“If you asked me three years ago if I would have come to Montpelier to talk about leadership, I would have probably not answered you. When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t the type of guy to go out and do things. I wasn’t really involved in my community.” Justin Bourdeau is one of thirteen students who received CCV’s 2018 Leadership Scholarship, and he spoke recently to peers and guests at a celebratory luncheon with President Joyce Judy. “But when I started taking classes at CCV, I started doing things for my community that I didn’t think I would be doing. I didn’t think I was going to go to college [when I was] in high school, but now here I am.”

At its core, Bourdeau’s desire to be more involved stems from an appreciation for relationships. “I value connections a lot more than I used to,” he said, adding that in the world of business—which he’s studying at CCV—“connections are everything.” But he’s also just excited about meeting new people. He says that through his many activities at CCV, “I get to know more people, and I like that. I like knowing people because you never know who you might need or who you might run into in the future.”

Fittingly, it was a personal connection that got Bourdeau in the door at CCV. During his junior year at Lamoille Union High School, one of his favorite teachers told Bourdeau about a dual enrollment class he was assigned to teach. The pitch was simple: “the class is free, you’ll earn college credit, and you’ll be in a familiar setting with a supportive group of people.” Also this: “I know you can do it.” It was that encouragement from someone he trusted that convinced Bourdeau, a shy teenager who was unsure about what he would do after high school, to try out a college class.

Bourdeau took the dual enrollment accounting class his senior year, and earned four free college credits. “It really gave me the experience of what a college class would be like,” he said. What he found was a supportive environment in which he could succeed. Ultimately, says Bourdeau, “That dual enrollment class was what really sold me on college.” With the momentum of a handful of credits and the confidence that he could, in fact, do it, Bourdeau decided to pursue a college degree.

Today, Bourdeau is in his last semester at CCV. He’s slated to graduate in June and transfer to Johnson State College, where he’ll be part of the soon-to-be Northern Vermont University-Johnson online program, which means he can pursue his studies remotely. It also means that he’ll be able to continue working with his current advisor, Coordinator of Academic Services Billi Dunham, who he says has supported him through every step of his college career. He will stay involved at CCV-Morrisville as a peer mentor and student leader, something that has brought richness to his life and to the lives of his classmates.

Justin, center, at the State House with his brother Brandin and President Judy in 2016 to represent the Man Up program.
Josh Larkin, CCVJustin, center, at the State House with his brother Brandin and President Judy in 2016 to represent the Man Up program.

As a mentor in Morrisville’s Man Up program, Bourdeau gets the opportunity to build connections with and for his fellow students. Man Up, Lamoille, as it’s officially titled, is offered exclusively to young male students at CCV’s Morrisville center and provides one-on-one advising, peer support, a free class, and gas cards to help with the cost of transportation.

Bourdeau took the class himself as a new student at CCV, and many of the students he’s now mentoring were freshman in high school when he was a senior. He says being involved with the program is one of the most important parts of his life, which these days is pretty full. In addition to being a student, he works at the local Hannaford Supermarket, where he’s been employed for more than two years, and he’s also a new dad—he’s so committed to Man Up that he showed up for the class he was mentoring just one day after his daughter was born. He says there was real value in the program for him, and he wants to share that with others. “I like what it did for me and where it got me, so I want to try to do that for other guys…I want to give other guys the opportunity to grow as a person and get a degree.”

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