BENNINGTON — Two local students decided that, rather than enjoying the typical high school senior experience, they would get a big head start on their college careers, and both of them are very happy with the decision.
"I see this as a good opportunity, a good transition between high school and college," said Thomas Tifft, a Mount Anthony Union High School student who will have earned 30 credits toward his degree by the end of this semester. Tifft and another senior, Andrew Hall, who attends the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center and will graduate high school this spring with 32 credits to his name, both decided to enroll in the Community College of Vermont's Early College Program.
According to CCV, juniors can apply to earn high school and college credits simultaneously through the program, which was created under Act 77, the Flexible Pathways Act. According to the college, "Motivated high school juniors can apply to take their senior year academic course work at CCV. To be eligible, students must be in good standing with the high school, must have taken at least one dual enrollment course at the college, and must have college-ready academic skills."
CCV classes meet once a week, and can be scheduled both in the morning and in the evening, and both students said that that flexibility allowed them to manage their high school lives with being, essentially, full-time college students. "The scheduling that CCV offers really helps with managing it," said Hall, while Tifft said he was still able to participate in the after-school activities he participated in before enrolling in the program, including drama club and several choirs. He added that participating in those activities allowed him to maintain his friendships from high school, while also making new friends at CCV.
Tifft, who is planning on attending the University of Vermont, where he hopes to get into acting, said that participating in Early College allowed him to not go into college unprepared, and helped him learn the time management necessary for higher learning. "I'm very satisfied," he said, "not just from a scholarly perspective, but also from a financial perspective."
Hall also praised the program for teaching him good time-management skills, as well as the business and communication skills he'll need in his major, which will be Arts Management at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. "It's been a good opportunity to explore what's going to be my major," he said. Hall decided on that major after interning with the Better Bennington Corporation while he was at the CDC, where he got the opportunity to help them plan Mayfest. "My original choice of degree was sound engineering," he said, "but now I want to work with community organizations to promote the arts."
Both students agreed that they got more out of the classes than they would have out of high school classes, simply because of the wide range of people that made up the classes. "The amount of perspectives you get in a community college class is so much more than in high school, I've found," said Hall, who later added, "Everyone is more engaged than in high school."
"I never really pictured how a college class could be different than a high school class," said Tifft, who said that he found there was a lot more discussion, and agreed that both professors and students seemed more engaged with the content.
Jeannie Jenkins, coordinator of academic services at CCV, praised both students, saying that they had come into the program with intellectual curiosity, and that they had used it well.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.