Main Content

How VSAC helped a future ranger see the forest for the trees

Written by
Sabina Haskell

April 28, 2020


Chandler Prescott

When Chandler Prescott was a high school sophomore, he joined the Forestry and Natural Resources program at Stafford Technical Center, where he got a big eye-opening. “It was there where I learned about the wilderness … how global warming is affecting the wild and everything like that. I just really wanted to do my part, big or small, to help things.”

But the first part would not be small: paying for college. Chandler would be the first in his family to go to college.

“I come from a low-income family, and so financial problems were definitely a huge concern to me,” he explained.

That might have been an impassable roadblock, had he not met VSAC counselor Nathan Hickey through the GEAR UP program.

“I owe him so much thanks,” Chandler said. “He came to my school every week, set up meetings outside; he was just always there for me.”

Nathan said of Chandler: “He reminded me of myself when I was his age. He presented as your typical slightly scattered young man. However, I could tell right away he was passionate, driven, with a heart of gold. He was excited about the work he was doing at Stafford, and clearly displayed the character of a young man with integrity, good character and grit.”

Chandler’s dream school was Paul Smith’s College in New York. Nathan could tell that Chandler would be a perfect fit for Paul Smith’s, but he knew that it could be a long shot due to cost and advised him to look at local community or state universities. Chandler agreed, applying to 10 different schools and visiting both Paul Smith’s and Castleton.

In the end, however, Chandler made his dream school a reality, impressing Nathan. “Chandler, that seemingly disorganized high school student, is solid. He knew what he wanted and went after it. He found the resources and jumped through hoops to find ways to pay for the education he feels that he deserves.”

Chandler doesn’t take all the credit, though.

“It's a very confusing process, the whole college application, and then loans and making sure you’re getting your best loan and watching out for interest rates. Without VSAC, I probably would have been a lost cause,” he noted.

Far from a lost cause, Chandler has been elected freshman class president of Paul Smith’s, where he’s currently in his second semester. Like all students around the world this year, he’s finishing the semester at home. He’s ready to get back to school once the world gets going again, however.

“I’m going to keep applying to scholarships, go back to Paul Smith's College, finish my degree, and keep doing internships while I'm there,” he reported. “And then once I graduate, get an entry-level job in the natural resources field as a park ranger assistant or something like that and work my way up, I’ll hopefully become a park ranger at Yellowstone National Park. That's my dream job,” he said.

Chandler’s advice to any student considering the GEAR UP program is “Apply, apply, apply now. It's an absolutely amazing program; I would recommend it to anybody. They help you set up connections that you would have otherwise not had, and money that you would otherwise have not had. But also, I would just say, keep on working and no matter how hard it gets out there, because it can ... especially nowadays in these scary times. Just keep your head up high, keep doing your work and your dreams will come to you.”

Need help with pursuing your career goals and education needs? VSAC is here to help you. Serving our community is at the heart of all we do. During this ever-changing time, we remain available and committed to help you navigate all your career and education needs. No question or worry is too small or too big to reach out to us and ask for help.

For information on college and career planning and decisions, go to and also check out our online workshops and resources and online events. You can also give us a call at 800-642-3177, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and online at Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay in touch. We’re here for you.