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Matthew Couture gives back to the next generation of students
When Matthew Couture shared how he rescued and adopted a hurt cat he came across with his now-wife, it wasn’t a surprise.
Anyone who knows Matthew knows that’s who he is: a caring, compassionate person whose life mission is to lift up those around him.
Matthew Couture grew up in Fair Haven and attended Fair Haven Union High School.
Now an employee at his alma mater, Castleton University, Matthew works with students every day to make sure they get the resources they need to alleviate the stress of college. Many of the students he supports work with VSAC.
“If I can remove stress on students, then that is me achieving my ultimate professional goal,” Matthew said. “I have been at Castleton for one year. But it wasn't a standard year. I worked very closely with our federal relations team to handle the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our school. I am really excited to continue working at Castleton.”
The weight of the decisions students are making is not something Matthew takes lightly.
“Where you go to school, what you get for financial aid—these decisions will determine the rest of your life. I want to help out as much as I can,” he said.
For Mathew, that stress as a student was ever-present. Crucial to relieving his worry about college was getting involved with VSAC at a young age.
“I was in seventh grade when I was identified by VSAC. At the time, I didn't appreciate just how helpful VSAC could be as a resource. I remember getting pulled out of a class by one of my teachers for a VSAC meeting saying, ‘There is a VSAC meeting; shouldn't you be there?’”
Being identified at an early age for VSAC allowed Matthew to get a head start on learning to get organized for applying to college.
“I still have my FAFSA and college essay binder. That structure is something that VSAC gave me. Making sure to never send an original without a copy,” he relates. “They may seem simple, but they have been crucial in my professional life. That core organization structure has been hugely beneficial.”
The opportunity to visit colleges with VSAC was an incredible experience for Matthew. Not only did he get a sense of what living on campus was like, but he got to meet other students interested in going to college.
“There was a weekend where we went to Saint Michael's College. We were gone for a long weekend. It was my first time ever being inside a college dorm. Getting to live that experience was great. We did an overnight in the dorms, played ultimate frisbee and went to a bunch of workshops,” he remembers.
While at Saint Michael’s College, Matthew got the chance to work on his writing.
“I remember going to a writing event having no idea what my college essay was going to be. I had been struggling with writing it before that weekend. I got to review my college essay drafts on location with VSAC staffers. I left that weekend with the essay that I used to apply to college and with which I ultimately got accepted at Castleton University,” he said.
One of the benefits Matthew didn't fully appreciate at the time was the ability to get application fee waivers from VSAC.
“I didn’t realize what I know now—how lucky I was to get support applying to a number of schools. I was able to apply to 10 colleges through VSAC. That wouldn't have happened otherwise. Application fees alone would have stopped me from applying to a number of places,” he notes.
While Matthew got the chance to apply to a number of different schools through VSAC, he ultimately decided to attend his local college, Castleton University.
“I applied to a lot of colleges, not wanting to go to the local school. There was an admission representative from Castleton visiting my high school one day. I walked in and interviewed on the spot. My first reaction—okay this is affordable. I could go for several years and then go to a different school. When I arrived, I saw all the potential,” he admits.
After graduating from Castleton, Matthew left Vermont to receive his master's degree from Columbia University. With the ability to work anywhere in the country, he still decided to return home to Castleton. As an employee at Castleton University now, Matthew is working directly with VSAC in identifying students to uplift around him.
“Nobody gets into higher education for selfish reasons,” he says. “It's a group of professionals who are here to help students, telling them to each out, take the initiative, it will go further than they realize. People join VSAC because they want to help students, it's what they are passionate about,” Matthew explains.
Asked what advice he would give students about VSAC, Matthew said, “I would absolutely recommend VSAC Outreach to students. I would especially encourage students who don’t know what they want to do to access the amazing resources VSAC has to offer.”
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.
For information on college and career planning and help with financial aid, go to www.vsac.org/FAFSAfirst and check out our online workshops and events. For an update of how we can help during the COVID-19 crisis, click here. 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 email@example.com.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay in touch. We’re here for you.