In response to an urgent need for early childhood educators locally and statewide, Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC) is opting for a radical approach: pay CCV students to accelerate their own education so they can enter the workforce sooner. Leveraging funds secured by Vermont’s congressional delegation, the Early Childhood Education Residency Program provides students with a $3,500 stipend to reduce work hours and take more classes.

SVHC held a virtual kick-off last week to welcome the eighteen students who have been accepted into the program for spring semester. James Trimarchi, SVHC director of planning, emphasized that momentum is key for students who are working and going to school at the same time. “The number one predictor of successful completion is the length of time it takes you,” he told students. “If you take only one course and it takes you five years, life is gonna get in the way, and many might not actually finish, and that is just not what we want to happen to you. We want you to finish and get your degree, we want you to be successful at CCV, we want you to become professionals in early childhood education. We want you to impact the next generation of children sooner than later.”

Students represent nine of CCV’s twelve academic centers, as well as the Center for Online Learning. Some are parents, others are in school to begin a second career. Many work second or third jobs in addition to their role as early childhood educators. For Jasmine Jones, the program provides needed relief. “Having this program helps me not have to work seven days a week; it helps me cut back a little bit on the weekends,” she said. “I have two kids at home that I’m trying to show that yes, even a late start in life or life got in the way, that you can do it.”

Haley Harrington works at the Learning Tree, SVHC’s on-campus early education program, a job she loves. After completing her associate degree, she plans to pursue a four-year degree. “Having more resources to get more schooling done makes me feel more confident that I could go for my bachelor’s after I get my associate, so I’m really thankful for that,” Harrington said.

The event was also attended by James Paradissis, outreach representative for Senator Bernie Sanders. “Congratulations on being chosen as the inaugural class of the early childhood education residency program,” he told students on behalf of Senator Sanders. “Your enrollment in this program shows that government can work for people, and that we can actively address the needs of Vermonters and our communities. The Senator is proud that you all have chosen this incredibly important field and wishes you all the best in the months and years ahead of you.”

As one student observed, Vermont struggles when it comes to educating educators. Madalyn Olson serves as a lead teacher, a position she says she was “kind of thrown into.” “[This program] will not only benefit me, and give me sort of the pride and the confidence to be like ‘I did this, I’m qualified to do this,’ but it will also benefit the center that I work in and benefit local Vermont children,” Olson said. “The whole idea and design of this—that trickle-down effect—it really matters, because it impacts the children in our community.”

Residency students are enrolled in either CCV’s early childhood education associate degree or childcare certificate. Early childhood education is the largest degree program at the College, with more than 400 students enrolled in fall 2022.

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