Community Engagement

High school program helps teens gain real work experience

RUTLAND, Vt. — Two programs at Rutland High School are helping students find their future careers by giving them a chance to participate in actual work experiences throughout the Rutland area.

Meaghan Marsh, the School-to-Work coordinator, said she and Sarah Hagge, an English teacher at the high school who runs the Promoting Learning by Activating Community Engagement (PLACE) program, collaborate on the two programs.

The PLACE program is in its second year and supported by a grant from the Rowland Foundation. School-to-Work is older than that, but Marsh has run it for two years.

PLACE works with students who have some ideas about careers they would like to explore. Hagge helps identify Rutland area employers where students can spend time as interns learning about the field.

There are more than 15 students in the program this year placed with employers like the Rutland City Police Department, Rutland Regional Medical Center and Castleton University. Most of the students spend one to three hours, two to three days a week with the employer.

Marsh said School-to-Work provides career development education. She said employers have expressed concern that some students don’t exhibit skills such as communicating with employers or showing up on time, and School-to-Work addresses those areas.

Some of the students in the program, which this year has more than 30 participants, don’t have a clear idea about what career path they would like to pursue and can learn more from the program, which rotates students through several different fields, Marsh said.

“What we keep hearing from employers, the more time we spend in the community, is that there are a lot of training programs in Rutland County, a huge need for (employees) . We’re trying to make that connection between Rutland High School kids and the Rutland community,” Marsh said.

Hagge said many of the employers approached by RHS have been eager to participate.

“They’re often happy to have the perspective of teenagers and their help. I think they generally feel positive about contributing to the education of these high school students,” she said.

In a Tuesday interview, Robert Cann, a freshman from Rutland, said he has just started an internship at Mama T’s Country Kitchen and the results have been “good, good, good.”

“I had an interest in cooking. … I’ve only had two days at Mama T’s, but I love it,” he said.

Noah Logan, a senior from West Rutland, wanted to follow the engineering classes he took at Stafford Technical Center with an internship in that field. At Kalow Technologies, he has learned about product development and working with clients.

“I’m seeing all sides of engineering and the manufacturing,” he said.

Senior Erin Juettner’s story gives a strong example of how the School-to-Work program can help students. She said she entered the program absolutely sure she wanted to be a nurse working with geriatric patients.

Except she didn’t like it at all when she tried it as an intern. But her story has a happy ending, as she learned how much she enjoyed teaching children, especially autistic children, during a different internship.

“I definitely got to knock off that I didn’t want to be a nurse, so now I don’t have to think about that when I go to college. I fell in love with teaching little kids, especially little kids with autism, and that’s what I want to go to school for,” she said.

Juettner has been accepted at Curry College in Massachusetts, where she will study early childhood education and special education.

Another local senior, Curtis Johnson, has been learning about business at the Mountain Cider Co. through PLACE. While Johnson said he was already interested in pursuing a business career, he said the internship at Mountain Cider has reinforced that feeling.

“I love everything there. I love being there,” he said.

Johnson said he’s been offered a summer position for 2019.