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GEAR UP student Philip Malazarte finds his fit in VT nursing programs

Written by
Emily Stetson

April 27, 2023


student smiling in field

Philip Malazarte of Chester is “a young man who is going places,” says his VSAC outreach counselor, Jessi Krause Herron. “He has been committed to the nursing field since ninth grade and has been learning all he can to prepare. And he’s a standout member of his community, caring for others and going the extra mile to help whenever needed.”

Philip, who has spent his final year at Green Mountain Union High School trying to set future classes up for success, says it feels hard to move on. “For some, it’s freeing. But for me, I’m not sure I’m ready to go yet.”

“I can do so many things as a senior,” explains Philip, who is working hard to get more students to join the theater program and the volleyball club, which he resurrected after it disbanded two years ago. “It’s hard to think about having to start from scratch as a college freshman.”

Philip knows what it’s like to start from scratch, having emigrated to Vermont from the Philippines, with his parents and his younger sister, when he was seven years old. Most of his relatives on his mom’s side still live there, while his dad’s family lives in New York.

He notes with pride that he and his sister are first-generation Americans, and he feels a special love for Vermont. However, he also maintains strong ties to his culture and his family, both through language—he continues to speak Bisaya, a Filipino dialect, at home—and through his career choice.

“Nursing is a generational thing in my family. And the Philippines is also known for training a lot of the world’s nurses. It’s become kind of a stereotype, but in my life, I’ve noticed that that’s true.” His great-grandparents were nurses, both of his grandparents were nurses, his aunts and uncles work in the medical field, and his mother is a physical therapist. “My family never forced me into it, but it was a natural choice of profession for me, because I’ve had this support system throughout my life,” he says.

When he was growing up, he would sometimes go with his mom to the hospital where she worked. “When we were still living in the Philippines, I remember one of her patients giving her a bag filled with all this food they had made for her. Her work obviously made a difference for them, and it showed me how caring and giving the field could be.”

He, too, enjoys helping people, which makes nursing more than just a family tradition. “I really like being able to take care of someone—whether in a holistic way or a medical way—and trying to make them feel better,” says Philip, who has already begun his nursing studies at the local tech center and will graduate high school with his LNA certification. “Even after studying for just two years, my friends come and ask me, ‘I have this injury, what should I do?’ I remind them that they still need to see a doctor,” he laughs, but adds, “it’s also validating to be kind of relied on.”

While his career choice came easily, the college process wasn’t as straightforward. “It was a novel experience for me and for my parents, because my family had all gone to school in the Philippines. They recommended that for me, too, and I thought about it,” says Philip, but he ultimately decided that the American system suited him better. “In the U.S., they give you point A and point B, and you can get there however you want. But in the Philippines, they give you only one path to get where you want to go. The way I’ve grown up, it didn’t seem like the best fit,” he says.

Philip says that Jessi, and VSAC’s GEAR UP program, helped him get to that college starting line. “If I hadn’t had those resources, everything would have been so much harder,” he laughs. “That program is so helpful for people like me who don’t know how college works. If their parents went to college here, they have connections, and they can navigate easier. But for me, I didn’t have any of that. Jessi was a lifesaver.”

While Philip toured schools throughout New England, he decided to stay in Vermont and attend Vermont State University at Castleton, where he could qualify for in-state tuition. Plus, he notes, “Castleton has a good nursing program, and colleges in Vermont are doing a lot to keep people here. I figured, why not take advantage of what’s right here?”

Philip will also take advantage of a fairly new program that makes student loans forgivable for Vermonters who enter the nursing field and work in the state after graduation. “I remember Jessi saying to me, ‘You know, there’s a scholarship that will let you go to college for free,’” Philip recalls with a smile—which became one more reason he loves Vermont.

“A lot of my classmates are like, ‘I want to get out of Vermont!’ But why? I understand wanting to see other places, but here, I can breathe! I’ve spent summers in New York City and Florida. Every time I come back here, I notice that first breath of fresh air, and being able to see so many trees and stars. I still love it.”

Philip’s strong appreciation for home and community has made him thoughtful and intentional about the legacy he will leave behind at Green Mountain Union High School, particularly when it comes to extracurricular opportunities. During his sophomore year, he had been part of the school’s volleyball club, which then disbanded due to lack of interest. After joining a local league in Chester that summer, Philip became determined to bring the high school club back, partly to create a pipeline for something that brought a lot of joy to the community. “The league is well-organized and so much fun. It’s what so many people look forward to on Tuesday nights,” he says.

Philip’s other passion is the school’s theater program, which he’s been part of since seventh grade. He landed parts in “Grease” and “Beauty and the Beast” before the COVID hiatus; this spring, he had a lead role in “Mamma Mia.”

“I don’t think people understand how good it feels after opening night. Here’s something we worked on for three months, and we pulled it off—and we had a lot of fun doing it,” says Philip, who hopes to continue acting in college. He says he’s concerned to see how much COVID affected the joining rate for a lot of activities, especially the theater program, and he’d like to see it be a bigger group again.

“It’s hard to pass that baton, after spending so many hours in that auditorium,” he says. “It’s felt like a family.”