Raine Towns has her fingers crossed: she’s hoping for an acceptance letter any day from her dream transfer school (though she won’t tell us the name of the school, for fear she’ll jinx it). “It gets me so excited,” she says of continuing her education. “I never thought I would get excited about college.” 

The bubbly teenager talked about her plans over plates of steaming pasta at last week’s Mac & Cheese Social at CCV-Montpelier. The event was the second in a series that aims to bring together the College’s growing community of high school students.

Raine participated in Early College last year, spending her senior year of high school as a full-time CCV student and earning a year of free college credits. She’ll graduate with a degree in liberal studies this spring, as one of the first students to take part in the McClure Free Degree Promise—an offering of a free CCV degree to members of the Vermont high school classes of 2022-2026 who complete Early College. She was joined at last week’s gathering by fellow CCV students, parents, faculty, staff, and local high school students eager to learn more about CCV’s programs.

Kelly Bushey’s daughter is halfway through her Early College year; Bushey says her daughter is still part of the theater program at U-32 High School, but takes a full course load at CCV, and she plans to continue next year to participate in the McClure Promise. For Bushey, it’s a little bittersweet, “knowing how young she is. I was nervous about her going off to college,” she shared. “I want her to go and experience the world at some point, but at the same time I’m really excited to have her home.” And the financial benefits, says Bushey, are huge. “I’m a single mom, so to get two years of college under her belt that we don’t have to worry about paying for, is amazing.”

CCV President Joyce Judy welcomes students to Montpelier's Mac & Cheese Social.
Jade Premont, CCVCCV president Joyce Judy welcomes students to Montpelier’s Mac & Cheese Social.

Vermont middle and high school students have lots of opportunities to try out college at CCV—all of them free. Access Days bring middle school students to CCV academic centers for a day of mini college classes, conversation with CCV students and instructors, and a pizza lunch. Introduction to College and Careers is a non-credit course that gives students space to explore and plan for their post-high school years. From there, students can progress to credit-bearing classes at their high school or technical center. Act 77, the State’s Flexible Pathways Initiative, funds two free Dual Enrollment classes as well as the Early College year for seniors. The McClure Free Degree Promise builds on Early College to give students the chance to earn an entire associate degree free of charge.

Early College student Macie Whalen brought two friends from her high school to Montpelier’s Mac & Cheese Social. “Both of them have expressed interest in Early College,” she says, “so I thought this was a great way to get them into it…and I also wanted to bring my friends to eat mac and cheese,” she adds with a laugh. She says her Early College experience has been challenging academically, but good. And CCV is the right environment for her. “This feels like a really close community, and I feel like there’s a lot of support.” Like Kelly Bushey’s daughter, Macie will continue next year to take advantage of the McClure Promise program. “At first I really struggled with the stigmatism there is against community college and staying in state,” she shared. “But I realized how much money I was saving. And I’ve also made so many good friends. [I have] an amazing advisor. I realized it is so much more worth it for me to stay another year and figure out what I want to do before making any financial commitments, and it gets me more comfortable with what college is like, too.”

The third and final Mac & Cheese Social takes place March 8th at CCV-Rutland. Current students and families, as well as anyone interested in learning more about CCV’s programs for high school students, are encouraged to attend. RSVP here.  

To learn more about CCV’s full continuum of programs for middle and high school students, visit gotocollegevt.org.

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