Caring and Curiosity: Meet TRIO Star Liam Edwards

When Liam Edwards first registered for classes at the Community College of Vermont, he encountered a lot of skepticism. At seventeen, he had dropped out of high school to attend college. “I got negative feedback from friends,” he says. “They didn’t think I could make it. My family didn’t believe I could make it either.”

Liam’s first day at CCV seemed to confirm everyone’s fears. “I didn’t even show up to the right class,” he recalls, chuckling. “I sat in the wrong classroom for three hours.”

There was also the financial burden. Liam’s parents couldn’t pay for his education so he worked at Rutland Mental Health, doing outreach work with adults with chronic mental health problems. He became a substitute teacher at Head Start. In the summer, he toiled long hours as a farmhand. In between, he worked in production at music festivals.

Despite the bumpy beginning and the heavy workload, Liam thrived. He left classes wanting to engage with classmates about the ideas they were learning and discussing. He earned an associate’s degree in early childhood education from CCV before transferring to Castleton, a transition he describes as “seamless.”

Today, the young man who was told he wouldn’t succeed in college has a 3.26 GPA despite a plethora of outside commitments. Until Liam began student teaching this semester, he continued his work with Rutland Mental Health and Head Start in addition to working part-time at the Calvin Coolidge Library’s circulation desk. He has also been an active member of the university’s Greenhouse and Gardens Club. In January, he discussed his experiences as a transfer student on a panel for new transfer students. 

Faculty and staff praise his appetite for learning and his determination. “Liam is truly committed to learning. He eagerly searches for new knowledge and he passionately engages with scholarly work,” says Leigh-Ann Brown, Assistant Professor of Education. Stephanie Traverse, Access Services Librarian, raves about his “incredible work ethic.”

Liam believes Castleton’s Academic Support Center is partially responsible for his success.  He has met with Math Specialist Deborah Jackson and Writing Specialist Doe Dahm during his time at Castleton. “It’s reassuring to believe that there are people at Castleton who will help,” he says. “And it’s been useful to get help with my writing, especially synthesizing and sequencing. The Academic Support Center has helped me achieve one of my goals, which is to keep my GPA above a 3.00.”

A multidisciplinary studies major, Liam hopes to pursue a career in elementary education after graduating in December. He also plans to attend graduate school. This semester, he is student teaching. He eagerly creates lesson plans for the 4-6th graders in his classroom, and despite his busy schedule, finds time to mentor fellow student teachers, sharing ideas and strategies with them.

Monica McEnerney, chair of Castleton’s education department, is supervising Liam in his student teaching role. She is impressed by his interactions with students and peers.

“It was evident from the first day that Liam had built strong connections with students and was a responsible and kind colleague,” she says. “He knows that, even when times get tough, he must be a positive presence for his students.  Liam is an excellent elementary educator.”

McEnerney believes Liam’s intellectual curiosity will enrich his work as an educator. “Liam has a broad sense of the world, has a poetic disposition, and cares deeply about his community,” she says.

Ann Slonaker, Associate Professor of Education, agrees wholeheartedly. “Liam will be a good role model for all his students,” she adds.

In the meantime, Liam hopes other students will take full advantage of the opportunities to learn and grow during their time at college. “You can’t just read what’s given to you,” he says thoughtfully. “Your professors are all hard workers, and they haven’t stopped learning. Read outside your interests.”

– Dorothy A. Dahm

Balance and Compassion: Meet TRIO Star Sabrina Lacasse

When Sabrina Lacasse first arrived at Castleton, she didn’t know what to expect. She knew she wanted to be a nurse, but the first-generation college student was nervous about forms, deadlines, and other facts of college life. In addition, Sabrina was apprehensive about leaving home. She’d grown up on a small farm in tiny Elmore, Vermont, and she wasn’t sure how she’d handle being away from family.

Fortunately, another family awaited Sabrina at Castleton. Through Summer Transition Program (STP), a weeklong pre-college experience for new TRIO students, she made valuable connections. “STP helped me tremendously,” Sabrina recalls. “I learned where everything was before classes started, and I made friends.” STP also introduced Sabrina to the Academic Support Center’s full-time staff.

