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McKayla Marble, a community “big sister,” looks to work with children
Although McKayla Marble is an only child, she’s played the important “big sister” role a few times for younger children in her community: first as a foster “sibling” and more recently as a regular babysitter for a three-year-old boy in her hometown of Johnson. Each time, she’s wholeheartedly embraced the chance to be a role model. Now, as she graduates from Lamoille Valley Union High School with her sights set on UVM for the fall, she knows she wants to work with children in her career.
McKayla’s mom, who has served as a foster parent over the years, took in an infant as well as a 6-year-old girl, each for about a year, as McKayla was growing up. The little girl, in particular, made a big impact on McKayla.
“Especially with her situation, she needed someone to look up to. I felt like that was a good opportunity for me to help,” McKayla says. “And, oh my gosh, there were so many changes in her. When she first came, she was hitting people, and not trusting people was a big issue. She was always looking to make sure she was safe. When she left, she would hug you. She definitely had a better sense of healthy bonds to have with people.”
Alongside the growth she loves to see in others, McKayla also has some keen and mature insight about the transformation she’s seen in herself over her high school years, and the continued growth she hopes for when she goes to college.
“I really liked the social aspect of high school. I feel like I started to figure out who I was and who my friends were,” she recalls. “I also liked the different class options that they had. For elementary and middle school, I was in classes that weren’t challenging enough, and I was bored. In high school, AP classes were a good option because they moved faster and covered more material,” says McKayla, who particularly enjoyed precalculus, chemistry, earth science, and band, in which she’s played the clarinet for seven years.
Another big difference, she says, as she thinks back to when she was a high school freshman, is the fact that she now knows what she wants to do in life. Her neighbor, who works with home health as a physical therapist, offered McKayla the chance to come on a job shadow, and she fell in love with that line of work. She plans to major in exercise science at UVM and eventually become a pediatric physical therapist.
“I love going to school, and I love learning. That’s why I think college has always been kind of a given,” says McKayla, who will be the first in her family to go to college. Her drive for knowledge and her strong academic performance also inspired UVM to make her a financial aid offer she couldn’t refuse.
McKayla applied to five New England colleges and was convinced she was going to attend Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire. “I was figuring out how to do my deposit and everything. But then I got my financial aid award letter from UVM, and they gave me a great package. So I decided to go to UVM because I wouldn’t necessarily be in debt after college.”
In terms of her college process, McKayla says her parents were always strong advocates and that VSAC played a significant role in helping prepare her for all of the applications. VSAC’s support was even more critical, she says, after she chose to attend high school online for the last year and a half — because her mother has health conditions that put her at high risk for COVID — and McKayla didn’t have as much interaction with her teachers.
McKayla participated in VSAC’s Talent Search program during all four years of high school. The Talent Search students would work through various exercises to prepare them for the rigorous process of completing college applications, writing essays, and so on. “So this year, when it was time to start applying, it wasn’t a big surprise. I wasn’t going in blind,” McKayla says.
“And working with Katie” [Gesser, her VSAC counselor senior year], “I wasn’t doing it alone. When I talked to my school friends who weren’t in VSAC, I could tell they were struggling so much more than I struggled. I had one of my friends reach out to me when we started applications, and she said, ‘How do you do this?’
“But Katie helped me with everything,” McKayla says. “She’s always been there if I had questions, and she’d answer them right away. If she didn’t have the answer, she offered to do phone calls with the schools with me.”
Gesser speaks equally highly of McKayla. “She' an extremely hard-working student. She's always on top of her responsibilities, whether they be for school, work, or her family. I could tell from the first meeting we had that she was determined to go to college regardless of the challenges this pandemic threw at her. She's highly capable, intelligent, and I can’t wait to see all that she’ll accomplish!”
As for what she’s most looking forward to about college, McKayla says, “I’m excited to pursue something that I’m interested in, that I know I’ll enjoy doing in the future.” While she admits there are a few nerves, she says she’s really excited about it and looking forward to the new chapter. “I think I’m most looking forward to being on my own. Because I think it will help me figure out who I am.”
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 with the impact of COVID-19, click here. You can also give us a call at 800-642-3177, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday and online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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