Leland & Gray graduate yearning to hear other stories

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Editor's Note: The Reformer solicited area high schools for a senior to profile. This suggestion came from Leland and Gray Union Middle High School.

TOWNSEND — Senior Jessie Stockwell craves diversity. She loves her tiny school, Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, but she's excited to go to the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall, where she suspects she'll meet people from all over the country and maybe even all over the world.

Stockwell will be studying sports management. UMass Amherst has "one of the best programs in the country," Stockwell said.

She loves sports and plays soccer, basketball and softball. The Leland & Gray catcher said softball is her favorite.

"I've been playing sports since I could walk," Stockwell said.

She interned with Marty Testo, the school's athletics director, who pushed her into sports management. During her internship she prepped for the seasons, did paperwork, ordered jerseys and got the fields ready. "I wanted to see what goes on to make a game happen," said Stockwell, who thinks it would be cool to do what she was doing with Testo on a larger scale.

"Who knows if I'll like it or not. It's going to be totally different looking at it at face value and being in the middle of everything," she said.

When Stockwell isn't in class or getting her head in the game, she works at Harmonyville Store. She describes it as the hub for Leland and Gray students and said it's common for people to come in, grab a sandwich and ask her about her latest game.

Stockwell said that, "besides the hallways that go in a circle," Leland & Gray is unique because "everyone knows everyone."

Stockwell did admit that she's nervous about making friends when she goes to college. She's lived in the same place her whole life. Everyone she knows has had similar life experiences. Their parents all work at the same kind of places. "Around here everyone's either a farmer or a self-owned business," said Stockwell, who wants to know what other people's lives are like. "I think being secluded around here and going somewhere bigger will show me how much world there is out there," she said.

Diversity is one aspect about college that Stockwell is looking forward to. She wants to learn about other cultures through sports. Last year she got to go to London to play basketball and she said hearing about the British players' lives and how they differed from her own was inspiring. The girls she played with went to school in inner city London. "I don't know what it means to go to school in a big city like that," she said. "I drive to school, they probably don't drive to school. I don't know if they have a green."

By learning about these other experiences, Stockwell thinks she can better serve others. Over the summer, Stockwell works at sport camps. She can see herself working to develop sports programs for kids in the future so everyone will have the opportunity to play sports. "Around here we all have that opportunity, but somewhere else maybe they don't," Stockwell said.

Stockwell tries to make the most of her opportunities. She volunteers with her basketball team at the food shelf. The team also raises money for scholarships through Hoops for Hope. She thinks sports can contribute to the well being of communities. "I hope I can translate that to a larger scale," she said.

Stockwell thinks her class will do well in the real world. All of her teachers lament their loss of the Class of 2017. Her class is academically strong and very involved, Stockwell said. "My friends and I are involved with every sport and top 10 of our class," she said. "We take all of the advantages Leland & Gray offers us and have fun with it."

If she had one piece of advice to offer her classmates, it would be to make the most of their advantages. "Take advantage of all the opportunities offered to you, there's so much out there that we don't know about because we're a small town in Vermont," she said. "I think it's really important that we all take advantage of that, learn from that, build on that and make more of them."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.


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