BOSTON – After spending almost five years working, traveling and living abroad, 25-year-old Chris Wilbur decided it was time to return home and go back to school to work on a college degree.
He didn’t know he would consider it one of the best decisions he would ever make.
Wilbur, a New Bedford resident who graduates this June from Bristol Community College, said his goal was to get as extensive an education as possible.
So, he took advantage of various groups and programs the college offered, including working as a grant assistant, taking over as editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The BCC Observer, and serving as the student representative to the college board of trustees.
The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education took note of Wilbur’s achievements, naming him among the “29 Who Shine” Thursday as one of 29 outstanding students in the commonwealth. Gov. Deval Patrick was on hand to congratulate the students.
The “29 Who Shine” celebrates a group of students from the Class of 2011 representing each of the state’s 29 public campuses. The honorees were chosen based on their academic achievements and record of student leadership and community service.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Gov. Deval Patrick and his administration joined leaders in higher education to celebrate the graduates who range in age from 17 to 52, each with stories of struggle motivation, and achievement.
In a short speech to the graduates and their families, Patrick said he was proud to stand with the “29 Who Shine.”
“Collectively, they give all of us a reason to be extremely proud and extremely hopeful,” he said.
Wilbur enrolled in Bristol Community College two years ago after traveling the world, living in Yemen and Italy, and what he calls “self-educating” himself with lots of reading and writing.
“I didn’t have the college education that, in my mind, was required to enter the workforce,” he said. “So when I came back, I decided to do it local and do it cheap. From there it just expanded and I became very engaged and involved with everything at school.”
During his “extended gap year,” Wilbur said he was able to develop an appreciation for other cultures and how their views, opinions and ideas blend together. He said he felt better prepared to enter college and find the resources he needed to succeed there.
This fall, Wilbur will transfer to Brown University to study international relations and take the next step toward his goal of a career in diplomacy.