By Neal Crosson, National Admissions Manager
I recently sat down to chat with Ann Stucki, High School College Counselor at Wasatch Academy. Ann, both a college counselor and a parent to a Verto participant, shares her insights on the program’s educational and personal growth opportunities. With a rich background in sociocultural studies and extensive travel, Ann highlights why she recommends Verto to students, including her son. Read on below or watch the recording!
Neal: Ann, thank you for joining us. You’ve been a huge supporter of Verto Education, with about five of your students enrolled for fall ’24. Can you tell us about your background?
Ann: I studied sociocultural anthropology and taught intercultural communications. After my undergraduate, I did two years of AmeriCorps, working with medically underserved populations in Utah. My AmeriCorps grant funded my master’s in social work at the University of Utah. I traveled extensively with my opera singer husband, living all over Europe, Mexico, Israel, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. I started college counseling in 2017 at Wasatch Academy, an international boarding school. We have students from all over the world and all over the United States, and it’s been really fun. I love helping students make connections. With my social work background, I call college counseling “happy social work” because we’re looking at hopes, dreams, and possibilities.
Neal: How did you hear about Verto and what were your initial impressions when you heard about this crazy thing called first-year abroad? What are some of the other things that made you consider it for your current students, including your son Colin, for this upcoming academic year?
Ann: I think I found Verto online. I had a student in 2018 who was looking to study in Spain. I found an email from early March of 2018 and I was like, “Hey, you need to look at this Verto program.” I think from finding it online, I then connected with the Verto team in the 2019 NACAC. I was just like, “Hey! I’ve heard about you guys!” I got on the email list, and I’ve been suggesting to students for a few years, I’m like, “Just try it! Why not? What do we have to lose?”
Seeing the Italy campus in person made me an even bigger fan. To see kind of the support teams that are in place to help students and to help my own son. My understanding there’s a care team that oversees their academics and there’s another care team to make sure that their living situation is going well for them. They’re living in another country. I mean, that’s pretty intense as an 18-year-old, but I was just really impressed that they’re not just, like, thrown in and expected to figure it all out themselves, but they have a structure for them to be successful.
In the last few years, students have been looking for more gap year opportunities. Why not have a gap year where you’re also earning credit and learning about the world? And I just feel like for my own son also, he’s traveled extensively. He spent extended time in about ten countries, but it’s before he remembers. So I’m excited for him to have a turn now and just go figure some things out. Like I was able to as a young person, as an 18-year-old when I started working internationally. I’m excited for my son and for my students to just see what’s open to them.
Ann with her family in Oxford in 2022!
Neal: How does what we offer at Verto align with the goals and aspirations of the students that you work with?
Ann: I have a past student who’s doing the Spain program. I’ve loved following her journey, and it looks like it’s still warm in Spain right now. I’ve spent a lot of time in Latin America, but I haven’t gotten to Spain yet, so I’ve been horribly jealous of her. Her family was thrilled that she would be in an environment where she’s earning credit while being supported. And they were just so happy for her to get this time away, but still moving towards her goals. Verto has been great for our students because a lot of them travel extensively, even just to come to our high school. But I’m also really impressed with how Verto is making it accessible to students with your funding opportunities, that it’s not just for high income students. I’ve been really impressed.
Verto is an incredible tool in my toolbox. On Saturday, I was with one of my juniors, and I couldn’t help myself but be like, “Hey, have you thought about doing a year internationally?” First, I just feel like the positives outweigh the negatives, and it’s just such a way to open up your perspective. I just can’t stop suggesting it to students. The application process is so streamlined and simple, and I believe in the care that you all show to these students.
Neal: What would you say to other high school college counselors considering recommending Verto to their students?
Ann: I’d say there’s really nothing to lose. It’s such a simple and streamlined process, and you’re giving your students the world. I’m just so excited to see this process through with my own child, to make sure that he will have things open up that have not even crossed his mind yet. He’s stressed right now, thinking, ‘I don’t know what I want to do with my life.’ And I’m like, you don’t need to know. So go and have these experiences that will help you make connections that you cannot even anticipate. I’m excited for him and for my other students. I keep track of students usually on Instagram, and it’s been just so incredible to see their photo journey of their experiences.
Neal: Ann, any final thoughts or comments you’d like to share before we wrap up?
Ann: I’ve been so impressed with the program. I was super fortunate to see the Italy campus, and seeing it in person really just brought it to life. The support systems ensure students are not just left to figure it out. There are caring individuals who want to see them have a transformative experience.