Kyle Wolfe refuses to let his past dictate his future.
In 2007, he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He took two classes at CCV but failed both due to his substance use disorder and criminal deviance. After years of substance abuse and a 30-day incarceration, he came into recovery in 2015 with help from the federal government. “It was more humanizing than my addiction…it’s what I needed,” Kyle said about the time he served. Since then, Kyle has used his experiences as motivation to get an education and help others. He graduated from CCV at the end of summer 2020 with an associate degree in Human Services and is currently a full-time student at Castleton where he’s pursuing a degree in Social Work.
For Kyle, CCV was the most practical starting point for a college education. “I don’t think a normal university would have accepted me at the time,” Kyle said. “I couldn’t spell very well, I didn’t have those basic math skills. I had to get my brain so I could remember stuff and think critically, all of which I didn’t know how to do after using substances.” At CCV he was able to take classes that built up these skills and work with instructors who adopted a teaching style that best fit Kyle’s needs. Rather than just giving him exams in the form of quizzes that test your memory, they allowed him to write papers about his work and how it related to what he was learning in class. Kyle said that his instructors “went above and beyond” and were really training him for the workforce.
The instructors at CCV had a big impact on Kyle’s time at the College. “The reason I valued my education at CCV so much is because a lot of my instructors had worked in the field for 20 or30 years, and they knew how to apply what I was learning at CCV.” While he was a part-time student, Kyle also worked in the community. He held jobs as a residential counselor at a recovery home for people with substance use disorders and at the Howard Center, where he worked with adults with severe mental health diagnoses. “What I really liked about my experience at CCV was more or less the way they were training me. A lot of the instructors taught me or encouraged me to do things.” Kyle was able to pair his education at CCV with the work he was doing in substance use and mental health by talking with his instructors about what he was doing at work and getting their input on how he could be more effective in his roles.
CCV also offered a diverse learning environment, which Kyle says added to the value of his education. As a student at CCV-Winooski he was on a campus with students from different backgrounds ranging from low income, first generation, and people of color to single moms, New Americans, and students with disabilities. “I think it’s the most diverse campus in the state. So for a social worker [in training] to be able to go there and learn was really cool,” Kyle said. He also had diverse learning experiences through on-ground classes, online classes, an 80-hour internship at a restorative justice center, volunteer experience at a homeless shelter, and a day-long job shadow in adult mental health. “That way of teaching just really prepared me for the workforce and worked well for me,” Kyle said.
CCV also helped prepare Kyle for continuing his education at Castleton. When asked if transferring to a four-year college was always his plan, Kyle laughed, saying, “no, I was just hoping to maybe get an associate degree and work as a mental health tech or something.” But with the encouragement of the instructors at CCV and his co-workers at the recovery home, Kyle decided to pursue a bachelor’s of social work. He says that CCV helped prepare him for this next step by giving him the skills he needed to write good papers, use Microsoft Word and Excel, study for tests, learn online, and have an understanding of broader social work concepts. After taking classes at CCV part-time over the course of three years, Kyle says “it’s been a transition adjusting to a more traditional university full-time”, but he feels that he was well prepared with the skills he acquired at CCV.
Kyle’s plans for his future stretch far beyond getting his degree. After earning a bachelor’s degree he plans to do the accelerated master’s program in social work at UVM and then go into the workforce. Kyle’s aspirations include working in a reentry program with people who have been incarcerated and are gang-affiliated to help them rehabilitate and create new family and community ties. He would also like to work on prison advocacy efforts in Vermont, with an overall goal of decreasing the prison population, and continue work in a restorative justice center. According to Kyle, the education and encouragement he received at CCV has helped get him ready for these next steps. “I got to go to the most diverse campus as a social work student, with instructors that taught clinical skills to use in the field, with clinical assignments, and affordable tuition. I feel very prepared for the workforce.”