When Victoria Vernon (ʼ21) crosses the stage as Valedictorian during Cabrini University’s 61st Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 22, she will officially complete the Vernon family legacy as the third in her household to have fulfilled the University’s Education of the Heart, and the only Vernon Valedictorian.
“Tori” Vernon joins brothers Drew (ʼ17) and Trent (ʼ19) as Cabrini alumni, having finished her studies summa cum laude in December 2020 with bachelor’s degrees in English and Secondary Education.
“Cabrini was always the school I knew I would attend,” Vernon said. “I saw the impact Cabrini had on my brothers and knew I wanted to experience it myself.”
The Collegeville, PA, native has been substitute teaching in Carmel, CA, since January and is the first Cabrini Valedictorian to graduate early, concluding her coursework and teacher certification in just three and a half years. This coming fall, Vernon will take a full-time position teaching middle school English and language arts in Carmel.
Though the Vernons share an alma mater (all three siblings even lived in Woodcrest Hall as first-year students), Victoria said she was given opportunities to create a Cabrini experience all her own.
“I loved being in a small, close-knit community and having the privilege of knowing professors and classmates by name,” she said.
A perennial President’s List student, Vernon made academic excellence a top priority as a student. She was a member of several honor societies, including Sigma Tau Delta (English), Kappa Delta Pi (Education), and Alpha Lambda Delta (first-year students) of which she was president. She also volunteered through the Disability Resource Center as a peer note-taker.
Vernon developed strong relationships with her professors, inspired by how her educators were “passionate about their subject and the mission of the school.” Vernon now passes the ideals of her Education of the Heart on to her own students.
“Cabrini has bettered me as a student, leader, teacher, and citizen,” she said. “From professional development to teaching techniques, I feel so eager and passionate to share my education with future students to better the world.”
Vernon served in leadership roles throughout her time as a Cavalier and wasted no time making a difference. Among those roles, she worked three years in Student Government as Class Senator, Parliamentarian, and Treasurer. She also spent her sophomore and junior years as a resident assistant in the freshman residence halls, promoting team building and community.
Her work earned her the University’s 2018 Rising Leader award and 2020 RA of the Year honor.
Vernon’s commitment to improving communities and working toward something greater than herself began years before she came to campus, said Michelle Filling-Brown, PhD, Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of English.
Filling-Brown mentored Vernon while the future Cabrini Valedictorian was in high school. The two met through a local youth group.
“Tori embodied the spirit of Mother Cabrini long before she ever enrolled here,” said Filling-Brown. “Leadership, determination, motivation, and a servant heart are all characteristics she exhibits. She has a true passion for service and social justice.”
Vernon traveled to Haiti as a high school student, engaging in formative service work supporting families and communities still recovering from lingering effects of the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake.
“As an Education major, Tori's passion for serving others grew as a Cabrini student,” Filling-Brown said.
Vernon said she has a strong sense of family and enjoyed watching her brother Drew play on Cabrini’s soccer team. Drew, a Cabrini Communication graduate, is a videographer for a rehabilitation company, and Trent, who earned a Marketing degree, is employed at a financial institution specializing in pre-settlement funding.
"I thank my father and brothers for believing in me and pushing me to be the best version of myself every day,” Tori said. “I made myself a promise upon entering Cabrini to make my family and friends proud as they poured so much into me. I did not know exactly what the promise entailed, but today I thank all of them for contributing to my success and supporting me.”