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Talent Search Coaching Makes a Difference for Family
Devon Kimball has been hard at work this winter and spring, flipping a house in Rutland with his cousin. He recently took a break from painting and hanging siding to talk about his experience with VSAC, which he says has been instrumental not just for him, but for his entire family.
Devon, who graduated from Castleton University this past winter, is the oldest of four children, and he was the first in his family to graduate from college. But he won’t be the last. His brother Casey, 21, is a student at Castleton, and his sister Jordan, 19, is currently finishing her freshman year at UVM. His youngest brother Tyler hasn’t started his college process just yet; he’s a sophomore at Vergennes Union High School.
“My working with VSAC got the ball rolling, and kind of started this trend in my family. My siblings saw what I was doing and said, ‘My oldest brother is going to college, I’ve got to do the same.’”
But Devon wasn’t always college-bound. When he was in middle school, he recalls, “I was just trying to get to 3:00. But Carrie put my mind on thinking about the future,” he says, referring to his VSAC Talent Search counselor, Carrie Harlow.
Carrie, who worked with Devon for four and a half years, says he is one of the hardest-working people she knows. “He embraces the grind and gives it everything he has, whether it’s in school or on the football field.” All it took was a little inspiration to get him to see college in the end zone.
A gifted athlete, Devon started playing football in middle school -- with the Mt. Abraham team, since his hometown schools in Vergennes didn’t have a football program. He grew into a successful defensive linebacker.
“Carrie made me realize that I had a good chance of playing college sports, and there was a possibility for me to go to school,” Devon says. He met with Carrie regularly from seventh grade forward, initially working on broader goals like career planning and choosing a major, then homing in on college applications and filling out the FAFSA financial aid application. Devon was also awarded the prestigious Curtis Fund Scholarship, which covers a portion of tuition for all four years of college.
He was accepted at just about every college he applied to, including schools in Boston and Connecticut. But he chose Castleton, where he had been recruited for football, so he could study and play close to home. “I would go home every weekend and help my dad out with carpentry jobs, and it was cool to be around to see my brothers’ baseball games.”
He received his degree in Sports Management with a concentration in Business and Coaching. Toward the end of his college program, Devon completed an internship with Rutland Recreation, working with program directors to streamline programs and make sure everything was COVID-compliant. “It was a great experience, working with younger kids around Rutland,” he says. He also helped write a grant application to upgrade local walking trails and make them more accessible for strollers and wheelchairs.
Devon is now applying for programs that will allow him to get his master’s degree in leadership while working in an assistant role with the school’s athletic department. He says he feels well-prepared for that process. “I think Carrie and VSAC set me up so well, that I have no problem asking for letters of recommendation, writing essays, and so on.”
Devon was also in a position to give his younger siblings some helpful advice when they were applying to schools. “I remember being in my freshman year at Castleton when Casey was applying. He was so concerned about money, but I told him to just relax, listen to Carrie, and keep going with his applications. He got more scholarships than I ended up with. And my sister cleared house at graduation. She got a full ride to UVM,” he says proudly. He’s now working on his youngest brother Tyler, just like Carrie had encouraged him, to think beyond the sports field to the future.
“Carrie put into my mind early on that if you want to do something, you’ve got to work for it,” Devon says. With his dad, his coaches, and his teammates showing him the power of hard work, Devon says he was never afraid that he wouldn’t be able to push through. And being a student-athlete, he says, kept him on track.
“Our pre-season began two weeks before classes started. I met 110 friends my first two days on campus,” he recalls. “And it was important to have buddies to walk to class with and to push you. Our coach, Tony Volpone, took academics seriously. He set that expectation and he held you accountable. If one of us missed a class, the whole team would run. And sometimes we would have practice until 11 at night. I didn’t want to be doing homework at 11:30, so I learned to plan ahead.”
For Devon, those lessons of responsibility and commitment have been lasting – as well as profitable. He and his cousin are almost ready to put their house on the market, and they’re looking for another one to work on through the summer. “I want to make some money, so I’ll be able to keep going with school.”
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. 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.
This story is produced by Vermont Student Assistance Corp., created by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 as a public nonprofit agency, to advocate for Vermont students and their families to ensure that they achieve their education goals. Our vision is to create opportunities for all Vermont students, but particularly for those—of any age—who believe that the doors to higher education are closed to them. We begin by helping families save for education with Vermont’s state-sponsored 529 savings program. To help Vermonters plan and pay for college or career training, our counselors work with students in nearly every Vermont middle school and high school, and again as adults. Our grant and scholarship programs attract national recognition, and our loan programs and loan forgiveness programs are saving Vermont families thousands of dollars in interest.