Chris is an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to bring a quality product to the Vermont community: Cannabis! His encyclopedic knowledge of seed germination, growing, and harvesting best practices are complemented by a connoisseur’s sense of the leafy green plant. Chris also earned his high school diploma at VAL at age thirty-two.
“For me, quality matters. Some medical grade cannabis smells like barn hay,” Chris said. “The quality available to Vermonters right now isn’t what it should be. People work hard for their money and I want to give them a quality product.”
Chris describes himself as a “run of the mill guy” raised Blue Collar, between Massachusetts and Vermont. He experienced a few bumps in his childhood and young adulthood. Chris grew up largely on his own with very little adult guidance. He witnessed gang activity while living on Boston’s South Shore. He lost friends to violence.
“I think about the cards you are dealt as a child,” Chris said. “You play them as well as you can. I’ve been on my own for a long time. I worked all kinds of jobs, mostly with my hands…in cranberry bogs, in strawberry fields and on construction sites. I worked as a roofer for almost ten years. I helped build a company from the ground up and I got injured.”
Chris, who left high school early, was a few credits shy of his diploma. He’d been to VAL before and returned in early 2021 with renewed earnestness. He recognized that his injury would prevent him from future roofing jobs.
“I needed to buckle down and get my education,” Chris said. “I wanted to develop skills to do other work and growing cannabis (legally) is something I’m passionate about. I thought I would just finish my high school diploma and then, Joy (VAL Teacher) suggested I consider college. She connected me with folks in the cannabis business; I now have lots of connections. My new goal is to earn my degree in botany and become a certified cannabis grower. I’m taking classes at the Community College of Vermont. There is an up and coming market and I want to be ready for it.”
“I’ve learned that, when I was younger, I was my own worst enemy,” Chris said. “Because of family issues, my brain was in survival mode. I was unable to focus on learning. I now have a stable home with my fiance. I can now focus on school.”
“For folks considering VAL, I want them to know that the teachers will actually make learning fun. Joy and Gretchen (VAL Teacher) are two of the best teachers I’ve ever had,” Chris said. “For anyone reading this: If you haven’t completed your diploma, just do it. You’ll never regret it.”
“Chris had a lot going for him on this journey,” said Gretchen Cowan. “He understood himself as a learner and was great at advocating for himself and asking for the support he needed. It’s so helpful when students can give feedback about what is and isn’t helpful for them and we are lucky at VAL to be able to cater to that feedback a lot of the time! Chris was also incredibly dedicated to his studies. He really prioritized the time he needed to get to his goal. He was also a great role model and champion for his classmates. He was open about sharing his story, encouraged others around him, and put others at ease to ask questions and get what they needed from class as well! When students are dedicated and working hard, it makes it easy to work hard for them. Chris was one of those students!”