But settling in was just the beginning of Sabrina’s journey. Despite the warm STP welcome, Sabrina was often homesick. And although she worked hard, the nursing program proved daunting. Finally, like most college students, Sabrina wanted to earn good grades, have a social life, and get sufficient sleep. Balance seemed elusive.

Whenever obstacles arose, Sabrina met with Academic Support Center staff, a practice she continues today. “They say, ‘Take a deep breath; this is what you have to do,’” she chuckles. “And I feel better.”

Today, it’s hard to reconcile the relaxed, self-assured young woman with the shy girl who entered STP. Sabrina maintains a 3.30 GPA while juggling part-time jobs at the Campus Center and Academic Support Center. She plays club basketball and is an active member of the Rotaract Club.

Despite Sabrina’s success, she hasn’t forgotten her rocky start. As an STP and TRIO Texting Mentor, she nurtures and encourages new students, many of them first-generation students who are anxious about entering a new world. “She inspires new students with her positive attitude and by sharing her personal experiences,” says Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services.

Sabrina loves seeing her mentees grow; some have even become leaders themselves. “Sometimes, they come up to me and say, ‘If it wasn’t for STP, I wouldn’t be here,’” she says. “Some still call me Mom.”

At Castleton, Sabrina’s compassion has taken her far, even out of the country. Last year, Sabrina and her fellow nursing students traveled to Honduras to provide care for people in underserved communities. It was Sabrina’s first trip outside the U.S. – and her first time flying. “I was way out of my comfort zone, but it was the best experience,” she says. “It reminded me of why I want to be a nurse.” This spring, Sabrina will travel to Florida to volunteer with the Rotaract Club.

Sabrina’s adventures have whetted her appetite for travel. After graduation, she plans to pursue a career as a traveling nurse. Eventually, she hopes to settle in her beloved Vermont, where she would like to work as an emergency room or birthing center nurse. Her Castleton family is confident she’ll succeed. “Her manner as a mentor indicates she’ll make a wonderful nurse,” says Becky Eno, Academic Counselor.

Sabrina hopes new students will find a home at Castleton and take advantage of all the university has to offer. “Ask for help if you need it,” she advises. “As a first-year , I was too shy to ask for what I needed – now I do it all the time. And get involved on campus. It can lead to all sorts of opportunities.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

From Stardom to Service: Meet TRIO Star Weslee Thompson

Growing up on the island of Guam, Weslee Thompson did not imagine attending college in Vermont. A talented athlete, he seemed destined for soccer stardom. When he was seventeen, an injury derailed his dreams. He still recalls the hurt he felt when his physical therapist told him he would never again play competitive soccer.

But one dream’s demise led to another. “Having a negative experience with a physical therapist made me want to pursue physical therapy,” Weslee says. “I knew what it was like to be in a vulnerable position. I wanted to come alongside people and work with them.” At the time, Weslee hoped to rehabilitate injured athletes.

Weslee’s new goals led him to Castleton University, where he pursued a double major in health science and psychology. Although the health science degree would give him the prerequisites for graduate school, he knew understanding human behavior would allow him to better support patients.

Like all first-year students, Weslee had to adapt to a new academic environment. Unlike most of his classmates, he had to pay his own way through college. He accepted a full-time position at McDonalds and quickly became a shift manager.

Juggling a full-time job and courses for two majors proved challenging even for a student as dedicated as Weslee. He invested in a planner. “I discovered a passion for color coordinating,” he chuckles. Always a competent writer, he met with Writing Clinic tutors and the Writing Specialist to make his papers even stronger.

Weslee’s formula worked. Now in his junior year, he still works full-time while maintaining a 4.00 GPA as a double major. Outside of class, he embraces other intellectual opportunities. This summer, he worked with psychology professor Greg Engel, conducting genetic research on ethanol tolerance in fruit flies.

And despite Weslee’s hectic schedule, he still finds time to help others. He is a writing tutor at Castleton’s Academic Support Center; he has also tutored students in anatomy and psychology. For the past two years, he has served a Student Orientation Staffer (SOS), helping new students acclimate to life at Castleton. Being a mentor has proven rewarding. “I’m most proud when people come up to me between classes and say I’ve helped them,” he says. “I’m more proud of that than anything I’ve accomplished myself.”

