Caitlyn Lyon

Caitlyn Lyon

3/7/24, 9:45 AM
Caitlyn Lyon

Alumni Spotlight

Caitlyn Lyon

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Caitlyn Lyon grew up in the Berkshires, first as a child in Pittsfield, then West Stockbridge and eventually Lenox, where she graduated high school in 2010. The middle child of five children, her parents had not attended college, nor had her two older brothers. Caitlyn decided she wanted to be the first.

"I grew up with a single mom for most of my life. My dad was kind of in and out of my life when I was a child, but my mom was really supportive," she says. "College was really kind of new to my family. I was trying to figure out where I wanted to go. BCC was always an option, but I felt pressure to go to a four-year school." Ultimately, she chose Western New England College (now a university) in Springfield, studying biomedical engineering. A high school teacher who taught mechanics encouraged her.

"He told me, 'Hey, you should really go this route. You're really good at this, and it comes naturally to you,'" Caitlyn recalls.

But after one semester, Caitlyn decided to take a break and come home. At just 17 years old, it proved to be too much. She told her family she would earn an associate degree at BCC and reassess her plans.

"There was a lot of support, but there was also not so much support from others," she says. "But I was really excited about it." She enrolled for the spring 2011 semester at BCC, committing to putting in a full-time academic schedule. In less than two years, she graduated as valedictorian of her class at age 19.

"That was a huge accomplishment for me, especially coming from a family who didn't go to college, and because of the adversity I faced when I decided to come home to BCC," Caitlyn says. She was one of several candidates with a 4.0 GPA.

"I was very surprised that as 19-year-old from the Berkshires, I'm being selected as the valedictorian when I'm in classes with people who have whole-life experiences before coming here, and who added so much value to the classroom," recalls Caitlyn, who said it may have been her ability to overcome adversity that helped win her the top spot. "I think it was the story of coming from a family with five children, a single mom, a first graduate — a first high school graduate and then first to go to college. I think that just kind of stuck out.

It's kind of crazy, because I went to school for seven years, but some of the best memories I have and some of the things that I remember the most are from Berkshire Community College. Not only because I was valedictorian, but also because of the close-knit community, the class size, how accessible it was.

After graduation from BCC, Caitlyn decided to go back to Western New England to continue her education. She now not only holds a bachelor degree and a law degree, but is also a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG), where she has reached the rank of captain. She is married to a military police officer and lives in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

As a deputy command judge advocate in a unit with roughly 2,000 soldiers, Caitlyn advises soldiers and their family members on legal issues, such as landlord/tenant disputes, spousal powers of attorney and drafting wills.

"I've drafted thousands of wills at this point in my life. It's a very, very important role for the soldiers and their family members," says Caitlyn, who will receive $65,000 towards student loans if she stays in the Army for at least four years.

Looking back, Caitlyn says she probably should have chosen BCC "out of the gate," especially given her positive academic experience and personal growth there.

"It was just a great atmosphere. There's so much diversity compared to my experience at a four-year college, where we're all 17 or 18 years old," she says. "I felt like I learned a lot more because of my peers' experiences and what they had to offer to that discussion. I might be 18 years old in a classroom, but I've got a nurse sitting next to me who's worked in the hospital for 30 years and is coming back to get a degree doing something else. Or you've got a mom who has been taking care of her kids for the last 10 years and is now coming back to school. Or maybe you have somebody who made poor choices in the past, maybe even spent time in jail, but now is changing their life. Those discussions are just so much more rich and diverse. It's something you take with you throughout your entire life."

Today, Caitlyn and her husband continue to serve in the military and move to wherever the job may take them. They have two Labrador retrievers, Copley and Quincy, who accompany them on hikes, paddle boarding and travel. Whatever Caitlyn's future may hold, she will always be a staunch advocate of BCC and of community college in general.

Community college is the perfect starting point. Jump in, take a little bit of everything. You may step into a classroom where you didn't think you'd be interested at all, and suddenly that's your passion.