Paige Perkins is ready to get to work. She has been since she was a junior in high school. She is the kind of person who’s spent a lot of time thinking about what she wants to be when she grows up. “I always thought I wanted to be a forensic psychologist,” she says. “That was my eighth grade project.” And by sophomore year of high school, Perkins had set her sights on becoming a nurse.

At the start of eleventh grade, her guidance counselor told her about Early College. This seemed like just the thing for Perkins, a curious kid who wanted to expand her horizons. She’d been a student at Blue Mountain Union since she was five—the pre-k-12 school generally enrolls around 450 students, and serves the communities of Groton, Ryegate, and Wells River. For the first eleven years, Perkins says, it was familiar and comfortable. It was a good fit. But by the beginning of her senior year, it was getting a little snug.

“I was just kind of there,” she says. Her social life felt stagnant, and so did her academic life. She had taken all of the classes she could at BMU, and says her coursework was starting to feel redundant. After talking with her guidance counselor, she decided to sign up for Early College at CCV’s Montpelier academic center.

At CCV, she says, “I got along with everyone…I think one of the oldest people in the class with me had watched the first man walk on the moon. It was kind of cool: [that class] was Human Growth and Development, and I think I was one of the youngest and then he was one of the oldest, and there was everything in between.”

She says her new schedule at CCV was flexible, and allowed her to balance all of the activities in her busy life. While she was in Early College at CCV, Perkins also played soccer, basketball, and softball for Blue Mountain through her senior year of high school (all Early College students have the option to participate in extracurricular activities at their high school). She was also a member of the school chorus and kept her part-time job as a cashier at Shaw’s Supermarket.

She had her sights set on nursing from the start, and at CCV she had the chance to focus her studies toward that goal. Most of the credits she earned through Early College went toward CCV’s Allied Health Preparation certificate, which prepares many students for furthering their education in a nursing program.

Perkins says that Early College played a major role in getting her ready for Vermont Tech, where she’s now excelling. She still works her part-time job, plays on the women’s soccer team, and was just accepted into the nursing program for the fall semester. (“I am so excited!” she wrote in an email.)

Perkins often returns to Blue Mountain Union to talk to younger students about Early College. “I tell them that I think they’re underestimating the experience they’ll have when they go [to CCV].” She says she’s glad she took the opportunity to be part of a new community. She also notes the financial advantages of Early College: “If you want to save a whole year of tuition, then that’s the best bet.” As a state-funded program, Early College is offered tuition free. Over the course of an associate or bachelor’s degree, that can translate to thousands of dollars saved.

Perkins says she understands that a college degree will open doors in her life. For her, Early College was the best way to begin. “I wanted to get a jump start,” she said. “I just thought that if I stayed [at BMU] and didn’t excel, I would have been held back in a way…I really wanted to do something different. I’m a cashier at Shaw’s, and I couldn’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life…I just really want to be a nurse.”

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