By her junior year of high school, Erin Lemieux already had a case of senioritis. “I wanted to move to the next level with my education,” she says. The cure was Early College at CCV—the chance to complete her last year of high school enrolled full-time at CCV-St. Albans, earning a year of free college credits. And she’s one of the first participants of the enhanced Early College Certificate program, which awards a $1,000 stipend to students who pursue a certificate during their Early College year. “I’m starting my journey early so I can get out early and start my life early,” Erin says.

The 18-year-old will finish the school year with not just her high school diploma but a full year of college done and paid for, plus a CCV certificate in graphic design. She plans to transfer to Champlain College in the fall to continue her education in graphic design, and ultimately, she wants to pursue a career in the field. The certificate is a great place to start. “I think I’d be able to get a job earlier, and I also think it shows a little bit about me and what I can handle,” Erin says. “I think that’s one of the benefits of starting a year early, is because it kind of shows your courage and your bravery and also your ability to do certain things, and your determination for your passion and your career.”

Erin was bullied a lot as a kid. “I would usually communicate with actions instead of words,” she says. Over the years, she’s found solace—and safe places to be herself—in athletics and art. She joined a year-round swim team, where she indulged her love of the water, and where she met people who accepted her. “Once you enter a team dynamic that you really enjoy and where people are actually respectful to you, it’s like a family in a way.” She’s also always been a creative person who loves to draw, paint, sing, and design things. “I’m able to really be myself, and show myself, through my art.”

Colors of a Painting through Bob Ross. Acrylic.
Falcon. Charcoal.
Diving Into Me. Photoshop.

“Really where my passion lies is art, and I am at my happiest when I’m doing art,” Erin says. A self-described storyteller, she loves developing characters and capturing emotions. “I feel like that’s how I was able to express my emotions, because I wasn’t very good at expressing my emotions verbally at the time, so I would express them through characters and through scenes, and so graphic design is an avenue for me where I can use that expression…going in[to school] for art was the perfect thing for me.”

The Early College Certificate program has given Erin the chance to get a head start on her career, and to do it in a supportive environment. “Another reason why I like CCV is it’s a really close-knit community where I know the teachers, I can ask [them] for what I need and they will be able to respond to me and help me. With my needs and with who I am, I need to be able to communicate to ask for help.” She says CCV has been a gentle introduction to the rigor of college. “Being able to merge myself into a more complicated world slowly, with that type of community, to help me kind of transfer into a more professional and more challenging basis—it’s really helped me be able to do that.”

For Erin, going to college for free has been icing on the cake. She says she won’t have to take on any debt for her time at CCV. “It’s been really good being able to experience college-level classes for free…I would recommend [CCV] for anyone who was thinking of doing college early. I think absolutely CCV is an amazing option.”

To learn more about the Early College Certificate program, and the many other opportunities for Vermont high school students to start college for free at CCV, visit

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