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Class of 2015 student speaker overcame fear of the classroom to excel as leader
April 30, 2015
When Beth Husted graduates on May 15 as the Community College of Rhode Island's Class of 2015 student commencement speaker, she'll be taking an important step in the direction of fulfilling her longtime dream of becoming a business owner. But more than that, she'll be celebrating where she's been.
"I wasn't ready to be on my own," she said of her initial attempt to attend Rhode Island College as a student straight out of high school. "I didn't do well and, based on that, it ruined my confidence. I continued to have reoccurring nightmares throughout my 20s about going back to school."
While shying away from the classroom, Husted worked in hotel management and as a travel agent with AAA. After about seven years in the working world, she suddenly found herself yearning to learn more. That desire eventually allowed her to conquer her fear of the classroom, and she enrolled in CCRI.
"I was at a point in my life where I needed to prove myself that not only could I excel in the workforce, but that I could be a good student," she said. "I was obviously scared at first because of past experiences, but I realized that CCRI gave me the support that I needed in order to gain confidence."
Armed with a maturity and work ethic that not many students have right out of high school, Husted's re-entry into higher education was positive. She knew now how to ask for help and where to go to find it. As she built up her confidence, she started to realize what her passion projects were – a business track and an ultimate goal of opening up a bed-and-breakfast on the West Side of Providence.
"I promised myself I'd do everything right this time to make that dream a reality. I know everyone says that, but I wanted to create a solid plan to make a successful business in the community," she said.
While Husted was chasing one dream, another that she hadn't dared to allow as a possibility crept up on her when Professor Laurie Sherman encouraged her to apply to Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, which requires a 3.75 GPA. Sherman further convinced her to run for president, a position she holds on top of her studies and full-time employment at Patriot Subaru in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
Although anyone who meets the gregarious Husted would be hard-pressed to imagine that she ever struggled with confidence, her self-deprecating manner shines through when she talks about the accomplishment. "It's a miracle," she said of her induction into PTK. "I've always had natural leadership skills, but because of failing out of school the first time around, I really didn't have the confidence to thrive. This helped me enhanced my leadership skills and go with that."
In 2014, she added another leadership position as she was crowned Ms. Lesbian Rhode Island. She used the yearlong commitment to strengthen her ties to the LGBTQ community in Rhode Island and serving as a role model by headlining fundraisers for groups such as Rhode Island Pride and Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Elders.
"I felt like running for Miss Lesbian Rhode Island because at that point in my life, I was 30, and even though the other contestants were younger, I felt like I had the self-confidence to go out and be myself. I'm not a beauty queen at all; that's not my style. I wanted to be as genuine as possible," she said.
Husted said that even in 2015 in New England, creating visibility and role models for the LGBTQ community is important work and, although she is busier than ever before, she's up for the challenge.
"To have that power to create a good impression about gay people in general, or within our community, is pretty powerful. It's amazing to offer the opportunity for someone who hasn't met someone who is openly gay or maybe hasn't had a real conversation with one to do so," she said.
From unsure to unstoppable, Husted will receive her associate degree in General Business and has been accepted to Bryant University and pursue a bachelor's degree in entrepreneurship. But no matter how far she continues to climb, she said she will never forget where her journey began.
"Community college is for people who need the support that they might not be able to get elsewhere," she said. "They just need that confidence. CCRI is amazing and encouraging; if you're willing to put in the work, they'll support you and make sure you succeed."
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