One of the first things you need to know about Rochelle is that she is a very dedicated mother. She is married and serves as her son’s primary caregiver and advocate. She is also a very dedicated student, working to earn her high school diploma. At 26, she aspires to a job in the medical field, possibly as a medical assistant.
Rochelle grew up in Vermont and changed schools several times as her family moved around Chittenden County. She was attending Horizons, an alternative public high school program in Burlington, when she decided to leave at age 18.
“I always had issues with registering information,” Rochelle said. “I wasn’t getting good grades. I wasn’t really interested in going to school because it was so hard. No one at school seemed to notice that I needed extra help other than in elementary school and they didn’t get far.”
Rochelle works closely with Andrea Fine, her academic advisor, and her teachers at VAL. Indications pointed to a possible learning difference and dyslexia. VAL, thanks to grant money received from Northfield Savings Bank, was able to schedule testing for Rochelle at the Stern Center for Language and Learning. Rochelle learned that she experiences a cognitive processing disability; this knowledge empowered her to advocate for the support she needs to be academically successful.
“The testing at the Stern Center was very good for me,” Rochelle said. “I was there from 8:00 to 5:00 and it was really tiring. I already suspected I had dyslexia and the testing showed that I did. I can now accept myself as I am and further concentrate on finding the best ways for me to learn and obtain information.”
“The staff at VAL are the only ones who’ve been patient enough to work with me as a student,” Rochelle said. “The VAL community is very close-knit and supportive. They also are able to motivate me when I need that, too! The flexibility is also really important.”
Rochelle appreciates that her teachers make the learning fun while also challenging her academically. She is very proud of the research paper on human sexuality she completed for Meg Reynolds’ writing class. Her civics class taught her the importance of following elections and monitoring our government’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“Andrea (Rochelle’s academic advisor) helped me more than I thought she could,” Rochelle said. “She advised me on papers and helped me with ideas for class projects. She supports me in taking my time to do my work; she gets that I’m a mom to a son with disabilities. Andrea makes me feel so much can be accomplished…at my pace. She is the best person to talk to about anything in life. She helps with problem solving…from school, to parenting, to jobs, to just keeping up with me to make sure I’m caring for myself. She’s an advisor who has turned into a friend.”
Rochelle is eager to serve as a VAL Ambassador to the community. Sharing her inspiring story is the first step in that process!
“I just want to be able to help other people in my situation,” Rochelle said. “You don’t have to say ‘OK, I didn’t get it done.’ You CAN get it done. VAL is there to help you get your goals completed in your own time. It’s a very good place. VAL makes you really want to get it done. They make you want to keep going, even in difficult times. I want people to know they can still finish their high school diploma, even if they’re 20, 40 or 60. VAL can help you get through.”
“Rochelle is a dedicated and inspiring person to work with,” said Meg (Rochelle’s writing teacher). “She is so enthusiastic and works incredibly hard. I am always impressed with how much she juggles and the heart she puts into everything she does. It is fantastic to work with her.”
“It has been such a joy to work with Rochelle over the past year,” said Andrea. “I’ve been so impressed with Rochelle’s ability to overcome obstacles and consistently engage with VAL services—classes, projects, advising, career exploration, personal reflection, and more—which she always seems to find time for on top of being a devoted mom, wife, daughter and sister. After a big push to complete her course requirements last summer and fall, Rochelle only has a couple of pieces left to finish! And when she does, I have no doubt she’ll apply what she’s learned about the world and herself to serve as a truly positive force in our community.”