Click photo to enlarge
MAU sophomore Cole Lamoreaux meets with BPD officer David Dutcher during the Career Meet Up event held collaboratively among Mount Anthony Union High School, the Career Development Center, and Burr and Burton Academy and the Community College of Vermont. Students spoke one-on-one with adult professionals in a variety of fields. (Derek Carson/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- Students from Mount Anthony Union High School, the Career Development Center, and Burr and Burton Academy had the opportunity on Monday to meet one-on-one with a wide variety of local professionals.

The Career Meet Up was part of the Emerging Leaders Program, a partnership between the three secondary schools and the Community College of Vermont. The 21 students were able to meet with one of the 21 professionals one-on-one for about 15 minutes, at which point the students rotated and met with another adult. The meet-up started at 3:30 p.m. and lasted until about 5:45.

Among those present were Dimitri Garder, owner of Global Z; Dixie Zens, owner of Abacus Automation; Rich Sager, owner of Essential Massage; Aaron Dickie, career resource specialist from the Department of Labor; Peter Odierna, director of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation; Bill Botzow, of the Vermont House of Representatives; Joann Erenhouse, director of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce; Peg Daly and Trimarche from the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center; Julie Cornell, large animal veterinarian; Terry Morse, water superintendent for the Town of Bennington; David Dutcher from the Bennington Police Department; Kevin Phillips, from Orvis; Brad Andrews from Kaman Composites; Michael Batcher, solid waste program manager at the Bennington County Regional Commission; Beth Halpern a licensed clinical social worker; Lon McClintock, attorney; Amanda Garcia, from Oldcastle Theatre; Janet Groom, substance abuse counselor; and teachers Wendy Klein and Brooke Remington, from the CDC and MAU respectively.

"This is meant to be more of a conversation," said Amy Beth Kessinger, MAU's Community-School Coordinator, who also works as MAU's liaison to the program, to the assembled students, many of whom were visibly nervous, "Your job is to go into the room, sit down with someone new, and start talking. Ask them about their job, their experiences." Each student had "business cards," which they exchanged with the professionals they met. The cards listed the students' e-mail, phone number, and some of their values, skills, and qualities.

One of the students, MAU sophomore Cole Lamoureaux, said that being selected to the emerging leaders program had come as a complete surprise. "I was just sitting in class one day, when I got called down to see Ms. Kessinger, who told me that someone had recommended me for the program." Lamoureaux said that he wanted to go into law enforcement, and as soon as he entered the room, he spotted Officer Dutcher, who was in uniform, and went to talk to him.

"You have to be 23 with a degree to join the academy, so I have to plan for that," said Lamoureaux. Dutcher gave him simple advice: Keep your record clean. When asked if he had any specific plans for getting a degree, Lamoureaux replied, "I'd love to stay close to my family, in New England, but I'm staying wide open. I'll go wherever I can best help people."

Phillips, who works in e-commerce at Orvis, was impressed with the students. "It's really interesting, because they have their act together so much more than I did when I was their age," he said. Phillips was speaking with MAU sophomore Sara Henderson, who will graduate high school with a degree in cosmetology, and hopes to use those skills to pay for college. "To have that foresight, as a sophomore, is incredible," said Phillips.

For her part, Henderson, who listed her qualities as "enthusiastic, friendly, quiet, and self-confident," enjoyed the opportunity to speak with professionals and learn how they had gotten to where they were in life. "It's good, because you get to learn what other peoples' experiences are," she said. Henderson said she hadn't decided yet what she wanted to go to school for, but was considering massage therapy. At an emerging leaders program event in January, she had said her career interests were cosmetology and science.

Phillips, who had joined the Marines out of high school, recommended that she find a job that allows her to follow her passions. "Get out there and see the world, travel. Get your degree then be a masseuse on a cruise ship" or in South America, he said. "Everything you do is a stepping stone."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB