Most people try to avoid stress in their lives, but Rylee Masson isn’t most people. Thriving under pressure, at 17 years old, and before earning a high school diploma, Rylee has received an associate degree in STEM from CCV.

Rylee took his first class at CCV-Winooski when he was 12 years old. He and his parents were looking for more challenging math classes for him to take than what his middle school offered, and had reached out to CCV to see if he could audit a class. “The answer was ‘no, you need to be enrolled, but we have this new policy in place for younger students’ so he went through the application process and was accepted,” said his father Scott. Rylee began with taking the Intro to College and Careers course in the summer of 2015 and began his first math class, algebra, that fall.

CCV’s Dual Enrollment program allowed Rylee to start his college studies as a middle and high school student. He completed steps of the admissions process for applicants under the age of 14, including an essay, reference, interview, and assessments before he was accepted. Vermont students are eligible for two Dual Enrollment vouchers, each good for one free course at any CCV center. These college credits earned at CCV also count as credits toward graduation from high school. Rylee used these vouchers to take math, and continued on at CCV as he found more and more classes that interested him. “We were kind of just thinking ‘Yeah, I’ll take a few math classes and it’ll be great’, and I was like but look at this cool class and look at this cool class, and all of a sudden I have thirty-something credits [from CCV],” said Rylee.

Rylee took a mixture of college courses, both on-ground and online, while still attending Champlain Valley Union High School and taking classes there, but he was always drawn to the college classes. “I definitely wanted more of an accelerated course rate…the college class was one semester covering what would normally be covered in a year in a middle school or high school class. Since we weren’t meeting every single day there was more content packed into a smaller amount of time, which goes a lot faster and is what I enjoyed and was looking for.” Rylee also stayed busy with co-curricular activities including football, rowing, and theater.

While taking classes at CCV gave Rylee more of a challenge academically, it also opened up his perspective on the world. He was able to interact with a diverse group of people in his classes, including many adult students. “At the end of middle school I started having the lesson that this whole idea of an ‘adult’ is kind of this not really real thing, it’s just people. Which I think is something people learn later and as they go off to college, but I got to see that a little earlier which I think in a lot of ways has helped me do a lot of the things I’m doing now.” Rylee also said that as classes went on and he started to think of himself at the same level as the adults in the class, he found that he was gaining more confidence. “I found that just as with my middle school classes I was able to start taking leadership roles and lead discussions even with these adults…that was kind of mind-blowing in a lot of ways because I didn’t think of myself at the same level as them.”

Online classes have been a large part of Rylee’s CCV experience and because of COVID-19 he finished out his last classes of his degree online. He says that “CCV has figured online out really well” and his instructors were involved and made classes very interactive. “CCV has a group of teachers who are really good at teaching online and they’re good with discussions online.” Rylee also feels that CCV has helped prepare him for remote learning in both college and high school classes during COVID-19 since he was already used to the structure of online classes. Additionally, online learning at CCV allowed Rylee flexibility to find the balance between college classes, high school classes, and afterschool activities. “I think that CCV was uniquely fitted for the path I took in a lot of ways. It’s a really good community, there are a lot of people there that aren’t your average college student.”

With an associate degree now under his belt, Rylee is just getting started in his higher ed journey. He plans to take an AP course load at his high school during senior year and go on to earn his bachelor’s degree. He’s considering eventually pursuing the pre-med path. “I think CCV has prepared me in a lot of ways just in the sense of learning about what kind of learner I am.” Rylee now has the skills of note taking and essay writing for college, and better understands the study habits he needs to succeed. He’s also ready for life after college: “I learned to write resumes, and we talked a lot about job experience and work experience…CCV felt like it was preparing me to go out into the workforce and be a functioning member.”

As Rylee ends his time at CCV and gets ready to move forward, he’s reflecting on his experience. “My favorite part about being a CCV student is that we all have this desire to learn…that creates a really cool learning environment that’s very different from anything I’d found before.”

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