The desire to help others led Weslee to Castleton. Since then, his journey has taken another turn. This summer, an internship at Rutland’s Back on Track Physical Therapy affirmed his interest in the field. Through his internship, he discovered a passion for helping injured veterans. “I’d like to help those who’ve served get back to their lives,” he says quietly.

During his time at Castleton, Weslee has made an excellent impression on faculty and staff. “I feel immensely lucky to have known Wes as a student and an employee,” says Doe Dahm, Writing Specialist and adjunct professor of English. “It’s rare to find a student with his level of personal and intellectual maturity. When I first met him and he said he wanted to be a physical therapist, I thought, ‘Yes. I could envision him working with my elderly family members.’ He’s ready to enter the professional world.”

 In the meantime, Weslee is making the most of his time at Castleton. He hopes that new students will also enjoy their undergraduate years. “Time management is crucial, but it is possible to breathe,” he says. “Make sure you give yourself time to pursue your own passions.”

 

Caring and Caregiving: Meet TRIO Star Chandra Luitel

Castleton University is a long way from the Nepalese refugee camp where Chandra Luitel was born and raised. At ten, Chandra was cooking for her family and taking care of her younger siblings. College and career seemed remote. “I had a passion to become a nurse,” she says. “But I knew my dream of going into a professional field was impossible because of my family’s financial situation.”

When Chandra was thirteen, her parents decided to move to the United States. They were taking a chance: they knew very little about the country and could not speak English. However, with robbery, violence, and poverty in the camp, the move seemed worth the risk.

But the family’s struggles did not end when they arrived in Winooski, Vermont. The Luitels knew no one in their new city. Chandra and her younger sister had learned a little English at school in Nepal, so they did their best to help their parents navigate this new world. “We were scared for a few months,” recalls Chandra. “But then we met other people from Nepal who encouraged us to stay – not that we could go back.”

At school, more culture shock awaited Chandra and her siblings. There was the pressure to buy clothes and fit in with peers. “In Nepal, we had only one uniform,” says Chandra. School lunches were also an adjustment as Chandra was accustomed to cooking food at home. And although Chandra had lots of questions about her new language, environment, and schoolwork, she did not ask many. “I was hesitant to ask for help,” she says.

In her junior year of high school, Chandra was introduced to the University of Vermont’s Upward Bound program, a federally funded program for high school students of modest means whose parents do not have a bachelor’s degree. Through workshops and college tours, Chandra learned that she could realize her dream of attending college and becoming a nurse. She applied and was accepted to Castleton’s nursing program.

In August 2015, Chandra came to campus a week before the start of her first semester. With about thirty other new students, she participated in the Summer Transition Program, a week-long program to help TRIO students acclimate to college life (STP).

Like many other first-year students, Chandra struggled with homesickness. “In my culture, we don’t move from home until we get married,” she says. “It was pretty challenging for my parents as well.”

Through STP, Chandra found ample support. She made friends with other homesick students. “We talked about it and realized it’s pretty normal,” she remembers. Academic Support Center staff were also reassuring, particularly Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services. “Kelley was good to me,” says Chandra. “She shared how she felt when she left home for college and later realized it was all for the best.”

STP helped Chandra find her way around campus – and help her peers. “I was able to help other new students from Nepal find the Academic Support Center and other places on campus,” she says. She now encourages high school friends to apply to Castleton and participate in STP.

As Chandra threw herself into challenging coursework, she continued visiting Academic Support Center. Academic Counselor Becky Eno helped her register for classes and gave her pep talks when she doubted her ability to succeed at Castleton. Faced with writing assignments, she took her papers to the Writing Clinic. “Every semester, I think, oh, I’m going to fail these nursing courses,” she says. “But then I come to the Writing Clinic for help with writing and research.”

Today, it’s hard to believe Chandra ever wondered whether she could make it at Castleton. This semester, her mid-term GPA was a 4.00. Recently, she was awarded the Vermont Educational Opportunity Programs scholarship for overcoming significant obstacles to pursue her education. “Chandra has matured, become disciplined, and begun to see the world as a nurse, one who is responsible for the well-being of others,” says her advisor, Assistant Professor of Nursing Margaret Young. After graduation, Chandra plans a career in pediatric or geriatric nursing.

