In Spring 2017, Cassidy Peters graduated from Virginia Western with an associate in science degree, Phi Theta Kappa honors and dreams of becoming a health care administrator in the mold of Lisa Cuddy on Fox TV’s “House, M.D.”

What brought you to Virginia Western?

I am a first-generation college student. I live in Ferrum, my family is not super-wealthy. I had no idea how to really do the college thing.

But a Virginia Western advisor approached me in high school and told me about CCAP, how I could go tuition-free if I met all of the requirements. A Franklin County High School teacher also told me about my options with the transfer program.

It seemed like an easy decision to me. I was good for two years and I had all the advising help I needed. To me, I knew this was the best option because — while I’ve never held $20,000 in my hands — I know I don’t want to pay it a year.

What would you have done without CCAP?

My first semester here was a little shaky. I don’t think high school students know how to study. It’s a difficult transition, to try to teach yourself a lot. If I’d gone to a four-year school, my GPA would not be as good as it is and I’d have student loans. And I think I wouldn’t have been as grown up – I really grew up here. I really know what I want now.

What are your plans after Virginia Western?

I am transferring to Jefferson College of Health Sciences to get a bachelor’s in health sciences and then hope to become a physician’s assistant. But my ultimate goal is to get a master’s in healthcare administration. I want to be Cuddy and help run a hospital. I very much crave leadership – a good leader can bring out the best in people.  And I like the idea of saving lives and making that as efficient as possible.

What role did the advisors at Virginia Western play in that decision?

It was my business advisor here who told me, “Hey, you can get your MBA but also have a strong health tie.’ I had no idea that even existed.

What I noticed is when you talk to advisors at four-year schools, the only thing they market to you is their school. Here, the difference is their goal is to get you to your end goal – not just to this school. You guys were looking more at the big picture instead of just selling me on the school.

How important is CCAP in Franklin County?

CCAP really does mean the difference between a kid having to take years off to earn money for school or not. It really is a door for a lot of kids. Because without it, they couldn’t afford it. Like me — I never had parents who went to college. They didn’t know how to take out a student loan or what a FAFSA was. I really had to figure it out by myself. I’m grateful I had two years here to grow up and figure that out myself.