NAUGATUCK — When Jacob Dooling graduated from Naugatuck High School in 2009, he knew college was the next step. What he did not know was that after earning his associate’s degree at Naugatuck Valley Community College, he would receive a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University.
“I was getting discouraged from all the rejections [from other schools],” said Dooling. But when he read the letter from Hopkins, he said he had to reread it a few times. “ It was like winning the lottery.”
Dooling will begin his studies in mechanical engineering in the fall at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.
“Everyone says I deserve it, but I don’t know if I deserve everything I’m getting,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who struggle, and I know a lot of people who struggle and have a hard time and they try hard, too, but they don’t get [financial aid].”
Dooling graduated as the distinguished student of the Naugatuck Valley Community College Class of 2013. This honor, similar to the valedictorian, is given to a student who had a GPA of 3.7 or higher, completed more than half of their college courses at NVCC and is a leader in the school and community. He also won the President’s Circle Award, the highest honor for matriculating college students, and the Randy E. Bergin Mathematics Award.
Dooling has a strong support system in his family. His mom stayed at home to raise Jacob and his brother, Mitchell, a rising senior at Naugatuck High School. Dooling said his mother is the one who encouraged him to keep going.
“She really kept us on our feet, making sure we were on the ball,” he said. “She’s the one behind me for everything.”
Dooling’s younger brother is carrying on the family’s love of mathematics. He’s taking Advanced Placement calculus next year, and enlisted his big brother for summer tutoring.
For those like him, who struggled with finding a way to pay for college, Dooling strongly recommends the community college route.
“Community college is an important stepping stone,” he said.
For him, he wasn’t sure if moving to a four-year school right away would have been the best option.
In high school, Dooling did not participate in any sports or extra-curricular activities. But at Naugatuck Valley, the borough native became a part of the school community.
“That was the main difference [between high school and college],” he said. “Being a part of the community really gave me the opportunity to grow.”
Dooling immersed himself in student life at Naugatuck Valley. As a part of the WAVE program, he received a full scholarship to NVCC and used the opportunity in order to take advantage of what the program had to offer.
Mitch Holmes, professor at NVCC and Dooling’s first year experience teacher, said that not many students adapt to college life like Dooling did.
“It’s not often you get an 18-year-old man with [Dooling’s] determination,” said Holmes. “He’s an old soul in a young body … and he’s able to see the bigger picture.”
During his two years at NVCC, Dooling tutored high school students and joined the Waterbury branch of Americorps where he traveled with a group to tutor at-risk middle school students.
Outside of his coursework, Dooling teaches Tae Kwon Do and runs. He ran his first marathon last year, and hopes to complete a triathlon within the next five years. A thrill-seeker, Dooling went skydiving for the first time in June.
“Everything new gives you an experience to grow,” he said. “I figure, might as well do it while I’m young.”