But despite Chandra’s accomplishments, some things haven’t changed. She still puts her family first, returning home almost every weekend to help her mother. “I read the mail my mom cannot read and pay the bills,” she says. Since her mother is often tired from working double shifts, Chandra gives her a break by cooking for the family and taking her teenage brother to sporting events.

Chandra hopes other students will learn from her story, particularly those who are reluctant to attend college because they fear homesickness or debt.   “Push yourself,” she says. “We all have doubts, but life will be better. Ask for help. And don’t be afraid of the financial stuff – there is aid available, including lots of scholarships at Castleton.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Opportunity Knocks: TRIO Star Christin Martin

Christin at Kilkenny Castle in Ireland this summer.

Like many first-year students, Christin Martin was homesick when she arrived at Castleton. She missed Plainfield, the small Vermont town where she grew up, and her large, close-knit family. “There were a lot of calls home,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I talked to my mom at least once a day.”

Adjusting to college would be hard, Christin knew. But affording college would be even harder. The first-generation college student would have to pay for her education herself.

Despite her worries, Christin threw herself into life at Castleton. Through the Summer Transition Program, she made friends and connected with the staff at the Academic Support Center. To pay her tuition, she worked various part-time jobs. She joined clubs. She studied hard – and made the President’s List a few times.

Today, it’s hard for Christin and her mentors to recognize the homesick girl who arrived at Castleton almost four years ago. “During her first year, Christin struck me as a quiet student on the verge of becoming wonderful, and she has continually grown in confidence, depth of insight, and professionalism,” says Becky Eno, Castleton’s Academic Counselor.

A double major in Social Work and Sociology, Christin has a 3.94 GPA. She sits on the Honors Council, the Themed Housing Advisory Board, and the Social Work Advisory Board. Christin also juggles her academic achievements and extracurricular involvement with three jobs on campus, including a program assistant position at Academic Support – a role created just for her.

Despite Christin’s demanding schedule, she finds time to give back to TRIO. As an Upward Bound and Summer Transition Program mentor, she helps other first-generation students acclimate to college life. Last summer, she coordinated a TRIO Texting mentor program for incoming students as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer at Academic Support. Christin enjoys connecting with new students. “If students text me at four on a Sunday and they know I’ll reply, it means I’ve established a rapport with them,” she says.

Castleton’s staff anticipate great things for Christin. “She’s been a role model for many students as an undergraduate and will undoubtedly make Castleton proud as an alum,” says Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services.

After graduation, Christin plans to work in residence life while attending graduate school. Eventually, she hopes to become a school or college counselor. “I met with a VSAC counselor while I was in high school,” she says. “It did a lot for me, and I’d like to help students who are facing what I faced.”

Christin hopes other students will have the same chances she’s had. “Pay attention to what’s going on,” she urges. “Be aware of your financial situation, grades, and opportunities on campus. They’ll help you build a résumé and lead to other opportunities.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Athletics and Academics: TRIO Star Adnane Adossama

When Adnane Adossama arrived at Castleton, he wasn’t sure he could succeed at college. Still, he worked hard and made the Dean’s List his freshman year. That boosted Adnane’s confidence, but his struggles had just begun.

“I had to decide what to do with my education,” says Adnane. “I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to pursue exercise science, athletic training, or transfer to another school. I didn’t have a focus, but too many.”

For a while, Adnane even entertained the idea of dropping out of college despite his high grades. “I wanted to make sure I had a clear career path,” he explains. “College is such a big investment, and I wanted to make sure of the return.”

To get some clarity about his goals, Adnane met with Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services. She dissuaded Adnane from dropping out, showing him that finishing his education would improve his career prospects, regardless of his major. She also helped him navigate university life, communicate with his professors, and better understand the resources available to him. “Meeting with Kelley gave me the feeling I wasn’t alone and someone wanted me to succeed,” says Adnane. “She understood my goals and pointed me in the right direction.”

After meeting with Beckwith, Adnane started taking advantage of the Academic Support Center’s resources. He met with various tutors, including a chemistry tutor named Katie Wielgasz. She not only helped Adnane master chemistry; she taught him how to break up assignments and teach himself new material. “It’s something I carry over into other classes,” says Adnane.

