BENNINGTON -- The second annual Bennington Career Week is in full swing -- even for first graders.
On Wednesday morning, seven parents visited the kindergarten and first grade classes at Bennington Elementary School, to describe their careers. The careers represented included police officer, dental hygienist, accountant, outreach worker, cosmetologist, and baker.
Students were asked what careers they wanted to have when they grew up, and their answers included nurses, doctors, dentists, construction workers, and even one child who wanted to be "a baker at McDonald's."
Officer John Behan, of the Bennington Police Department, was the first parent to present. "To become a police officer," he said, "one of the things you have to do is not get in trouble." He encouraged the students to always follow the rules, whether at school or at home. He told them that becoming a police officer was a lot of work, and that they would need to do their best in school and then complete a 16-week course at the police academy, but that, "It's a great, great job."
Behan said that he was extremely proud of his son, who will turn 5 later this month, and recently told him, "Dad, you know what I'm going to be? A police officer and an army man, just like you."
One child asked Behan why he carried a gun. "It always stays in our holster unless we have to use it," said Behan, "And hopefully we'll never have to. Unfortunately, there are people out there who might want to hurt us, and sometimes, in order to protect you and keep you safe, we have to use them.
Julia, a dental hygienist, demonstrated the special mask and glasses she wears on the job. She drew a shocked gasp from the assembled students when she told them she had worked on patients as young as 3 and as old as 103. "You should brush your teeth every morning and every night before you go to bed," she said in response to one student who asked her what cavities were and how not to get them.
"How many people know what an accountant does?" asked Bill Michaud when it was his time to present. When every hand went up, Michaud asked one student, "What does an accountant do?"
"Get money?" said the student hesitantly, drawing a laugh from Michaud.
"Close," he said, "What we do, my co-workers and I, is help people and companies understand their money." Michaud used the popular Nintendo DS portable game system as an example, explaining students that the price they have to pay in stores is carefully decided on by accountants who have to judge how much each part of the product costs to produce, as well as other costs. "I like my job," he said, "My job is a lot of learning. I'm learning all the time."
Next up was Katrina Hollis, an outreach worker at United Counseling Services in Bennington. "I help young adults access resources in the community," said Hollis, who primarily works with youths between the ages of 13-21. She said that some of her duties include teaching people how to get their education, and how to live on their own. "I get to go to work every day and change lives, and make people smile," she said.
One student, slightly misunderstanding what Hollis meant when she said she helped people for a living, asked her what happens when someone falls down. "If someone falls down, I help them back up," said Hollis.
Nicole, a paralegal, described her job as "a fancy word for a lawyer's secretary," but stressed to the children was an extremely important one, that required a lot of training and some very specialized skills. "I actually went to school to be a cop," she said, "but I didn't want to deal with the guns, so I went in this direction."
Sarah, a cosmetologist, talked about how fun and rewarding a career as a hairdresser could be. "I love people, I like to make people happy and comfortable," she said. She taught the children about three different follicle shapes that produce different hair textures. "A lot of people don't think its a dangerous career, but it is. We use a lot of chemicals that can burn your skin, or your eyes, or break your hair."
When one child mentioned that a family member was a hairdresser, Sarah, who has worked in the business for eight years, responded, "There's a lot of hairdressers out there, it's kind of an easy job to get. Not everyone does a good job, though."
The final parent to present was Mary Ellen Devlin, who works as a baker at Willy's Variety Store and Bakery on Gage Street. "I wanted to work with my family, and do something I loved," said Devlin on why she chose to be a baker. She started decorating cakes as a hobby when she was a child, and eventually decided to turn it into a career. She makes cakes, cupcakes, cookies, pies, muffins, pastries, and turnovers, she told the students.
She asked students what things they wanted on their birthday cakes, and received answers ranging from a Harley-Davidson cake and an ATV cake, to requests for Barbie and superhero cakes. "When I started doing this," said Devlin, "I only knew about some things, like Mickey Mouse, and some cutesy things. Now I know all the characters that you enjoy, and its so much fun."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB