Southern Vermont College

Mentor of the Month: Savannah Santiago

Savannah Santiago is now in her third year as a mentor in the College Steps program at Southern Vermont College (SVC). This spring, she will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services.  

Savannah Santiago

Savannah Santiago

But that wasn’t always her goal. As a freshman in college, Savannah had her sights set on a career in nursing. Her experience as a trained mentor within the College Steps program, however, helped reshape her personal and professional goals.

“Working with College Steps students has shown me that I want to be in a field where I can be creative in my attempts to help others. It has shown me my passion is helping others and for that I am grateful,” said Savannah.

Thanks to her experience as a College Steps Peer Mentor, after graduation, Savannah plans to pursue a career in social work or case management.

Darcy Oakes, College Steps’ Program Coordinator at SVC noted Savannah’s creativity in her nomination, explaining that Savannah often shows fellow students how to use activities like painting and cooking to overcome stress and develop life skills.

Savannah says peer mentorship taught her that success can look like different things to different people. “It’s not about how you get there. It’s about how dedicated you are,” she added.

 Congratulations Savannah on being the College Steps’ Peer Mentor of the Month!

College Steps student and peer mentor at Southern Vermont College honored as youth leaders

College Steps student 

College Steps student 

We are so proud of College Steps student, Alyvia Metcalfe and peer mentor Amber Archer for their leadership and hard work!

The following article appeared in the "Bennington Banner" on Sunday, December 10, 2017: 

Students Amber Archer and Alyvia Metcalfe will receive the Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award from the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Southern Vermont College has announced. The awards will be presented by VCIL's executive director, Sarah Launderville, and Deborah Lisi-Baker at VCIL's Holiday Open House on Thursday, Dec. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the First Baptist Church at 601 Main St.

The Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award was created by VCIL's board of directors in 2006 in honor of the disability rights organization and emerging leaders who believe in the promise of disability rights and independent living movement. For much of her life, Lisi-Baker has advocated for human and civil rights of people with disabilities. She served as VCIL's executive director for many years and retired in 2009. 

Archer, of North Troy, is a sophomore majoring in radiologic sciences at SVC. She is a mentor in the College Steps program at SVC. In addition to Archer's volunteer efforts on campus and in the community, she learned American Sign Language and has worked at a local high school with deaf and hearing-impaired students. According to Darcy Oakes, program coordinator of College Steps at SVC, "Her work with young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the College campus supports them in reaching their academic, vocational, social and independent living goals." 

Metcalfe, Bennington, is a second-year student at SVC through the College Steps program. Due to her influence and extensive social network, Meltcalfe has facilitated connections whereby her fellow College Steps classmates have become engaged in work experiences with local business owners. Metcalfe is well connected with United Counseling Services in Bennington. She is currently working in an internship at Bringing You Vermont and is employed at Price Chopper. Oakes, who nominated Meltcalfe, said, "Alyvia is happy to use her influence to forward not only her own goals, but also the goals of her friends and peers." 

College Steps partners with colleges and universities to support students of varying ability (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities) with their college pursuits. 

Commencement Remarks at SVC

The following remarks were recently shared by provost Jay White at the 89th Commencement of Southern Vermont College in Bennington, VT.

"For the second year in a row, we are pleased to award certificates of higher education to graduates of our College Steps program, which started here at SVC in 2013. The students receiving certificates today had to meet a number of criteria set by the regional College Steps organization within a two-year time frame.

These criteria include completing specific academic, vocational independent living and campus life requirements, including four semesters of coursework (which may be transferred to further their college studies), and completion of an internship. These students have participated in many campus activities including the Sarnoff Speech Contest, Choral Ensemble, Vermont Reads events, Mountaineer Events Board, The Looking Glass, Anime Club, Homecoming, fundraisers to benefit our local food pantries, bake sales to benefit local child care centers … and more.

I would like to echo the sentiment from the students who mentor the College Steps students and say that this is a wonderful experience for both parties: as one student mentor said, “Not only do I feel I am helping the College Steps students grow, they are helping me grow.”"

Art Student Graduating College Steps at SVC

College Steps student, Lorraine, did an excellent job with the presentation of her art work last night. After taking many art classes at SVC, Lorraine is graduating this weekend and moving into a work experience at the Cake Gallery with Meike Thomas. Congratulations, Lorraine!

College Steps Mentor Blog Post

Keila Hernandez

My name is Keila Hernandez, I am a sophomore at Southern Vermont College. I've been a mentor for a year now and I love it so much. Below are two pictures of some the wonderful relationships I have built in my role as a mentor at SVC. I attend class and lunch with Sarah, afterwards we focus on home work and Patrick and I are working on getting involved in social events on campus. 