Today, Adnane is a junior exercise science major with minors in business administration and physical education.  A student-athlete, he has maintained a 3.38 GPA while playing football and lacrosse. In addition, Adnane works part time in Castleton’s mailroom and, for the last two years, he has mentored a student at Castleton Elementary School.

Adnane’s work ethic and dedication have won the respect of staff and students alike. “He is a leader and role model both in the classroom and on the athletic field,” says Beckwith. This fall, Adnane enjoyed serving as on a mentor panel for first-year football players. “It’s good for younger players,” he remarks. “We have experienced everything they might go through, so we can only make their experience better.”

After graduation, Adnane plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in physical therapy. Because of his lifelong passion for athletics, he wants to work with athletes, either training them for their sport or helping them recover from injuries.

Adnane is grateful for the support he has received both at Castleton and from his family. He hopes other students learn from his journey. He has three tips for new students. “Never take any class for granted because they all count,” he says. “Make sure you take full advantage of the resources you are offered. And finally, understand you have people at the university who want you to succeed.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

Math, Music, and Mentoring: TRIO Star Jasmine Keefer

At one point, Jasmine Keefer didn’t know if she’d be able to attend college. Her parents didn’t have the resources to help her, and as first-generation college student, she found the financial aid maze bewildering. “If I wanted to go to school, I’d have to pay for it myself,” she says. She knew she’d have to work two jobs to pay for her tuition – and even then, affording college would be a struggle.

But when Jasmine arrived at Castleton University in Fall 2014, help was waiting. Through the Summer Transition Program (STP), a week-long program for new students, she grew comfortable on campus and formed firm friendships. She also connected with the Academic Support Center’s (ASC) full-time counselors. Kelley Beckwith, Director of Academic Services, helped Jasmine unravel the intricacies of financial aid. With the help of Kelley and Castleton’s Financial Aid officers, Jasmine found a way to pay for her education. She’d still have to work, but she could remain at Castleton and pursue her goal of becoming a teacher.

But Jasmine did more than stay at Castleton – she thrived. Today, Jasmine is a senior multidisciplinary studies major with a concentration in math and a 3.30 GPA. She is also earning a certificate in civic engagement. After graduation, she hopes to obtain a master’s degree in special education and eventually teach math in a K-6 school.

The breadth of Jasmine’s extracurricular involvement would be impressive even if she weren’t working two part-time jobs while studying full time. She plays trumpet in Castleton’s wind ensemble, jazz band, marching band, and spirit band. Since her sophomore year, she has also served as the treasurer for Phi Eta Sigma, a freshman honor society. Jasmine believes her activities complement her academic endeavors. “My passion is playing trumpet,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with teaching, but it’s important to do something you love.”

While Jasmine’s academic prowess and time management skills are impressive, her personal warmth and dedication are even more remarkable. Since her first year, she has worked at the ASC as a learning center assistant, helping senior support staff with reception and special projects. “LCAs should be welcoming and knowledgeable about our department, and Jasmine has been wonderful in that regard,” says her supervisor. At Castleton, Jasmine has also served as a STP mentor, TRIO Texting mentor, and, most recently, STP lead mentor. As a mentor, Jasmine nurtures students with the same fears and struggles – financial, personal, and academic – she once faced. For Jasmine, that role doesn’t end once the program concludes. “The most satisfying thing has been maintaining relationships with mentees,” she says. “It’s cool students feel comfortable coming to me with problems.”

Jasmine’s dedication doesn’t just impress her fellow students. During her time at Castleton, she has earned the respect of faculty and staff. Becky Eno, academic counselor, has known Jasmine since she enrolled in Summer Transition three years ago. She admires Jasmine’s persistence. “Jasmine has faced financial and personal challenges every year,” Becky says. “Yet her determination to succeed, her work ethic, her willful resilience always triumph in the end. She is an inspiration.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

From Refugee Camp to Citizen Scholar: TRIO Star Adan Osman

Some students’ paths to college are a little rockier than others. Adan Osman’s journey to Castleton began in Kakuma, a town turned refugee camp in Northern Kenya. His parents had fled there to escape civil war in their native Somalia.

