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River Bend student explores careers

Journal Opinion of Bradford, Vermont

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BRADFORD—The irony for school board members is that they rarely get to see actual students at their regular meetings. But on Sept. 16, a River Bend senior, Jenna Whitehill, studying diversified agriculture led them through a presentation about what is happening in her program and in the various other tech center programs. Hearing from a student perspective seemed to be an enjoyable experience for board members, who were also treated to a buffet dinner produced by the culinary students.

Kevin Lawrence, who is River Bend's cooperative education coordinator, accompanied Whitehill to the meeting. Lawrence works to place students in internships in the community in areas where they can gain experience in a field that complements the program they have chosen at the tech center.

Whitehill has been interning at the Robie Farm across the river in Piermont. She described various projects for the board, including logging, making cheese and "playing with cows."

"They're pretty interesting," Whitehill said of the cows. "I got to (help) birth a few calves."

Whitehill's home school is Rivendell Academy and she also takes a course at Dartmouth College. She is also studying karate after school. All this means that life is very busy since she has to spend a considerable amount of time traveling to and from the various campuses in the course of a day.

One project that Whitehill took on at River Bend was to interview students in several of the tech center's programs. In automotive tech, she talked to students who were working on brakes and electrical systems. She said that most students are currently working on college applications at this time of year.

In the emergency services program, students are learning to drive emergency vehicles defensively and in cosmetology, they are learning about skin. The electrical tech students are learning about craftsmanship and wiring a house and in culinary, they are learning about sanitation, safety and sauces.

The health science students are currently focusing on certification and CPR and seniors are in the process of working towards a licensed practical nurse certification.

Whitehill said she interviewed students in the heavy equipment program that were "picking up dirt" and moving it around. In the pre-tech program, six students are collaborating with Oxbow to make a "wood truck" that runs on wood. They are trying to complete a "gasification" process.

With this energetic schedule, Whitehill expects to complete six college credits by the time she graduates from Rivendell and River Bend next spring. Along the way, assisted by her exploration of farming as a career, she has decided that her initial goals may not be the ones she will be focusing on after graduation.

"I came into school thinking I would be a farmhand, but found I couldn't do the physical part of it," Whitehill said. "But I liked running the business part of things and accounting."

Lillian Gahagan can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: September 24, 2014

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