Receives diploma and degree thanks to innovative dual enrollment program
WILMINGTON - When Twin Valley High School valedictorian Tatyanna Bowman is handed her diploma on Saturday, it won’t be her first time. In fact, it won’t even be the first time this month. On Saturday, June 2, Bowman graduated from Community College of Vermont with an associate degree.
Bowman took college-level courses in the summers following her sophomore and junior years of high school. Meanwhile, she was swiftly making her way through her high school curriculum. Bowman says that when she started high school, wanting to make the most of her time, she opted not to take study halls. Instead, she took classes all day, which meant that by the end of her junior year, she was nearly done with her high school curriculum. And so, she decided to go to college full time.
Bowman’s access to college coursework during high school was made possible through the dual enrollment and early college programs, which are both available to high school students through the Vermont Agency of Education. They were expanded through the flexible pathways initiative, which was established in 2013 through Act 77. In addition to making college-level coursework more accessible to high school students, the flexible pathways initiative establishes increased access to work-based learning, virtual and blended learning opportunities, and career and technical education.
According to the agency of education’s website, the flexible pathways initiative “encourages and supports the creativity of school districts as they develop and expand high-quality educational experiences that are an integral part of secondary education in the evolving 21st-century classroom.”
Bowman used the dual enrollment program for some of her summer coursework. Under the program, the state provides students up to two vouchers, each of which covers one four-credit course at 19 approved Vermont colleges. Locally, the list includes Marlboro College, Bennington College, Community College of Vermont, Landmark College, SIT Graduate Institute, and Southern Vermont College, where Bowman enrolled. Using dual enrollment credits also allowed Bowman to access a special program at Southern Vermont College that gives affordable tuition to those who have used their dual enrollment credits at the school.
“We learned that (Southern Vermont College) has a program where if you use dual enrollment with them, you can take eight other classes with them for $200 per class,” says Kathi Austin, Bowman’s mother. “Suddenly, college during high school seemed a lot more possible.”
To attend college full time during her senior year of high school, Bowman used the agency of education’s early college program, which allows high school seniors to take a full year of college, tuition free, at one of seven approved colleges, including Community College of Vermont.
For Bowman, the combination of her summer coursework and her early year of college culminated in an associate degree in liberal studies.
Bowman says it was important to her to keep ties with the friends she’d grown up with, so for her senior year, she worked out her schedule so that she could go to college in the morning and be back at Twin Valley for soccer and basketball practices in the afternoon. Between coursework and sports, Bowman had some long days, and she notes that when taking into account summer courses and the normal school years, she’s been going to school for three years straight.
“It’s been a long and rough journey,” she says. “Really long.”
Her mother agrees. “It’s a lot of hard work, and there were a lot of tears and late nights,” says Austin. “But it can be done.”
Bowman says her inspiration was a future in the health care field. “I want to go on to a medical path,” she says. “And I knew that was going to take a while to complete, because you have to take a lot of schooling, so I wanted to get an early start on that. I’ve always been driven, so that was a big part of it.”
She’s headed to the University of Vermont next year. As of now, her major is undecided. “I’m sure it’ll be in the health field somewhere,” she says. “I also have an interest in veterinary science, so it’s between helping humans or helping animals.”
Bowman says the significance of earning her associate degree was almost lost to her. “I don’t think I was prepared when I was at the (graduation) ceremony,” she says. “I don’t think I realized what it really meant that I was the youngest grad in my class.”
With the experience of one graduation behind her, she’s preparing to relish the next one, this time alongside the classmates she grew up with. At the end of a Monday morning interview, Bowman is getting ready to work on the speech she’ll deliver at Saturday’s Twin Valley graduation. Of the speech, she says, “I think it’s important that I write my heart out, and I think it’ll come naturally to me once I find the words that I can put forward to my classmates.”
Overall, she says she’s feeling a sense of relief and accomplishment. And she’s looking forward to summer.
After all, this one will be her first without school in a while.