At four, Adan started his education. But his first day of school was also his last. Violence greeted him and the other students on their way to the camp’s school. “I didn’t want to go to school to get beaten,” he recalls. “Some kids would go to school and never come back. So I stayed home and helped my mother.”

When Adan was nine, his family immigrated to Utica, New York. But being in the United States didn’t mean his battles were over. At his new school, Adan’s teachers placed him in a TV room where he watched movies during the day. “I saw The Lion King,” he chuckles. “It was my first American movie. I loved it. But it didn’t help me learn English.”

Two years later, Adan’s family moved to Burlington, Vermont. There, Adan finally received the intensive English language instruction he craved. Adan worked hard, and after graduating from Burlington High School, he was accepted at Castleton.

Starting college meant confronting a new set of challenges. “It was a whole new world; there was nothing familiar,” says Adan. He worried his English wouldn’t be good enough. And small, rural Castleton seemed isolated after vibrant, diverse Burlington. And it was far from his family.

One of Adan’s high school teachers urged him to sign up for Castleton’s TRIO program, saying it would provide him with the support he needed to finish his degree. Adan was skeptical, but he enrolled anyway.

Today, Adan has nothing but praise for Castleton’s TRIO program and the Academic Support Center’s staff. “They understand people from different cultures, and that’s the most beautiful thing,” he says. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here ready to graduate.” He is particularly grateful to Academic Counselor Becky Eno. “She has helped me a lot with my writing,” he says. “She sat down and showed me exactly what I needed to do. My papers have gone from C+ to A+.”

Adan’s writing skills have helped him succeed outside of the classroom. As a part-time employee at the Park Street Program, a residential treatment program for juvenile offenders, Adan must prepare reports about his work with clients. “I’m proud of my writing as a social worker,” he says.

Perhaps because of his bumpy beginning, Adan has a strong desire to help others thrive. In addition to his job at Park Street, he and some friends from Burlington are founding Building Blocks to Success, a multicultural mentoring program for young men. He is working with education professor Emily Gleason to plan a course for educators who will be working with Syrian refugees. And between classes and work, Adan spends lots of time at the gym, where he informally mentors those new to exercise. He thinks of starting a fitness bootcamp to help others get in shape. He sees clear parallels between himself and the young people he helps. “When you grow up on your own, not having someone there for you, you do things on your own,” he says quietly. “No one is there to build and help you up. I want to give back and help others who haven’t had the same opportunities I’ve had.”

In May, Adan will graduate with a Bachelor’s in Social Work degree. After graduation, he and a friend hope to open a Somali restaurant in downtown Burlington. He is excited about introducing Vermonters to Somali food, which fuses Middle Eastern, East African, West African, and Egyptian influences. “I’ll be using my degree in a different way to make a difference in my community,” he muses. “Food brings people together, and it’s an opportunity to teach people about the culture.”

Becky Eno has high praise for Adan. “He is a TRIO Star because he turns his adversity into strength,” she says. “He has transformed himself from a freshman (and sophomore) who doubted that he should even be in college into a successful senior. He encourages other students to realize their own best potential.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm

 

 

           

   

A Way with Words: TRIO Star Jadie Dow

jadiedowAt first, the numbers didn’t add up. Jadie Dow was a good student, but she struggled with calculus. And sometimes, the first-generation college student wondered if she’d be able to pay for her education.

Fortunately, Jadie took advantage of the TRIO Student Support Services Program at Castleton’s Academic Support Center. She visited the Center’s Math Clinic. Thanks to the math tutors, she got through calculus. The TRIO Grants she received her freshman and sophomore years helped defray the cost of attending Castleton. Finally, she met with Academic Services Director Kelley Beckwith, who helped Jadie understand her bill and loan options. “With the grant and Kelley’s advice, I no longer had to worry about money,” says Jadie.

Today, the senior Journalism major with a minor in Business Administration is thriving at Castleton. A strong student with a GPA of 3.57, Jadie has been the editor of The Spartan, Castleton’s student newspaper, since Spring 2016 after writing for the paper since her freshman year. She also sings in Vocal Unrest, Castleton’s acapella group.

