WESTMINSTER -- Words of advice and encouragement filled the auditorium as six recent Bellows Falls Union High School graduates came back to their alma mater to talk to BFUHS’ Freshman Academy about life after high school. The event was facilitated by Vermont Student Assistance Corporation’s outreach counselor, Natalie Brennan, and Liam Danaher, a Career Planning Counselor for VSAC.
The six graduates are all attending college now and came back to talk about surprises, roommates, AP classes, their favorite college courses and how BFUHS prepared them for college.
"Pay attention in high school," said Peter Falzo, a 2011 graduate who never planned on going to college during his high school days. Just a few years after he said he’d take the easy route, Falzo spoke about a college writing course and 20-page paper he just finished.
Hannah Hodsden, a 2010 BFUHS graduate, emphasized how much the senior project she did in high school helped her in college.
"The senior project was my first independent work. All of my work in college is like that, although there is no advisor to remind you to make progress, or to check in with you to help you write your paper, you are solely responsible for getting the work done on your own," said Hodsden, now a junior at Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
Meghan Hilow, class of 2012, talked about growing up fast and having to set multiple alarm clocks to get herself up in the morning. She said her first semester at the University of Vermont as a biology major has been a lot harder than high school, and that it comes with a lot of responsibility. She tested out of some college courses by taking AP classes in high school, which earned her college credits. Hilow’s biggest surprise about college was the cultural experience she has had. Her roommate is Indian, from Tibet and has a very different cultural background from hers.
Dylan Ward, class of 2012, agreed. When assistant principal John Broadley asked what BFUHS could do to better prepare students for college, Ward suggested the school provide more multi-cultural experiences. He first met his college roommate on Facebook and was concerned about how different their backgrounds and interests were.
"Don’t worry about getting a roommate who’s just like you. My roommate and I have nothing in common, but we wound up being the best of friends."
Ward is attending St. Michael’s College in Colchester as a Philosophy major.
His biggest challenge was the social adjustment.
"You have to make friends all over again. You go through high school years and build friendships, and then you get to college and you have to start over again. It was a big hurdle for me," said Ward.
Allison Davis talked about her work study at Castleton State College. She works in an office in the soundings department, which earns her money while she’s in school. Davis talked about a microbiology class that changed her mind about what she wanted to do after college. She and fellow BFUHS class of 2011 graduate Meagan LaBeau are roommates at Castleton. LaBeau said she wishes she had more guidance in choosing a major. She recently changed from an Education major to a Athletic Training major.
Freshman Academy is a program that is designed to help BFUHS freshman adapt to high school. Guest speakers, field trips, and special events are planned throughout the freshman year for these students.