VSAC GEAR UP student Meadow Yvon grows outside her comfort zone

Written by
Emily Stetson

Date
May 11, 2021

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Twenty-one-year-old Meadow Yvon is just the sort of person you’d want to have as your dental hygienist. She’s diligent and sensitive — and clearly attentive to the needs and feelings of others.

“I’ve just always wanted to help people,” Meadow says of the thought process that led her to pursue a career in dental hygiene. “I thought about being a vet, because I love animals. But I couldn’t commit to that, because I knew I could never put an animal down.”

While she’s soft-spoken and admittedly a bit of a shy person, Meadow also doesn’t hesitate to challenge herself to get out of her comfort zone. As a 19-year-old, that meant going to college in a state she had never been to before, where she didn’t know a soul, even though she had other closer and more familiar options. But she chose the University of Bridgeport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, because she knew it was a good school and a good opportunity to grow as a person.

“I chose UB because I knew I wanted to go for dental hygiene,” says Meadow, who is now finishing up her sophomore year. “The day I applied, I looked up the best dental hygiene schools.” While that list included schools in Vermont and New Hampshire, Meadow says, “I wanted to push myself to do something a little different. And it’s been a whole new experience for me. It’s really, really different from Vermont in every single way,” she says, laughing about how people from Connecticut will honk their horn the minute the light turns green. “Everybody is go-go-go. It was really hard adjusting, actually. There were 35 people in my high school graduating class,” she says of her alma mater, Rivendell Academy. “Here, people graduated with hundreds of people. It just took time for me to be more comfortable here and to adjust.”

The day her grandmother dropped her off was the very first time Meadow had ever set eyes on the campus or been in the state of Connecticut, with all its harried people and honking horns. Understandably, she was scared.

“I remember my grandma dropped me off, and I was crying, and I said, ‘please don’t leave me!’ She said I needed to make it through one week. After that, if I still wanted to come home, we could talk about it. I made it through the first week, and then the second.”

But it certainly wasn’t easy. In fact, those first few weeks posed one of the biggest challenges Meadow had ever faced. “My roommate was actually bullying me,” she recalls. “Plenty of people tell stories about college roommates they didn’t get along with, but this was so much more than a personality mismatch.” The girl was consistently mean and confrontational, even posting nasty things online. “And she did it to several other people, including the RA, so it wasn’t just me. But nobody really tells you what it’s like to have a roommate like that or what to do. That was really hard. I literally didn’t feel safe.”

So three weeks into her freshman year, Meadow contacted the head of housing, who met with her and understood her plight. He encouraged her to move in with another girl in her dorm whose own roommate had never showed up. “That made such a difference,” says Meadow; she and her new roommate got along great, became close friends, and are still living together.  

Looking back on that period, Meadow still finds it hard to talk about, but she’s glad she stuck it out.

“I chose the school because it was something new and different. I think I made a good choice, to push myself to become even more independent, to grow up and be able to take care of myself. I’m glad that I pushed myself to really try to be open to the new experience. I know a lot of people who didn’t give it enough time.”

In fact, Meadow’s own parents both started college, but left school during the first year. Her mom, who teaches preschool near their home in Vershire, and her dad, a property manager down in Killington, both encouraged her to go to college, but weren’t well equipped to advise her through the process. That’s where VSAC came in.

Meadow was part of VSAC’s GEAR UP program throughout high school. Their activities included college visits, help with applications, and of course, guidance throughout the financial aid process. While all of those pieces were incredibly helpful, Meadow talks most about the career planning support she received through GEAR UP.

“I figured, ‘yeah, I’ll go to college,’ but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was scared I would pick something and not like it, and then I’d be stuck,” Meadow laughs. VSAC helped out with personality quizzes and other exercises to help her identify what she might enjoy, and dental hygiene came into the picture.

When Meadow had the opportunity to shadow a dental hygienist for a day, she was sold. “I loved the way that she worked. I loved the environment of the dental office, the flow. I loved that she knew her patients, and the hours and the pay were good,” she says. “My aunt is actually a dental hygienist, and I always loved her lifestyle and that she was able to provide for herself. And it looked like it would be something that I would really enjoy.”

“So my VSAC counselor sat down with me and helped me research what a hygienist makes and the cost of school. VSAC really helped me with the financial aspects,” Meadow says. “After I got my acceptance letter, I sat down again with my counselor, and she said, ‘Let’s go over your financial aid.’ I remember I was so nervous, and I really didn’t want to think about it. I showed them the package the school gave me, but I didn’t know what it meant or how to interpret it. They really helped me out with that.”

“Working with VSAC made me feel better about my situation, where my parents didn’t finish college — because a lot of the other people at school, at least one of their parents had a degree. My parents didn’t really know how to help me. Unless your parents went or you have an older sibling who went, nobody can show you.”

Even now that she’s in college, Meadow says, VSAC checks up on her and is always there to help. “When I got accepted into the dental hygiene program, I wasn’t working because of COVID. I was doing remote learning from home, and my Internet was terrible. They had scholarships available for people who had lost jobs, so I could upgrade my Internet. It really helped a lot.”

When she got her supply list for the clinical program, VSAC was there to help once again. “It’s expensive to buy your scrubs and all your materials. They give you this huge supply list, and I was freaking out because I wasn’t working and I had to buy like $500 worth of stuff. I reached out to VSAC, and they were able to get me a grant. I would not have been able to do it without VSAC. I’m really thankful for the resources I’ve been offered. It’s been a tremendous help.”

While Meadow still describes herself as someone who needs to stand up for herself more, evidence definitely suggests that she advocates effectively for herself and knows where to go for support.   

“I’ve always been a shy person. I don’t like confrontation. But I’m realizing, especially this semester with the dental program, it’s really intense, so you have to stand up for yourself and your grades and what you’re doing,” she says.

“I’m proud of myself. I remember that first week I was here, I didn’t talk to anyone, I was so nervous and timid. But now I talk to people. I ask questions. I don’t know any of my patients, and I have to meet a stranger in the waiting room every time I’m in the clinic. I’ve grown a lot since I was in high school.”

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 are committed to helping you navigate 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 COVID-19, 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 info@vsac.org.