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McClure Foundation Grants Support Northern Vermont University Access, Retention Goals

Grants from the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation will support Northern Vermont University programs that increase NVU student retention and completion rates, promote career education among eighth graders and aid workforce development in rural Vermont.

The McClure Foundation, a supporting organization of the Middlebury-based philanthropic Vermont Community Foundation, awarded a $15,000 grant over three years to both the NVU-Lyndon and NVU-Johnson Summer Bridge programs. Summer Bridge is a five-day program of academic preparation and team-building activities to build skills and heighten motivation in first-generation and low-income students in their first year.

The McClure Foundation also awarded a $4,500 grant over three years to Kingdom Career Connect, a collaboration among NVU-Lyndon, the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. (VSAC) and the Northern Vermont Area Health Education Center. The program raises awareness of higher education and post-high school employment and training opportunities for Northeast Kingdom eighth graders.

Summer Bridge, the week before the fall orientation for all new NVU students, aims to boost retention and academic success by easing the transition to college. About 40 students are expected to participate in the program at both NVU-Johnson and NVU-Lyndon in August.

“The McClure grant provides vital funding to accelerate student assimilation to college life by helping students make new friends, meet key academic support staff and get a head start on mastering college-level study skills,” NVU-Lyndon Associate Dean of Academic Programs Thomas Anderson says. “Students strengthen their social networks, which is key to how well they adapt to college life. This increases their likelihood of persistence and success.”

Through volunteer work Summer Bridge students do at local nonprofits, the program also supports the broader community.

“We have hired former Bridge students as peer mentors to support incoming Bridge students, which has provided them with leadership opportunities,” NVU-Johnson Director of Academic Support Services Karen Madden says. “These groups of students have had very positive retention rates, and most make good connections with their peer mentors and support staff on campus.”

The Summer Bridge programs receive additional funding from VSAC and other sources and have been awarded McClure Foundation grants previously.

VSAC also helps fund Kingdom Career Connect, which features an event at NVU-Lyndon, at which about 300 eighth graders from various schools attend workshops led by NVU faculty and representatives of diverse business sectors. As part of the program, VSAC staff members discuss post-high school education and career options with students at their schools. More than 1,100 students have participated since the program began.

“Most schools in the Northeast Kingdom have high populations of low- to moderate-income, first-generation students, so although we don’t target that population, many students attending fit those criteria,” NVU-Lyndon Director of Career Services Amy Wright says. “The goal is to expose students to the wide variety of career options available in the Northeast Kingdom and beyond as they make course choices for high school and think about college or post-high school vocations.”