Last year CCV launched the Man Up program in Lamoille County to provide college opportunities to young men in that area. Yesterday, in his State of the State address, Governor Shumlin said he’s taking the program statewide and making it more inclusive.
“Today I propose we not just man up–let’s Step Up for everyone,” Governor Shumlin said. “In partnership with CCV, Vermont State Colleges, and UVM, my budget will provide $2 million to launch Step Up, funding a semester of free courses and support services to help first generation and low income students get back to school.”
While details of Governor Shumlin’s Step Up program aren’t yet available, the Man Up program on which it will be based has been extremely successful at the College’s Morrisville academic center. Last spring the program launched with six participants. That number grew to 22 in the fall of 2015 and now has a waiting list for enrollment in the spring 2016 semester.
Man Up, Lamoille
CCV’s Man Up program was launched in Lamoille County in 2014, an area in Vermont with some of the lowest college-going rates among high school graduates who are first-generation college goers. Through the generous funding of our donors, the program offers opportunities for young men between the ages of 17 and 27 to attend CCV with additional support services and benefits. Learn more about CCV’s Man Up program
The Man Up program is built on a foundation of enhanced support services and leadership opportunities for students. Students in the program attend mandatory one hour workshops to improve study skills and they have direct access to tutors and academic personnel to help them with any part of their college experience. Man Up students also take leadership roles on service learning projects and serve as peer tutors at the center. Students who fulfill academic and attendance requirements are given grant-funded gas cards to ease the burden of commuting to and from the College. And while the attraction of free gasoline has fueled enrollment in the program, students are taking away more than just full gas tank.
“Initially, Man Up students were telling us the gas cards were an encouragement for signing up,” said Dean of Students Heather Weinstein. “But after spending time at CCV and taking classes, what we’ve heard from them is that the mentoring and academic support they received had much more of an impact on them than the transportation benefits did.”
Weinstein led the development of the Man Up program for CCV and has been tapped to develop Step Up in the upcoming year. She said the College started Man Up by crafting a proposal in response to the nation-wide problem of young men not attending college. She said census data tells us that for every 100 women who attend college after high school only 77 men enroll. That ratio, Weinstein said, widens as you move further down the socioeconomic ladder. The proposal was successful: a generous donor stepped up to fund the program and it’s been serving students well since its inception.
Man Up participants and brothers Justin and Brandin Bourdeau were invited by Governor Shumlin to attend the State of the State Address. Seated in the balcony overlooking the House Chamber with CCV President Joyce Judy and Man Up Program Facilitator Billi Dunham, the two brothers beamed with pride when the Governor Shumlin asked them to stand and be recognized for their achievements. He singled out the brothers as examples of young men working hard in low-paying jobs who want to attend college but find themselves confronting obstacles that prohibit it.
“The other night I went to Morrisville and visited the Man Up program at CCV, which offers support and mentoring for young men who are in this exact situation. I met Brandin and Justin Bourdeau.” Governor Shumlin said. “Last year, Brandin was a line cook and Justin was working at a local grocery store. Through the Man Up program, these two brothers are successfully back on the academic track.”
The Bourdeau’s, who travelled down to Montpelier with their father, Spencer, and Dunham for the event, have both completed the Man Up program and are registered for spring classes at the Morrisville center. Their enthusiasm for college was apparent when they spoke after the event about how CCV’s Man Up program had helped them find academic success, and, quite importantly, camaraderie.
“For me the best part was definitely chilling with guys in the study hall we had before class,” said Justin, who at 18 is one year younger than his brother. “Just going in and being like ‘hey what do we got for homework.’ We definitely learned a lot in the class, but the best moments were in the study hall.”
Nineteen-year-old Brandin had a similar response, noting that he’d met his best friend through the program and that having that connection with another student made succeeding that much easier. And now that he’s successfully through the program, the older Bourdeau said he’d be returning for classes to put his finely-tuned leadership skills to work.
“For me the program is technically done, but I’ll be mentoring in the program for the semester coming up,” Brandin said.
Governor Shumlin said that the support services and academic guidance provided to the Bourdeaus in the Man Up program should be available for every Vermonter, and that’s what his proposal will seek to do.
“It’s our responsibility to offer the same opportunity to every Vermonter, every woman, every man,” the governor said.
But even though the Step Up program will need to work its way through the machinations of state government before being rolled out across Vermont, Justin Bourdeau said that’s no reason for anyone to wait on enrolling in college classes.
“I say, give college a shot, because even if you don’t like it, you’ll get something out of the classes that will help you in life anyway,” he said. “But if it catches you and you find out ‘oh I can do this, I can educate myself and become more successful in life,’ then it’s a really good opportunity to improve yourself so that you’re not stuck doing simple things for the rest of your life.”