimately earn a master’s degree in Social Work. Meanwhile, Kiana has been accepted at Marist College, and will pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Psychology and Counseling.
However, there is one view of the duo’s experience at C-GCC that Lori concedes is hers alone: that of a mother watching her daughter grow.
“We’ve done this side-by-side,” she said, “but I’ve also gotten to see her change into the person she is, and she’s not that shy three-year-old anymore.”