Commencement
Graduating Student Spotlight: Sophie O’Clair MacKenzie Riley Young | May 10, 2022
person sitting in chair holding a book in her lap smiling at camera

Sophie O’Clair ’22 is not your typical student. In 2021, she graduated with her associate degree from Thomas College before she even graduated from high school. This is because of an early college program called Pathways at Thomas College.

Now, she’s graduating with her bachelor’s degree from Thomas after just three semesters (1.5 years) and she’s doing it debt free.

“My family instilled the importance of graduating from college with little to no debt due to their college debt experiences. This meant taking as many online and dual enrollment classes in high school, commuting an hour a day to and from Thomas, and working three jobs, over 60 hours a week in the summers, and part-time during the school year,” said Sophie. “While it’s been emotionally and physically draining, through scholarships, my own savings, and resource privileges, I’ve been able to graduate debt-free and pay for every course and book on my own.”

The psychology major from Fayette, Maine came into Thomas College pretty certain of her journey after college, but it was an Anatomy and Physiology class with Dr. Moloney that made her change her mind.

“Towards the end of our course, we had a day focusing on inclusive Sex Ed. It was the first time that I had been in a classroom setting where each student was given the space to ask questions both shamelessly and safely. Professor Moloney did an amazing job of including BIPOC, disabled, and LGBTQ+ inclusive topics, and that was refreshing to receive as a student who had never had that kind of education offered in previous classrooms,” said Sophie. “That one-hour lesson ended up changing my focus within my degree and has sparked other educational/ professional opportunities for me.”

Sophie is planning to continue to work as a Behavioral Health Professional (BHP) for Galant Therapy Services and a Designated Service Provider (DSP) for the Morrison Center to save up and pay for grad school.

She’s also currently training to be a Sex Educator with a focus on intersectional accessibility. She plans to eventually combine her education and passions for accessibility, psychology and inclusive Sex Ed to build/teach curriculum for folks with needs and other individuals who don’t have access to educational opportunities that cater to them and their lives.

Sophie didn’t figure out her journey on her own and is thankful for the various staff and faculty who were there for her.

“The peer tutors, Fire and Ice Program, and folks in the Professional and Career Development Department were all ridiculously helpful to me, and there is a lot of funding/ money that is untouched because students don’t know it’s available- If you are wondering, ask!”

Although Sophie’s journey was non-traditional, it is still alike so many of our students who are hardworking and driven individuals who take advantage of Thomas College’s inspiring environment and personalized experience that leads to success.

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