A message from VSAC: Our commitment to racial and social justice
Please note: VSAC will be closed Friday, July 3, 2020, in observance of Independence Day.
When Gail Trede started her college path she was in her mid-50s. It started because she had earned the opportunity to take an online class at no cost through volunteer work. But she was reluctant. She didn’t think she was smart enough. Her confidence was so low, someone else had to actually sign her up for her first class.
That someone was an encouraging VSAC Educational Opportunity Center counselor. The counselor, Merrilyn, showed her how easy it was to enroll. She showed Gail the course options and teased out what her interest was.
“I couldn’t afford not to take these classes,” Gail said. She aced that children’s literature class, and it inspired her to take another. Now Gail’s confidence shines bright.
“I’m so proud of myself because of the challenges along the way,” Gail said, adding that the roadblocks she’s torn down actually give her fuel to continue.
When she started, she didn’t see herself as a student. She never did. When she graduated from high school, she “ran away from school,” she said. She sailed boats and did other fun things before landing in Colorado.
The way Gail saw it, over the years she was “just” an artist and musician in high school. Then she was just a waitress. Just a bartender. Just a wife. Just a mother. Her world was telling her she wasn’t college material, she thought.
But all those things were worth at least 48 college credits via the Assessment of Prior Learning class and set her up to conquer a bachelor’s degree and then some.
“That was the course that changed my life,” Gail said of the Assessment of Prior Learning class. “That validated me to everybody and everything in my life. My mother, my father. My husband. My kids. And my work.”
Gail is now pursuing master’s level classes at the University of Vermont to earn a teaching endorsement needed to be a public school librarian.
This journey started because of the encouragement of a VSAC counselor, which is why Gail is now paying it forward.
“You need someone in real life approving of you, or validating your existence,” Gail said, which is what VSAC did for her. She knows her story is a common one: Many women put off their own interests to support their children or their husbands. She wants women to know those years should be valued. That they should “Stand up and go for it.”
Doing so may not always be easy. Just as Gail was starting her education her husband left. The recession had just hit. Her son was struggling in high school so she homeschooled him for a year.
But Gail fought on.
“I can either go down or go up. I’m going up, because my children are watching. And I’m not going to let them see some woman go down. That’s really important to me.”