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VSAC Salutes the Class of 2020: Courtney Carr, a small-town Vermonter expands her horizons
Courtney Carr, who graduated from UVM last month with a bachelor’s in psychology and minors in law & society and sociology, is intently focused on starting her career with a criminal justice nonprofit. However, she didn’t always know exactly what she wanted to do.
“It was a bit of a roller coaster,” she says; her career interests definitely evolved as she came up through elementary and middle school in Orwell. First, she wanted to be a veterinarian. Then she wanted to be a teacher. Then a therapist. Then she was interested in becoming an FBI behavioral analyst. She credits VSAC’s GEAR UP program, which started in the 5th grade, for getting her thinking about her future life’s work, and starting to enlarge her world beyond her small elementary school class of just 11 people.
This winter, Courtney broadened her perspective yet again through UVM’s Semester in a City program, which matched her with an internship with College Bound Dorchester, an organization in the Boston area that works to gradually eliminate gang violence by getting troubled youth into educational programs, often into college.
Hear her talk about College Bound, and her passion is evident. She also credits the program with expanding her horizons significantly. “There may be somebody you would normally never interact with or whose past might be intimidating to a white farm girl from Vermont,” she jokes. “But you have to take all of your preconceived notions about a person’s background and focus instead on, ‘What can you and I do together to make some kind of change?’”
This incredibly poised and mature new college graduate gives a “special shout-out” to VSAC, and especially to her outreach counselor, Tia Stillman, when asked to reflect on her college journey. “I had a really close one-on-one relationship with my counselor,” Courtney recalls. “It was almost like a friendship. I felt like I could talk about my struggles and what was going on in my life at the time, and get advice on how I could move forward. I also knew I could ask whatever questions were on my mind, and it was comfortable. I thought that was a huge part of what made me successful.”
She says that the opportunity to go on college visits was also a strong benefit that VSAC offered. “It was difficult for me, being from a small town and being one of three kids with a busy mom, to go on college tours. It was helpful to hear from VSAC, ‘We’re going to visit these three colleges on this day. Would you be interested?’ I thought that was really awesome. It gave us the opportunity to explore new places and get information from a school where normally I would never have the chance to go.”
Courtney says she always knew she would go to college — an assumption shared by her mom, who holds a college degree and works at a nonprofit serving aging Vermonters, and by her dad, who started college but did not finish. However, she says, “I didn’t really know what [I would go to college] for, and I didn’t understand the process of applying, and financial aid, and how you tour colleges and see what they have to offer and make that informed decision.”
She credits VSAC with helping her decide which school she would attend, particularly after her financial aid offers had come in from the schools she had applied to. “Being able to sit down with my VSAC counselor, have my financial aid packages out in front of us, and say, these are the awards that were given from each school; now, how can we decide what’s the best fit for me?”
Courtney is now in the next phase of that process, trying to find a good fit in her first job out of school. While she acknowledges that it’s definitely a strange time to be looking for work, she’s applying to a variety of nonprofits in the Boston area, especially those with criminal-justice-centered missions.
“Even though it seems really challenging right now,” she says, “I’m hopeful that I can make that happen.”
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. No question or worry is too small or too big to reach out to us and ask for help.
For information on college and career planning and decisions, go to www.vsac.org/decision and also check out our online workshops and resources and online 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay in touch. We’re here for you.