College Steps opening opportunities at Castleton since 2012

Students in the College Steps program compete in a basketball game.

 In Leavenworth Hall in room 59 resides Patty Moore, the head of the College Steps program on the VTSU Castleton campus. 

Started in the fall of 2012, the College Steps program is designed to help adults with learning and social differences learn how to succeed in independence and try out the college environment. 

“The College Steps program is a non-profit for students of varying abilities to work towards academics, social, independence, and work readiness,” Moore said during an interview. “The program consists of different paths that the student can take. For most, there is the two-year higher education certificate for students who have goals towards the four Steps pillars. They normally start as non-matrics and they get a certificate of higher education, which is endorsed by the Steps program and VTSU Castleton.”

Matthew Kennedy, a first-year Steps student, was asked what he has learned so far through the program. 

“Taking the community class has helped me to learn to respond to emails, and how to check out the new emergency system, during the early October incident,” he said of the off-campus shooting of a former dean. 

Alongside him was his mentor, Jenee McGee, who was asked if anything she had learned as a steps mentor would help her with her degree. 

“I think I’ll be sharing my experiences with the students, and also using my degree to help me figure out situations,” she said.

In recent years, the College Steps program has expanded to support degree-seeking students who are pursuing their four-year bachelor’s degrees.

Moore said one of the key ways that College Steps is different from many other support systems on the VTSU Castleton campus is that they use peer-mentor-based learning, and this means that all mentors are full-time degree-seeking students, she said. They are paid and trained through Steps. 

“What I think it brings to this campus is the true meaning of integration,” Moore said.

Alongside Moore, the newest addition to the staff of College Steps is Jasmin Tirado, the Steps support specialist. 

“It means a lot to these students to have the opportunity to have a great experience to be a college student, to get a taste of college life,” Tirado said during an interview.

Many professors have said wonderful things about the Steps program too. David Blow, one of the media and communications professors here on the Castleton Campus, has had great experiences with Steps students. 

“The Steps students bring a different viewpoint to the classroom. I have had good experiences with the Steps students, and despite their challenges, they have excelled and it’s great to see them go from the Steps program to full-time students in some cases.” 

Blow mentioned a former Intro to Journalism student who he said was one of the best students in the fall of 2023 class, and he didn’t even know she was a former Steps student until later in the semester. 

“I wouldn’t have known that she was a former steps student without Patty telling me,” Blow said. 

Blow has also said that he has had mostly positive experiences with Steps students in his courses. 

“I’ve had five to six students and some have been more challenging, but mostly positive experiences,” he said.

Along with supporting students in their academic and independent living skills, the Steps program hosts community events for the VTSU Castleton campus and the Steps students to come together, like their unified basketball event that happens twice a semester where Steps students play alongside other full-time students who are their partners during the game.

College Steps is also on the Lyndon and Johnson campuses, and CCV has a branch of the Steps program, but it’s in Montpelier and is mainly for vocational support and learning.

For the future of the Steps program, Moore said they are going to be hiring future mentors for the 2024-2025 school year, 

“If you are interested in learning about College Steps, we have a website, but if you are on the Castleton Campus, you can pop into Leavenworth, room 59, and you can introduce 

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