earning college credits at connecticut river academy

Morgan’s story: Making a difference with her degree

How Morgan’s experience at CTRA, RMS, and Goodwin demonstrated the importance of togetherness and taught her to give back 

Morgan Sheldon is a creative communicator who enjoys connecting with others and crafting a strong sense of community for those around her. While exploring her high school options, Morgan was looking for a school to strengthen her innate skills.

After attending multiple magnet school open house events, Morgan was most excited to learn more about Connecticut River Academy (CTRA), an award-winning high school right in her hometown of East Hartford, Connecticut.

She was initially drawn to CTRA for its early college model with the opportunity to earn college credits for free while still in high school. CTRA also attracted Morgan with its innovative academics and the prospect of being part of a caring community culture.

“When I went to visit, I noticed that the school’s glass building was bright, and so were the personalities inside,” Morgan shared. “Everyone seemed to know each other, and, in comparison to other schools, the difference at CTRA was day and night.”

A community to care for, with teachers to remember 

Once enrolled at the magnet high school, Morgan enjoyed being immersed in a diverse student body. “With so many cultures and backgrounds, I really got to experience a bit of everything, and it opened my eyes and made me cognizant of how different our lives are from one another, yet how we still can come together as a community.”

Morgan soon became a stand-out scholar who gave back to CTRA during all four years. A contributing member, she was a student worker for CTRA’s music and math departments. Morgan also volunteered her time during local blood drives, assisted with creative happenings like the Trash in Fashion Show, and lent a helping hand during Connecticut River clean-up events.

While attending CTRA, Morgan noted that the teachers consistently gave back to their students too. “At CTRA, students don’t get lost in the crowd,” Morgan specified. “Teachers know scholars’ names and backgrounds, and got to know us personally. We always had someone we felt comfortable with to go to for questions and guidance, and that connection was special.”

In love with her internship

When Morgan was in her junior year of high school, she interned as a student worker for Riverside Magnet School (RMS). She assisted with Studio, the school’s before-and-after school program, created student binders, and organized classrooms and parent contact information. “I did a little bit of everything, and I loved every second of it,” Morgan stated enthusiastically.

“RMS is a very warm environment. Right away, I fell in love with the building, the community aspect, and, [through the school’s Reggio Emilia approach] the hands-on way of teaching students. I take education very seriously, and I loved the RMS culture and the way they are implementing their curricula.”

Creativity meets conservation 

During her senior year at CTRA, Morgan helped to run the Trash in Fashion Show. In this entertaining, ongoing event, students spend time throughout the year, making outfits out of recyclable materials. At the end of the year, a fashion show was presented where students modeled their sustainable styles. When it was Morgan’s turn to help run the event, third graders from RMS had their own original outfits to display.

“It was adorable,” Morgan exerted with excitement. “Some of the third graders were a bit shy, and I was the one who would say ‘Now it’s your turn to walk down…’ and some of them were so timid that I ended up walking down the runway with them. I wanted to help them build confidence, and I wanted to make sure they didn’t miss the great opportunity.”

Planning for her profession 

Throughout their final year at CTRA, all students have a senior planning meeting where scholars gather with their counselors and caregivers to carefully plan what the future will look like for each pupil.

While sitting down with her supporters in her meeting senior year, it was clear that Morgan excelled in her academics. Through CTRA’s early college model, Morgan took 11 classes at Goodwin, exploring her interests and furthering her goals for the future.

“The early college opportunity changed my view of my profession, and it set me ahead on a career path I enjoy,” Morgan admitted. Yet still, she wasn’t 100% sure about the direct path she wanted to pursue.

It was then, her counselor recommended a degree in business.

“I wanted options,” Morgan asserted, “and with a business degree, it’s so versatile, you can go into many different directions and fields with it.”

Scholarships led to substantial savings 

Once Morgan graduated from CTRA, it wasn’t long before she applied to Goodwin University and was accepted into the Business Administration program. Because she was a CTRA scholar, Morgan received 50% off her undergraduate tuition. And because she had a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, was taking the required number of credits per semester, and was pursuing her bachelor’s in business administration, Morgan also received a Business Administration scholarship that afforded her an additional 30% off of tuition — totaling an 80% savings on her higher education*.

*Grants and scholarships are dependent on varying factors and are subject to change. 

Returning to Riverside 

For her undergraduate Capstone course, Morgan returned to RMS, where she created a strategic plan for the institution at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The pandemic happened so quickly, no one had a plan,” Morgan stressed, and she wanted to help make sure students stayed connected to the RMS community.

With her newfound business skills, Morgan eagerly evaluated the existing strategic plan and extended suggestions based on the school’s specific needs and current climate. During her Capstone, Morgan addressed obstacles from basic needs like food services to online accessibility and instruction, cleaning aids, and communications strategies.

On the fast-track to her future  

After using her first semester at Goodwin University as an exploratory period and “living and breathing school for a while,” and with her 11 college credits earned at CTRA, Morgan graduated from Goodwin with her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in just two years.

Out of all her undergraduate classes, Morgan most enjoyed courses where she could assess, analyze, and use her creativity to execute big projects.

With RMS’ Reggio Emilia approach as well as CTRA and Goodwin’s Universal Design for Learning framework, “the education at RMS, CTRA, and Goodwin are all hands-on,” Morgan detailed. “You get to demonstrate your knowledge through projects instead of repetitively studying for tests. Instead of answering a specific set of questions and after a test your brain erases it all, you get to use the skills you’ve learned in the classroom and put it to use for something you’ve created, and I love that philosophy of teaching.”

After participating in day, night, hybrid, online, and on-ground classes, “I learned a lot about my abilities and the many aspects of business,” Morgan disclosed. “From marketing to business law, you had the opportunity to learn your strengths and weaknesses by taking classes, reading the texts, and participating in class discussions.”

“At Goodwin, you’re not just a number on a roster, you’re a person,” Morgan assured. “I loved how small the classes were, and the professors were kind, personable people who were always there for students.”

Inspiring community through a career in instruction 

Another person still rooting for Morgan’s success is her CTRA guidance counselor who informed her about an open instructor position at RMS. Now, the CTRA and Goodwin graduate is a fifth-grade instructor at her former internship site, where she currently provides educational and emotional support for her students.

“CTRA changed my life for the better,” Morgan relayed. “I’ve always lived in East Hartford, and CTRA has always been a community for me right down the road. And attending Goodwin also showed me what I value — community, having educators that care about you, smaller classes, and getting to know your classmates and other staff members. As a student, you meet people who know you and will stand by you, forming forever relationships. Now, I’m looking forward to providing my students that same sense of community inside the classroom.”

For more information, visit: www.ctriveracademy.org/learnmore
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