Sophie Decker is no stranger to college courses, despite having just graduated from high school. As a former CCV Dual Enrollment and Early College student, and now a current CCV degree-seeking student, at 18 years old she is taking advantage of all the College has to offer.

“I wanted to do the entire college experience in a way that I could get the best possible education but also graduate with the least amount of debt,” Sophie said of her decision to choose CCV.

College has always been a part of Sophie’s plan, and her journey began when two of her passions came together: dancing and teaching. At age 5, Sophie started dancing at a studio where she performed solos, duets, and group dances. She went on to teach dance beginning at age 12, and continues to do so weekly. As a dance teacher, Sophie wanted to be able to connect with a student with special needs who preferred to communicate through American Sign Language. “That was actually one of the main reasons I took a sign language class at CCV my junior year,” Sophie said as she explained her decision to pursue college classes. “I started looking into a class that could teach me some ASL…that’s what kind of started getting me into the CCV system.”

When she was a dual enrollment student at CCV, Sophie started to learn more about what the College had to offer. Starting with dual enrollment her junior year of high school allowed Sophie to take up to two free college classes while earning both college and high school credits. She began with an ASL course and started to look around at classes and degree programs to see what more CCV had to offer. As a senior, Sophie then went on to the Early College program. She had heard about the program through her older brother, who is a CCV alum, and decided that it was the right move for her. She was able to complete her senior year of high school and first year of college simultaneously, earning free college credits that also counted as credits toward graduating from high school.

Sophie completed Early College this spring. “CCV in a lot of ways was able to give me a glimpse of college while still being able to have my high school career,” she said. “I was able to understand and prepare for what college will be, but also still be a high schooler and enjoy my high school experience.” As a homeschooled student, Sophie found her transition from high school to college classes easy, yet still nerve-wracking. “I’ve kind of been prepped for that for most of my life,” she said of the homework and time management aspect of college. The rest of her nerves were eased by the connections she was able to make with faculty and staff at CCV, who she said were always helpful and accommodating. “In a lot of colleges you’re in huge lecture halls and you’re basically just your student ID, where here they know your name and remember parts of your life.”

Sophie had many reasons to stay at CCV to finish her associate degree. She appreciated the smaller class sizes and sense of community at CCV, where she was able to make one-on-one connections inside and outside of the classroom. She also liked how diverse CCV was. “People having completely different and diverse stories really enhances the college experience because you’re not in a homogenous group where everyone has the exact same story, and that really ends up enhancing your story,” she said. Finally, there was a certain level of comfort that she felt at CCV. “I’m here, I’m getting an amazing education, I have amazing professors, and it’s such an affordable cost.”

CCV just got even more affordable for Sophie and her peers: last month, the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation announced that they were offering a gift to the Vermont high school class of 2020 of one free CCV course this fall. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity and I really hope that a lot of individuals will take advantage of it. You’re basically getting a chance for some free education and I don’t think you should ever pass up a chance to learn something,” Sophie said of the McClure Foundation’s gift.

Another factor in Sophie’s decision to continue on at CCV was the College’s transfer pathway to UVM. CCV has an articulation agreement with UVM’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, among other colleges and departments at UVM, that guarantees admission for CCV graduates who have completed their associate degrees and graduated with a 2.7 or higher GPA. This agreement allows for students who complete an early childhood education associate degree at CCV to meet the minor requirements of a communication sciences and disorders bachelor’s degree. “I saw that CCV had their pathway to UVM, so you get your associate [degree] at CCV and can get moved right over to UVM,” Sophie said. “I really enjoyed that it was so clear and concise…I knew that the classes I was going to take during Early College weren’t going to be classes that a college may not accept.”

Sophie had made the decision to pursue a degree in early childhood education (ECE) during her first week at CCV. “It was everything I had wanted, everything I had thought of,” Sophie said of her first ECE class. “We were able to tailor my schedule to that degree program and make sure that the transfer [to UVM] would go smoothly.” Going to UVM has always been a part of Sophie’s plan, since she wanted to stay close to home for college so she could still teach dance. Sophie said that taking classes at CCV has helped her prepare for a college experience on a larger campus, make lasting connections with faculty, and give her the confidence boost she needed. “I was able to take a college class and be like ‘wow, I can succeed. It’s going to be hard…but it can be done.’”

Sophie plans to eventually pursue a bachelor’s degree in both early childhood education and special education. She wants to use her degree to become a kindergarten teacher, where her goal is to have an inclusive classroom that she’s able to cater to children with diverse needs. After teaching for a few years, Sophie hopes to return to UVM to complete her master’s degree in education.

Sophie is thankful for the role CCV is playing in her life. “Anyone who thinks CCV offers a lesser education because it’s a community college, or a lower tuition, isn’t true at all…it gives you so many amazing connections. It gives you an amazing education. It gives you the ability to reach out and expand your social group. It gives you a very diverse experience. It’s overall a really wonderful experience.”

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