Student's Environmental Focus Lands Her Free College Education

A high schooler from St. Albans earned a full scholarship to Green Mountain College to study sustainability.

Jessie Casey, 18, a student at Bellows Free Academy in St. Albans, said she will be the first in her family to go to college, and just learned it will be free. She was chosen for the First in Sustainability Scholarship from Green Mountain College in Poultney.

“It’s life-changing,” Casey told necn Monday. “I can take my life where I want—I won’t have to worry about the debt I’d have otherwise.”

Green Mountain College was awarding roughly $200,000 worth of tuition, room and board, and fees to a student who wanted to focus on environmental, economic, or social sustainability. That area of study is considered a specialty of GMC.

Casey will start at the campus this fall, and also plans to play soccer for the school.

Her application essay for the scholarship focused on a big environmental challenge in her community: how to clean up St. Albans Bay.

Phosphorus runoff into Lake Champlain has long been blamed for the unsightly and potentially dangerous blue-green algae blooms that have known to appear in the bay.

“I feel definitely like we have to stand up and fight for the environment,” Casey said.

“If there's some good news in the current political climate, which has become pretty divisive, it's that a lot of these issues are getting attention that had been pushed to the background,” Green Mountain College president Bob Allen said in an interview with necn in February about the scholarship and its emphasis on environmental stewardship and social sustainability.

After President Donald Trump announced last week he was withdrawing the country from the Paris Climate Accord, Vermont’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, said his state was going to continue fighting climate change in the spirit of the Paris agreement by joining a new bipartisan coalition called the U.S. Climate Alliance.

Massachusetts, California, and New York are also part of that new group.

“I’m hopeful that most of the states will join in this coalition so that we can continue to further our reaction to climate change and work together,” Gov. Scott told necn affiliate NBC 5 News Monday. “If we can work together throughout the world, I think we can make a difference.”

Jessie Casey is glad her home state prioritizes the planet, and said she hopes to be a part of that work after her free college education in sustainability at GMC.

“We need to take responsibility,” Casey said.

Green Mountain College plans to offer its First in Sustainability Scholarship award again, to a student applying for admission starting in the fall of 2018.

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