Jadie also has a gift for teaching. She is a Teaching Assistant for the Communications Department Feature Writing course. Since Spring 2015, she has been a Writing Tutor at the Academic Support Center. A gifted writer, Jadie finds teaching rewarding. “There’s that moment when you finally see it click in someone’s head – even when you think you’re not explaining it very well,” she says. Writing Specialist Bill Wiles praises her work with students. “Jadie is patient with struggling writers. She meets them where they are and brings them (sometimes kicking and screaming) to where they should be,” he quips.

Despite her current success, Jadie hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be a new college student. For two years, she served as a Student Orientation Staff leader, helping freshman acclimate to college during orientation weekend and throughout their first semester in their First Year Seminar class. Dr. Andy Alexander, chair of the English department, felt grateful to have Jadie to support his class of TRIO students. “Like you hope all SOS will be, Jadie was an excellent role model for my first-year students, in just about every way,” he says. “She was funny, but she knew how switch gear when needed… it seemed to me that Jadie represented a quiet source of comfort to those students who needed it. One very important thing is that Jadie let the students know that she took her studies seriously AND that she had to actually work at things to do well.  She shared her study habits, and I think all these things combined served the students very well.”

Although Jadie is enjoying her final year at Castleton, she’s excited about what comes next. In the spring, she’ll begin an internship at the Rutland Herald’s newsroom. After graduation, she hopes to be a journalist and eventually edit her own newspaper. Someday, she plans to earn a graduate degree and teach journalism at the college level.

Jadie credits the Academic Support Center with her success and advises new TRIO students to visit the Center. “It’s all free and everyone is so helpful,” she says. “It won’t always be like that, so take advantage of that while you can.”

-Doe Dahm

 

From Reluctant Student to Public Health Advocate: TRIO Star Kyla Leary

kyla leary

Before Kyla Leary enrolled at Castleton, she wasn’t sure whether college was right for her. She’d struggled in high school, and her high school teachers had emphasized how challenging college classes would be. “I was afraid of the volume and level of work,” she says. And like many new students, she worried about meeting new people.

Once Kyla arrived in Castleton, she found a host of people waiting to welcome her. “I had an amazing suite my first year,” she says. She joined the cheerleading team and made more friends there. She took classes in Mandarin Chinese and studio art. And despite her initial anxieties about meeting new people, she discovered she had a gift for presentations when she earned an A+ in Effective Speaking. Her professors proved friendly and approachable, and though Kyla sometimes needed help, she found it – and lots of encouragement – at the Academic Support Center (ASC).

Today, Kyla is a senior Ecological Studies major and Global Studies minor with a 3.15 G.P.A. She balances her academic achievements with athletics: she is still a member of the cheerleading team, and she plans to join the varsity track and field team this spring. She attributes her success to the assistance she received through Castleton’s TRIO program. During her time at Castleton, she has taken advantage of the ASC’s tutoring services and met with many of its full-time staffers. “It’s so nice that we don’t have to pay for tutoring; it’s not that way at other colleges,” she says. “And each year, I’ve learned more about time management, improved my math and writing skills, grown socially, and become more independent. I can figure out when and how to ask for help.”  

After graduation, Kyla plans to work at Johnson Group Consulting, Inc., the national public health advocacy firm where she has interned for the last two summers. During her internship, Kyla discovered she had a knack for data when she caught a serious error in a report. Kyla’s attention to detail impressed the firm’s director, who offered her a full-time position after graduation. Kyla also plans to take classes in public health after she leaves Castleton. But her ambitions don’t end there: she hopes to work overseas for a bit and eventually build a career in maternal-child health. A lifelong animal lover, she also dreams of extending her advocacy to animals.

Although Kyla seems to have the world at her fingertips, she still remembers what it felt like to be a new student in an unfamiliar environment. She encourages other students to seek support at the ASC. “I always tell other kids to ask for help, especially if they had a 504 or IEP plan in high school,” she says. “I tell them not to worry about what others think and to not think of any support they receive as an advantage or disadvantage – it’s just a resource. And the ASC is just such a good, safe place to study. Everyone in the department is working for you.”

-Dorothy A. Dahm