Champlain College Sees a Future for Imagine College

Champlain College welcomed 28 high school students from Vermont, Massachusetts and New York to campus July 6-11 for "Imagine College," a six-day summer immersion program designed to help students make college a part of their reality and give them tools to navigate the college process.

Imagine College is a pilot outreach program designed to meet goals that emerged from the Champlain College Summit last year which focused around lifelong engagement, Champlain's 2020 Diversity and Inclusion goals and the needs of the state identified through bodies like the Vermont P-16 Council.

Of the students who applied and were accepted into the program, 19 were from Chittenden County, VT and nine are from New York and Boston. There were 11 males and 17 females. In the fall, 10 will be seniors, 12 will be juniors, and four will be sophomores. Two were recent graduates still contemplating their professional futures. "I have to know what I really want and conquer my fears in order to take on the world," said Ars Sybelle Sambou Bayonne, a senior from South Burlington High School.

"I really enjoyed the [Imagine College] program. It helped me understand so many things about college, like why I really want to go, where I want to go, what I really want to do there, and what kind of friends I would like to be with. Everybody was awesome: the leaders, mentors, professors, staff in the dining hall, and my peer students," continued Bayonne. "The program made me a new person. I will never ever forget what Imagine College has done for me."

The students agreed that this was a summer well spent, making new friends, learning life lessons, and envisioning new possibilities. There was a tearful moment during commencement when Amal Ahmed, a Senior from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Boston, presented flowers to Lambert saying that the students are deeply grateful and feel that they have found new resources and support systems to help them envision and work towards a better and brighter future. She felt that the staff truly cared and were devoted to the students.

In students' presentations at a commencement ceremony on July 11, Shawnnell James, a junior from Fredrick Douglass Academy II in New York City explained, "I chose to take the long route. When you struggle, you get to see your best self. That's my definition of success."

"As I think about the community Imagine College aims to serve, including first generation college students, immigrants, and those in poverty, I want to work to truly empower members of these under-served communities in a way that maintains their identity, love for and connection to their communities, so as they rise up, they lift up and make a difference in their communities," said Ame Lambert, Imagine College program facilitator and Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion. "There is responsibility that comes with privilege, you must give it back, that is why this is a passion for me."

Joan Shannon, Burlington City Council President praised, "These students have the tenacity and ambition to better themselves, the willingness to step out and serve their own self-interests and the interests of their family and future generations."

The program was offered at no cost to all participants thanks to funding from the Hendrickson Family Foundation, Jim and Andrea Crook, and Elizabeth Steele. It is also supported through the Champlain College Advancement and Admission offices, and the Champlain Conference & Events Center.

The program was designed to help students benefit from the additional support to develop and strengthen their vision for attending college and help them navigate the often-complicated college-entry process.

"Champlain College has a long commitment to access and success, driven by President David Finney. This initiative is one more way Champlain is fulfilling its mandate/commitment to be 'in and of Vermont,'" Lambert noted.

Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 384 Colleges: 2019 Edition. For the fourth year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2019 "America's Best Colleges,” and a “Best Value School” and is ranked in the top 100 “Regional Universities of the North” and in the top 25 for “Best Undergraduate Teaching.” Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2019 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2019 College of Distinction. For more information, visit