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College of St. Joseph Provider Scholars serve community

The College of St. Joseph in Rutland – once known as The College of St. Joseph the Provider – is providing students who might not otherwise be able to attend college with special financial aid that benefits both the students and the community.
 
The college – founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph -- is furthering its mission and addressing national concern about the rising cost of higher education by offering the Provider Scholarship Program. The scholarship for full-time undergraduate students, worth $65,500 over four years, incorporates a commitment to academic excellence, personal and professional growth and community service.
 
Each Provider Scholar is required to serve the community for a minimum of 15 hours a semester, but most do more.
 
Senior psychology majors Tammy Robitille of Lowell and Jane Cretella of Naugatuck, Conn., are among the nearly 170 Provider Scholars.
 
“Without this program, I would not be able to attend college. It’s too expensive,” Robitille said.
 
Tuition and room and board is $35,900 a year for residential students and $24,000 for commuters; both are eligible for Provider Scholarships.
 
“The reason I came here was the financial opportunity the Provider program offers,” said Cretella, an independent student raised by her grandmother and aunt.
 
She said she always has been community minded; she used to volunteer at the YMCA at home and as a Provider Scholar most of her hours this year have been done at Rutland Community Cupboard. Her service opportunity of choice last year was at Vermont Foodbank. “I know it’s helping people who need it,” she said. “I don’t feel obliged to do it; obviously I have to (to fulfill the scholarship requirements), but I have a desire to do it.”
 
A Catholic who did service work as part of her religious education, Cretella said her faith and her grandmother model an attitude of service. “It’s just the right thing to do, to help others.”
 
Likewise, Robitille is motivated by a desire to help others; much of her Provider Scholarship service has been with DREAM, a Vermont mentoring organization that builds communities of families and college students to empower children from affordable housing neighborhoods so that they may recognize their options, make informed decisions and achieve their dreams.
 
“You just do the right thing. You have an obligation to help people in need,” she said. “If somebody in town needs food, you can up some of your vegetables” and share. “If you were in a needy situation, you’d want someone to help.”
 
The Provider Scholarship Program “falls in line with the cores values of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Elicia Mailhiot, associate director of communications.
 
Those values include hospitality, love of neighbor without distinction, reconciliation and unity of all people with God, one another and all creation.
 
Provider Scholars have completed more than 18,000 hours of service to the greater Rutland region since the program's inception in fall 2013.
 
According to Kimberly Rupe, community engagement coordinator at the college, organizations the students serve appreciate their efforts. “The partnerships and relationships built with outside organizations have been wonderful.”
 
Among the organizations students serve are Habitat for Humanity, Loretto Home/St. Joseph/Kervick Home, Dismas House, Vermont Achievement Center, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Rutland Area Child Parent Center, Rutland County Women's Network and Shelter and Vermont Foodbank.
 
“We couldn’t do what we do without CSJ,” enthused Hanna Snyder, volunteer coordinator for Vermont Foodbank, noting that about a dozen Provider Scholars – many of them repeat volunteers – help each week to pack bags of food for weekend meals for about 1,300 students in Vermont.
 
“CSJ is invaluable,” she said. “We’ve come to rely on them,” she said of the college students. “They are great volunteers we know we can count on every single week.”
 
Rupe, herself a Provider Scholar and 2016 graduate of the College of St. Joseph, said her service at the Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter and Green Mountain Power solar event helped build her professional network “dramatically.”
 
Applicants who are accepted to the college are eligible for consideration for the Provider Program. Provider Scholars are intellectually curious, want to make a difference on campus and in the community and have a 2.0 to 4.0 grade point average.
 
“We care about our community. Everybody has to look out for each other,” Mailhiot said.

Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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