Class of 2014
Island Pond, VT
Major: Liberal Arts
Favorite weekend activity: Outdoor activities, being with family and friends
Career Plans: Undecided
"I didn't realize until I came to Johnson that there was something I was missing my entire life: being able to learn something and enjoy learning it. "
Louis Bizzaro's life could have ended up quite differently. At North Country Union High School in Newport, he remembers, he wasn't motivated. He dropped out and found a solid construction job. He rented an apartment in Island Pond and began commuting every day to SD Ireland in Burlington.
Those were long days: getting up at 3 a.m., returning home at 8 p.m., falling into bed, exhausted. He soon learned he didn't want to be doing that his whole life. He yearned for something more.
"I learned a lot about hard work and managing my money. I became more responsible," Louis recalls. "But I wasn't going anywhere."
After taking a few classes at Community College of Vermont in Newport, Louis enrolled at Johnson State. He discovered like-minded students and professors who challenged him to think differently about the culture in which he was raised.
"Every now and then when I get discouraged, I think about how if I had stayed working, I wouldn't have met any of the people here. I think about myself and what I'm doing and how much more there is out there in the world," Louis says. "I think about how I met my roommate the first year, and how in two years, he became one of my closest and best friends."
In his first year at JSC, he took a world literature class with Jeff Bickerstaff and read classics such as Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey. "Jeff Bickerstaff was one of the most motivating teachers I've had throughout my educational career, ever. It was such a great experience. I realized this is where I wanted to be. I wanted to meet new people and learn new things," Louis recalls.
Louis credits Assistant Professor Jerry Himelstein with helping him understand the history and sociology of racism and injustice and how social movements can change people's mindsets. Louis especially was inspired by Himelstein's real-life experiences working to end discrimination in housing.
Louis sees himself not as a political activist but as someone who can change the world one conversation at a time. He has applied what he has learned to his own life, encouraging his friends and family to consider other perspectives. "I didn't realize until I came to Johnson that there was something I was missing my entire life: being able to learn something and enjoy learning it," Louis says.