Meeting with College Steps students every Monday Wednesday and Friday has been amazing. Not only do I feel that I am helping them grow, but they are helping me grow. The smile on their faces when we finish an assignment or have great conversation is what keeps me going everyday. They are always willing to learn new things and meet new mentors. This experience has been great for me and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world! 

Mentor/Student Blog Post

By: Dawn Brownlow and Andrew Fontana


Becoming a college steps mentor has taught me many things besides helping and supporting other students. I’ve learned that being a mentor gives you the opportunity to not only help, but also be a friend and a role model. Every student that I worked with, I’ve been able to build a good connection with each of them where we would smile, laugh, and have fun overall while we worked together. Each day, the students I work with always seem to grow and progress in many ways whether it’s their academics or social involvement. Not only do they grow, but the mentors grow as well by becoming much more confidant, and together with the students they support.


This is my last year at Southern Vermont College I would like to say how my experience at this college has been fun for me.  I have learned so much from this college. The one thing I have learned is to try your best at something even if it is hard.  My first year, I took Quest For Success with Stacey Hills. At first I did not know how hard the class was but, I stuck with the class, and I ended the class with an A-.  The second year in college I was more interested in learning about different music cultures. Since then I’ve taken even more music classes with Eric Despard. I really likes his classes!

Congratulations to one of our Peer Mentors from Southern Vermont College! Karina Meza Named to CoSIDA Academic All-District NCAA DIII Women’s Soccer District 1 Team

Southern Vermont’s Karina Meza Named to CoSIDA Academic All-District NCAA DIII Women’s Soccer District 1 Team 

BENNINGTON, Vt. — On Thursday, the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) announced their 2015 Academic All-District™ Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams to recognize top student-athletes around the country for their excellence athletically and academically with Southern Vermont College senior defender Karina Meza (Los Angeles, Calif.) being included on the NCAA Division III District 1 Women’s First Team.

Meza’s honor is the first ever of its kind for any Southern Vermont student-athlete. The NCAA DIII District 1 Team is comprised of institutions in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. To be nominated, a student-athlete must be a starter or important reserve with at least a 3.30 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) at his or her current institution. Nominated athletes must have participated in at least 50 percent of the team’s games at the position listed on the nomination form (where applicable). No student-athlete is eligible until he or she has completed one full calendar year at his or her current institution and has reached sophomore athletic eligibility. In the cases of transfers, graduate students and two-year college graduates, the student-athlete must have completed one full calendar year at the nominating institution to be eligible.

Meza has helped anchor a Southern Vermont defense that has allowed just 1.33 goals per game to date with a combined seven team shutouts. From the defense, she has scored three goals and registered one assist; all three of her scores have been game-winning goals with two being in 1-0 wins. The psychology major, who finished the 2014-15 academic year with a cumulative grade point average of 3.93, was named to the 2014 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) All-Academic Team and is in line to also be on this year’s squad. She has started in all 16 of the Mountaineers’ games this season, helping them to tally the team’s best-ever record in the NECC and its fifth straight playoff appearance. She was recently named the NECC Player of the Week for the first time in her career back on October 12.

“The first thing that comes to my mind is that, ‘It’s always great to get an academic award, whether it’s for a team or an individual,’” commented fifth year SVC head coach Michael Zauzig. “They’re student-athletes, and ‘student’ does come first. They’re here to get a degree and prepare themselves for the next step in their lives. Karina, someone who’s either looking at going to the Peace Corp or grad school, has been committed to academics since the first day that she got here. I think it speaks volumes about Karina as a student to be the first person at SVC to get this honor. It additionally sets a precedent and a challenge to her teammates to see who can match it; it continues an expectation of academic excellence.”

Current members of CoSIDA are able to nominate players from their institution in the sponsored sports, and those same members are then eligible to vote on the district level. Only members of the Academic All-America® Committee and the CoSIDA Board of Directors and staff are able to vote at the national level to determine the CoSIDA Academic All-America® teams.

The Academic All-District™ teams are divided into eight geographic districts across the United States and Canada. This is the fifth year of the expanded Academic All-America® program as CoSIDA moved from recognizing a University Division (Division I) and a College Division (all non-Division I) and has doubled the number of scholar-athletes honored. The expanded teams include NCAA Division I, NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III participants, while the College Division Academic All-America® Team combines NAIA, Canadian and two-year schools. First-team Academic All-District™ honorees advance to the CoSIDA Academic All-America® Team ballot, where first-, second- and third-team All-America honorees will be selected later this month.