‘That special relationship’ inspires Megan Rippie to study special education
Megan Rippie, who graduated from Milton High School this spring, has always been a mentor and support for her brother, who is two years younger and on the autism spectrum. “Tyler and I are very close,” she says. “He’s more like a best friend than a brother. We never bickered, growing up.”
That special relationship inspired Megan to decide, fairly early on, that she wanted to study special education. “I’ve been a partner with Special Olympics for the past several years, too. Just that environment, and being able to make these kiddos feel as included as possible, is something I’ve always wanted to do.”
This fall, Megan will follow that dream to NVU Johnson, where she will pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education with Endorsements in Elementary and Special Education. She credits her parents and VSAC with helping her get there.
“My parents have always been huge supports for me,” says Megan, though since neither one attended a four-year college program, they didn’t necessarily have all of the experience necessary to advise Megan on just what she needed to do to apply for and finance that journey. “The financial part of it was something that made us all nervous,” Megan explains, particularly since the family faced some financial strain due to recent flooding and to Tyler’s medical needs. Luckily, Megan received a lot of assistance through scholarships, which means she’ll only have to pay about $500 for her first semester at Johnson. “If I wasn’t a part of VSAC, I would be paying much more, that’s for sure.”
In addition to the financial assistance, Megan says her VSAC counselor, Soren Dews, also helped her make sure she was prepared at every step. “I met with Soren once a month for about 45 minutes, and we would just go over what I had done. Because of that, I was always a step ahead. I was always in the right spot at the right time for where I needed to be, whether that meant having my essay done, or having all of my placement tests done, or my room and board questionnaire – all of that was done in a timely manner. And that was largely because of Soren,” says Megan. “His help definitely made me more prepared than I would otherwise have been.”
The availability of this kind of counseling almost passed under Megan’s radar. Fortunately, she knew a good opportunity when she saw it, and knew how to advocate for herself. “I didn’t really know too much about VSAC at first,” she recalls. “I heard about it through one of my friends, and it sounded really helpful. So I contacted my guidance counselor, and said, ‘this sounds like it could really benefit me.’ That’s when I met Soren.”
Megan chose NVU, she says, because it offered a special education concentration, and because the campus environment and lifestyle seemed the best match for her own. “I noticed when I was looking at colleges, it was hard to find a special ed program. And I like smaller campuses. As far as Johnson goes, I loved the location, and the people I met there were so nice. Since it’s not a big college, you get to know people better. It’s more of an artsy school, and I’m not into the whole sports scene. I guess I just fit into the Johnson environment a little better.”
VSAC helped her with that campus research, she says, and helped her realize that a smaller school like NVU would be a better fit for her than, say, UVM – which, while it’s also an in-state school that offers a special education program – was too big to be the best fit for her.
This summer, Megan plans to continue working at Kinney Drugs, where she’s been putting in 20 to 30 hours a week throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. She hopes to keep working there on the weekends once she starts at NVU, which will offer an on-campus experience, just with all single-occupancy rooms, starting this fall. “I’ll miss the chance to have a roommate,” Megan admits, “but I definitely understand the safety concerns.”
As for what she might tell other high school students who are looking ahead to the college process: “If you qualify for VSAC, definitely do it. It’s been a huge help for my family and me. If I hadn’t participated, I would be in a very different spot right now. I’m grateful I got the opportunity to be part of it.”
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