More than eighty students from Barre City Middle School got a taste of college at Friday’s Access Day at CCV-Montpelier.

CCV centers across the state have been hosting Access Days since 2013. The events provide an introduction to CCV, to the college classroom experience, and to opportunities to earn college credits during high school. Middle school students attend mock classes, meet faculty and staff, and hear about CCV directly from current students. The success of Access Days, and the demand for them from schools, has grown rapidly—nearly 1,300 students participated during the 2017-18 school year. CCV’s director of secondary education initiatives Natalie Searle says Access Days can be an important step toward planning for success in college and beyond. “Providing a positive and encouraging first experience in a college environment meets the needs of younger students at a critical age when they are making career and education choices.”

This spring, a new partnership with Northfield Savings Bank supported four Access Days, three at CCV-Winooski for Hunt Middle School students, and one at CCV-Montpelier for Barre City. On Friday, students attended three mock classes: Introduction to Ethics, Introduction to College and Careers, and Computer Programming. They also played a round of CCV Jeopardy and had the chance to ask questions about CCV during a panel session with current students.

After the morning classes, students explored the Montpelier center and enjoyed a pizza lunch. Middle school student Ella Lewis was excited to share her impressions of Early College, the state-sponsored program that allows Vermont high school seniors to complete their last year of high school and first year of college simultaneously, and for free. “This could really help you manage your time,” she said. “You could still do sports while going here, and it’s only one class a day.” Current Early College student Charles Bridges volunteered at Friday’s Access Day. He said Access Days weren’t available when he was in middle school, and he wanted to be part of creating that experience for the Barre City students. He has important advice for students who are considering the Early College program. “Go into it with an open mind, and be ready to be challenged in a very different way than you are in high school. You have a lot more independence than in high school, but [Early College] is also engaging, and fun.”

While playing CCV Jeopardy, students were given an overview of CCV’s continuum of programs for Vermont middle and high school students: Introduction to College and Careers is a free class available to students in grades eight through twelve. Through the state’s dual enrollment program, juniors and seniors can take two free college courses. And the full year of free credits students can earn through Early College offers a jump start, as it did for Bridges. He’s headed to the military next year, and says Early College has been a great way to finish high school as well as half of an associate degree. Barre City student Alyssa West was impressed by the range of opportunities. “I learned there’s a lot of ways for us to get fully into the college scene before we’re graduating, which is really cool.”

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