Sometimes you have to grow up early. Jeffery Anderson is an amiable guy, 19 years old, with a ready smile and friendly demeanor. There is no obvious hardship about him, but the fact is that Jeffery has been the breadwinner in his family since he was in eleventh grade. Given that Jeffery was working 30–40 hours a week in a neighborhood market through his junior and senior years in high school, it seems remarkable that he graduated — even more so that he made it into this year's freshman class at the College of St. Joseph in Rutland.
But there he is, never sounding put upon, even though support for his mother and two younger brothers continues to rest largely upon him; and always expressing optimism for a brighter future. "How our family is doing from not finishing school is my motivation to do better," says Jeffery.
After an itinerant childhood during which he frequently changed schools and communities as he lived with different relatives, Jeffery settled at Proctor Junior/ Senior High School. There, a guidance counselor arranged for him to meet VSAC outreach counselor Jim Estes, who was struck by Jeffery's attitude. "He's had to persevere," says Jim. "He's taken a difficult situation and put the best face on it. Jeffery stood out for his determination."
Jim talked to him about college and introduced him to VSAC's Web site, where Jeffery took an online aptitude quiz. The results indicated that he'd be good at working outside and being creative with his hands. That was no surprise to Jeffery, who loves the outdoors and says, "Woodshop was my favorite class in high school."
That online exercise led to an opportunity for him to attend an 11-day summer camp at the Vermont Maritime Museum near Vergennes after his junior year, where he built a kayak and paddled it on Lake Champlain — a precious, if brief, chance for Jeffery to do something for Jeffery.
With Jim's encouragement, Jeffery took the momentous step of applying to college, and then obtained aid through VSAC and the Vermont Scholarship Fund. He chose the College of St. Joseph so he could continue to live at home to help support his family.
Four years is a long time to make the combination — student and breadwinner — work. His strategy, he says, is to "try to look at it like college isn't a big deal."
It'll be a big deal when he finishes though, and a lot of people will be proud of him.