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In Their Own Words: Alumni Updates – Jen Cirillo

In Their Own Words: Alumni Updates – Jen Cirillo

Post Series: In Their Own Words -- Alumni Updates

Feel inspired by our engaged alumni and learn how significant bus Resource Experiences still impact them years after the fact!

Jen Cirillo — Rethinking the Purpose of Education!

Jen now! :)

Jen now! 🙂

Since stepping off the bus I’ve been working with a non-profit in Vermont whose mission it is to educate for a sustainable future. Shelburne Farms and our Sustainable Schools Project works with educators and schools to use the lens of sustainability to transform education and communities. I work with teachers near and far – from close-by Burlington to Guangzhou, China – facilitating professional learning communities that rethink the purpose of education. Together we consider, “What would education look like if the purpose was sustainability: creating healthy and just communities?” My role is supporting teachers to reflect on and define what they should know, value, and be able to do in order to create sustainable communities – from adaptive leadership and collaborative capacity building to redefining core subjects around the big ideas of sustainability. Currently I am working on a new program for educators at the University of Vermont and hoping to pursue my PhD. I have met the most amazing people who inspire me to engage in the work of radically shifting education. This passion and belief that education is the key to closing the gap between reality and the future we want (and need) motivates me each day. The international aspect of my work reminds me too that we are all connected and that what we do here in Vermont has the potential to change the world!

Jen then! :)

Jen then! 🙂

One of my life altering moments on the Bus occurred in the spring of 2001. I clearly remember the look on his face. He wanted to cross the border with me, to get away, to go to school, to become a lawyer. He couldn’t have been more than 15. The look was a combination of desperation and hope and it broke my heart. This young boy by my side, we meandered through neighborhoods where access to clean water was a daily struggle and the maquiladoras pumped out toxins. The pipa truck drove through narrow dirt roads delivering water to those that could afford it. Others put out rain barrels that became infested with mosquitoes. And I thought to myself, I did this, my lifestyle did this. I came to understand that my fate is inextricably linked to others’ regardless of whether we ever meet face-to-face. That one moment pointed me in the direction of where I find myself today – endeavoring to shift education so that the conditions we saw and were experienced by hundreds of thousands of people across the border won’t happen. That it can’t happen because we see ourselves in the faces of others and know that they are in fact our kin.  When education becomes an act of self-liberation and deep care for each other and the planet then I will rest. Until then you can find me in a circle of educators, probably holding hands!

Jen was a Graduate student from 2000-2002 and participated in bus semesters in Alberta, Sonoran Desert, and Maine.


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