By Cookie Steponaitis
When Caroline Jones packed her bags to return home to see family, friends, and loved ones for Christmas break, she was participating in a ritual marking the end of the first semester of college. The difference in Jones’ story is that she is a Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) senior while also a freshman at the United World College (UWC) of the American West in New Mexico.
Jones is part of the UWC movement of over 80 countries, amongst 120 students in the United States assigned to one of 14 campuses worldwide. “Vermonters are represented very strongly at UWC’s around the world,” Jones shares. “There are currently six of us at the U.S. campus, which is more than the representation of some countries.” Students who are accepted receive a full $90,000 scholarship.
While most high school juniors are content with the traditional path for learning, Jones viewed the UWC application process as a way to explore more opportunities. “When I learned about the values of the school and its mission statement, I immediately … felt a strong connection to the UWC movement,” comments Jones. “Like many high-schoolers in the midst of endless homework and seemingly pointless classes, I felt like my energy was being misdirected and that I wasn’t using my time in a valuable way. Attending a UWC – with its intercultural experiences, an advanced level class, and emphasis on serving your community and the world – was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.”
Jones chooses from traditional offerings with a curriculum linked to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. “Outside of the academic classes,” Jones explains, “IB students are involved in Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS), in which we get to choose at least three different activities which involve us in the community in some way and give us the chance to learn practical skills. This past semester, I was involved in Practical Activism and Marketing.”
Jones will graduate from high school twice: in June 2014 with her classmates from CVU and from the UWC in 2015 with an IB diploma. She encourages teens to explore new venues and challenge themselves to learn in fresh, exciting places.
“My faith in the ability of my generation to make an impact on the world has been reinforced by every interaction I have here,” Jones says. “I don’t think I’ll ever be in a place with more passionate, intelligent and impactful future leaders than I am at UWC-USA.”