Sophomore Summit connects students with career choices

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BRATTLEBORO — Downtown was swarming with 10th- graders Wednesday, and it wasn't because they were all playing hooky.

As a matter of fact, skipping school was the furthest thing from the minds of the dozens of sophomores who were participating in the second Sophomore Summit, a one-day career exploration event.

"Learning what you don't want to do is as important as learning what you do want to do," said Alex Beck, a workforce and education specialist with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp.

The Sophomore Summit was organized by the BDCC, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, Youth Services, the Southern Vermont Area Health Education Center, Collegiate High School and guidance counselors from Brattleboro Union High School, Bellows Falls Union High School and Leland & Gray Union High School. The Latchis Theatre served as the focal point for the workshops, which were hosted by professionals in industries as varied as health care, the construction trades, education, cosmetology, fine arts, and law enforcement, just to name a few.

"We are trying to encourage the kids to think about all the options that are available to them after high school," said Anne Doran, a guidance counselor at the Windham Regional Career Center.

Doran said the Sophomore Summit fits right into the programs that WRCC offers, including Pathways, which gives juniors and seniors the ability to "self-design a sequence of classes with specific programs that combine and complement each other to create a rigorous area of concentration."

By attending the summit, sophomores can get an idea of where their interests lie before they begin designing a career pathway, she said.

"There are many different pathways," said Susan Lawson-Kelleher, youth workforce development manager for Youth Services. "And each path is designed to allow students to step off wherever they feel comfortable."

In the construction, electrical and plumbing workshops, students learned that summer jobs are available.

"Every contractor I deal with would be happy to hire two people willing to work," said Boomer Walker, of WW Building Supplies. "In the state of Vermont, our most valuable commodity is its young people. We need youth to stay, to work and to raise families."

"You can almost write your own ticket right out of school if you have the right training," said Steve Sebastian, who taught the construction trades at WRCC.

Emilie Kornheiser, the early childhood action plan director for Building Bright Futures of Vermont, said the state could do a better job in connecting employers with students still in school.

"We are not forming relationships between generations and across class lines," she said, meaning a lot of employment opportunities for youth are being left on the table. "It's natural for youth with means to want to leave Vermont, but are they leaving with the knowledge there is something to come back home to?"

During the Sophomore Summit, said Beck, sophomores can start the process of building their own individual pathways by talking with professionals in many different career fields.

"They can then do job shadowing or even an apprenticeship," he said

The Sophomore Summit gets 10th-graders thinking about their career goals, before they have to make concrete decisions on how to best reach their goals, said Lawson-Kelleher.

"All of the presenters here are local," she said. "They are a visual example of the diversity of employers and careers in Vermont."

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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