Access to Higher Education Fund


The Access to Higher Education Fund, created by the Community Foundation in partnership with the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation, supports programs that build equitable access to affordable and high-quality college and career education that will prepare Vermonters for secure and successful employment.

A highly skilled and educated workforce brightens Vermont’s economic outlook and improves the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Recent state legislation, including the Flexible Pathways bill of 2013, is setting the stage to build the education and training pathways Vermonters need to access promising careers. Through the Access to Higher Education Fund, we will build on that momentum by funding hands-on career exploration, tech initiatives, and programs that prepare low-income Vermont students and adults for our state’s most promising jobs.

One such program is the Women Can Do Conference, a joint effort of Vermont Works for Women and Vermont Technical College aiming to build a stronger pipeline of girls and women in high-paying STEM/trades careers in Vermont. In the fall, nearly 500 high school girls from every county in Vermont converged at the event. Within an hour, they were wielding blowtorches, creating 3D models, fixing bicycles, and extracting DNA from a green pepper. The girls chose from 70 STEM workshops led by female scientists, engineers, and trades technicians.

Here's a short story about the impact the Women Can Do Conference can have: 

Kristi Denko is a Vermont Technical College Construction Management graduate, and is a project manager at a small bridge company in Ascutney. Denko attended the Women Can Do Conference three times during four years of high school. At VTC, she joined the Construction Club, where she was frequently the only female student to attend, and became its Vice President, and later President. Volunteering to lead construction activities at the Conference has been a formative experience: “I believe in this conference and I think it is a great way to teach young women how to be empowered and show that they can do anything. I have my heart in the construction field. I have had the struggles of being the only girl in the field and I have been able to push through and complete my dream.” 

Contribute to the fund or contact Carolyn Weir at or 802-388-3355 ext. 239 to learn more.