Highlighting our Students: Danielle McCarthy ’22
My name is Danielle McCarthy, and I am a senior at Vermont Academy from Danbury, Connecticut. In my four years at VA, I have participated in many clubs and activities on campus. I have been able to explore my passions through clubs, academic electives, and advanced courses. Vermont Academy has also allowed me to balance being a student-athlete with my academics and leadership endeavors. VA helped me find what I wanted to do with my future while helping me stay present and focus on what was happening right in front of me.
What clubs and leadership positions are you a part of?
Student Government, Proctor, Varsity Soccer (Co-Captain), Varsity Hockey (Co-Captain), Varsity Tennis, Writing Tutor, Spanish Tutor, National Honors Society, Tour Guide, and Student Ambassador
Favorite meal in the dining hall:
On the weekends, you’ll find me...
In the dorm or running/participating in events around campus
Favorite class right now and why?
My favorite class right now is AP Government and Politics. In this class, we utilize a case-study approach to examine six countries and the European Union – it’s a really interesting class. We use the key themes in comparative politics (sovereignty, authority, and power) against our case studies. This class creates a safe space to talk about some controversial topics. I always feel comfortable speaking up and offering my opinion.
VA felt like home the first second I stepped on campus. Students and faculty were so welcoming, and it was easy to feel comfortable and part of the community. While going on my tour, I connected with my tour guides and got a great sense of the school and its values. VA has a close community that feels like a true family. Everyone at VA creates such a close bond, and everyone looks out for one another.
I had initially started looking at boarding schools for hockey and soccer at a high level. VA felt like the right place to become more than an athlete. I was encouraged to explore leadership opportunities on campus, too – the culture here allowed me to feel comfortable trying new things.
Last year, I was elected by the student body to lead the senior class alongside two other strong senior leaders as part of the leadership team for our Vermont Academy Student Association. This is an opportunity that I would have felt much less comfortable taking at a larger school – Vermont Academy makes its students feel empowered to take a risk and go outside of their comfort zone. I am so grateful that I took this risk, as the experience of being a student leader has allowed me to exercise and improve my leadership and advocacy skills.
Talk about your experience as a boarding student on our campus and being a senior proctor?
My experience as a boarding student has been wonderful. After four years in the dorm, I have become so close with our resident faculty, as well as created strong bonds with so many students at VA. Due to our small community, we have the luxury of getting to know students across all grade levels. Though I am not in classes with 9th and 10th graders, our dorms are not separated by grade level which allows me to get to know all students at VA.
Overall, my experience as a proctor has been great. Proctors at Vermont Academy serve as a liaison between students and faculty. Proctors are encouraged to be the first resource for students as they navigate their time at VA. I live in a dorm that has a lot of first and second-year students. I love to live with them and help them to learn healthy studying habits, keep their own space neat and tidy, and encourage them to try new things by sharing my experiences.
What about your experience in the classroom? What has been your learning experience? What is it like working with VA faculty?
My experience in the classroom at VA has been like no other. I have been able to create really close relationships with my teachers and my classmates because of the small learning environment. I have never felt uncomfortable participating in a class because I know it is a safe space. Though our teachers lead the lessons, they act more as facilitators and encourage discussions powered by their students. This has allowed me to gain better communication skills, critical thinking, and self-advocacy – great skills that are outside of the course description.
Working with and getting to know the faculty is one of my favorite parts of VA. All of the faculty, whether they are my teachers or coaches, know who I am. They understand me as a person and connect with me on a personal level rather than just talking to me about a class or a sport. The faculty is all so supportive and understanding, always open to students’ input. They truly are considerate of the students and just want to see us succeed and grow as people.
Can you speak to the college process and your goals following graduation?
The college process for me was incredibly challenging because I was looking for the right fit while also balancing the college hockey recruitment process. This meant I had to find a school that I loved and would help me in the future, while also finding a hockey program and coaching staff that fit who I was as an athlete and as a person. The part that made my college process much easier was my college counselor and my coach. My coach made phone calls for me and talked to coaches on my behalf to develop interest, which took a big load off my shoulders. My college counselor facilitated the application process, meeting with school representatives, and having individual meetings with me to ensure I was on track with the various parts of my application.
Having an overwhelming amount of support made my life much easier when going through the college process. It is a high-stress time for many students because everyone has goals and schools that they want to attend, which is why VA creates such a strong support system. After graduating in the spring I will go on to play hockey at the collegiate level at the University of New England while studying Neuroscience. I owe much of this accomplishment to the Vermont Academy community and the girls’ hockey program.
Any advice that you would give to incoming students?
The advice I would give to incoming students is don’t be nervous coming here because you don’t know anyone; most people come here not knowing anyone and VA does a great job to ensure the students feel connected as soon as they arrive on campus. Enjoy every minute you get to spend here, no matter if you join VA as a 9th grader or a 12th grader. The time flies by and it is the best time of your life, so make sure you enjoy it all because it truly is over before you know it.
This interview is one in a series spotlighting Vermont Academy students, their academic and extracurricular pursuits, what makes VA the place they chose to be, and what it means to live and learn at Vermont Academy.