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VSAC Celebrates Achievements of First-Generation Students

Recognizing the need to make education accessible and opportunity equitable, VSAC is celebrating the achievements of students who persevere.

VSAC honors post-secondary achievement as part of the Council on Education’s First-Generation Celebration Day, held annually on November 8. First-Generation Day traditionally honors the success of first-in-their-family graduates, calling attention to the systemic barriers preventing access to education and the support needed to help students thrive.

VSAC research concludes that in Vermont, 41% of graduating high school seniors in 2022 were considered first-generation students. While 72% of that entire graduating class planned to go on to college – either in a 2-year or a 4-year program – that percentage fell to 58% among those students who were first-generation.

Recognizing that there is a path for everyone, VSAC helps students navigate post-secondary education so that all students may find success. In addition to two- and four-year degrees, certificates, apprenticeships, and non-degree programs all provide pathways to prosperity. VSAC administers post-secondary education and training programs that help students gain competency in critical job sectors such as skilled trades, teaching, and medical fields, as well as non-degree grants and 802Opportunity, which provides free tuition to qualified recipients to attend Community College of Vermont.

“Education and training challenges students, and finding new avenues requires tremendous resilience,” noted Scott Giles, VSAC President and CEO. “We celebrate the many students who have traveled this journey.”

VSAC staff includes many first-generation college students, who know firsthand the challenges and opportunities of post-secondary education and are now paying forward the support they received.  In celebration of VSAC employees’ achievements, the compelling stories of VSAC Outreach Counselors Jessi Krause Herron, Dylan Bertolini, Monda Kelley and Beth Clay, as well as VSAC Human Resources Director Sarah Friend, are published online.

Jessi, Dylan, Monda, and Beth are among VSAC’s Outreach counselors who guide each student to find careers that are meaningful to them, affirming students’ emerging interests and helping them navigate pathways to the many forms achievement may take. One program that counselors leverage is the federal GEAR UP high school graduation readiness program, which VSAC has administered in Vermont for the last 24 years. Over 75% of the students VSAC GEAR UP counselors serve are first-generation, and over 50% of VSAC’s Outreach staff were also the first in their families to achieve a four-year degree.

“Vermont needs people with the skills that education and training provide,” said Giles. “We need all kinds of credentials in our economy, and people need good jobs to thrive and contribute to vibrant communities. It’s important for students to see themselves in the people they are working with, no matter what path they choose. Among many people working for a bright future for Vermont, our VSAC Outreach team is here to help make life after high school affordable and accessible to all. We honor their achievements this week, as well as those whom we serve. Students who persevered are our future.”


About VSAC: Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters achieve their education and training goals after high school. VSAC serves students and their families in grades 7-12, as well as adults returning to school, by providing education and career planning services, need-based grants, scholarships, and education loans. VSAC awards millions of dollars in grants and scholarships for Vermont students and administers Vermont’s VT529 savings plan. Find us at or check out Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.