MIDDLEBURY — Life can take you down some bumpy and trying paths, and Megan Coon has the bruises to prove it.
She thought she had her life all mapped out.
After graduating from Middlebury Union High School in 2003, Coon enrolled at Clinton Community College in Plattsburgh.
“I wasn’t mature enough to finish,” Coon lamented. “I did one-and-a-half years, then I decided to take some time to grow up and figure out what I wanted to do.”
But instead of growing up, she took some steps back. Drugs. Alcohol. A loss of direction.
Coon would end up finding that direction from a tiny voice — that of her son, Conner, who will be four in September.
“I got clean because of my son,” Coon recalled.
“He was the reason I wanted to go back to school.”
So she enrolled in the Liberal Studies program at the Community College of Vermont (CCV), which conveniently has a presence in her hometown of Middlebury.
This past Saturday, Coon, now 27, earned an associate’s degree (while carrying a 3.78 grade point average) that helped punch her ticket into the University of Vermont, where she will continue her studies to pursue a career in forensic lab technology.
“It was really nice to prove I could do it,” said Coon, who was able to secure grants to help pay for her CCV studies.
Coon’s story is but one of hundreds that get written at CCV each year — many at the institution’s downtown Middlebury headquarters in the Battell Block.
Melody Trump joined Coon in receiving a diploma on Saturday. And, like Coon, Trump had a cathartic moment that motivated her to further her education. One of Trump’s friends died in 2008 as a result of drug abuse.
Life seemed too short, and she resolved to help others before they, like her friend, fell into the abyss of drug addiction.
“It was a wakeup call,” said Trump, 28, of Middlebury. “I didn’t want this to happen to someone else.”
So she enrolled at CCV, in the human services program. She was able to conveniently attend evening classes and do other coursework on-line. This in turn enabled her to work at Carol’s Hungry Mind Café during the day to help with the family income, and care for her and her husband’s five-year-old son.
Trump enjoyed her educational experience and the camaraderie with her fellow students.
“We were all tired together,” she said jokingly of some of the long work and school days they all endured.
Trump’s education may pay some quick dividends. She has a strong job prospect with a local human services agency.
“It has worked out perfectly,” Trump said.
Trump was part of a class of 23 students graduating from CCV’s Middlebury campus this past weekend. CCV held its graduation services around the state with 587 students graduating statewide. CCV enrolls about 12,000 students in its various programs each year, though many are adult students taking a few select courses as job training and without intending to graduate, while other students use CCV as a transition school to higher education at other colleges. The University of Vermont, for example, gets the majority of its transfer students from CCV.
One such student seeking additional education is Amanda Walker, a Bristol native and 2005 graduate of Mount Abraham Union High School. Walker went on to earn a bachelor’s of science award in Wildlife Care and Education at Unity College in Maine. She then landed a seasonal job with the United States Fish & Wildlife Services as a ranger at the Silvio O. Conti National Fish and Wildlife Preserve. The preserve encompasses the 7.2 million-acre Connecticut River watershed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Now living in Hadley, Mass., Walker wanted to enhance her educational resume with an added degree in Environmental Science. As it turned out, CCV offered just the program she was looking for. She completed the coursework online during a one-and-a-half-year period.
Walker believes her new knowledge will help her better assist preserve visitors in interpreting the flora, fauna and other natural spectacles they come upon.
“It ended up working out very well,” Walker said.
Trump felt many emotions as she received her diploma at CCV’s commencement ceremonies at the Norwich University campus in Northfield.
“It felt like a relief, like I had finally made it through,” Trump said. “And I felt proud that my son saw me (graduate), that it could make an impact on his life.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]