Column, Rutland Young Professionals

Investing in our future leaders is critical

By Elicia Pinsonault

Members of the Rutland Young Professionals (RYP) board of directors share many things in common, including the organizations we volunteer with, the communities we live in, where we work, our favorite spot to get outside and play, being parents, and countless other things that connect us. Another common thread you’ll notice among our board members is that more than half of us attended high school right here in the Rutland region. As we began to brainstorm new ways we could give back to those in our community this year, the idea of creating a local scholarship to support high school students was mentioned.

We’re excited to announce the RYP Futures Scholarship, which will award $500 to a Rutland County high school senior who is continuing their education at a Vermont college, university, or trade school this fall. The scholarship can be used to help offset the cost of tuition, room and board, or other educational materials such as textbooks.

I graduated from Rutland High School in 2009 and earned my bachelor’s degree from Castleton University in 2012. As a first-generation college student, I was grateful for the support of scholarships, which recognized my hard work in high school while simultaneously allowing me to focus more on the transformative education I was receiving and less about how I was going to be able to afford college. Now, I’m completing my MBA and will become president of Rutland Young Professionals this July.

I’m proud to be part of an organization that is filled with outstanding community leaders who are dedicated to supporting our next generation of leaders in the Rutland region.

Beyond giving back to our community, we hope that the RYP Futures Scholarship will help address other challenges, such as Vermont’s aging population and the number of students who are choosing to leave the state to pursue higher education.

Since 2010, Vermont’s population has declined by about 2,000 people. We know Vermont’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic and an increase in working remotely has encouraged people from across the country to make Vermont their home – or at least their home away from home. This helps, but we need to do more. Targeting high school students and supporting their decision to continue their education in Vermont is one piece to this larger puzzle, but it’s an important one.

In recent years, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges have teamed up to offer the “Choose Vermont” Scholarship. This program awards over $65,000 in scholarship money to students who commit to a Vermont college or university.

Like these folks, we know that students don’t have to sacrifice a high quality of life for a high quality education. They can have both. They can attend a Vermont college or university and earn a degree in a field that will prepare them for the careers of today and tomorrow, while enjoying all the things they love about Vermont: mountain biking, skiing and riding, hiking, or simply relaxing on our pristine lakes. Internships provide opportunities for hands-on, real-world learning alongside business owners and leaders who are passionate about growing our workforce and engaging with young professionals. We need to show students that they don’t have to leave Vermont to receive a good education, or to find a fulfilling career.

It’s all here; we just need to help them see it.

For more information about the RYP Futures Scholarship or to apply, visit

Elicia Pinsonault is president-elect of Rutland Young Professionals and chair of the organization’s marketing and membership committee. She owns Elicia Pinsonault Creative Works and works as communications coordinator at Castleton University.

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