Kathy Leech of Merchants Bank in Bennington talks to Mount Anthony Union students about banking basics and career choices on Friday morning as a part of
Kathy Leech of Merchants Bank in Bennington talks to Mount Anthony Union students about banking basics and career choices on Friday morning as a part of career week. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- High-honors sophomore Isaac Salem spends three hours a night studying and working on homework. Between that and his time on the boys soccer team, ski team and golf team, he doesn't find the time to hold a job. Unlike many working high school students, Salem might have a different idea of work and finance by the time he's ready to go to college or enter the workforce.

Salem said career week gave him a broad perspective of jobs in Vermont and how a young individual's work ethic and education affects his or her outlook. "I think it provides a basis for how high school will influence your career one day," he said. "I take school pretty seriously, but I think it provides a reason for that. (This week) showed me that it's important to start thinking about your career now, and that you should start trying to associate your classes with what you are focused on."

It's precisely the focus of career week to give students like Salem an idea of what to expect. Mount Anthony Union High School freshmen, sophomores and juniors were divided into groups of 30 for a 15-minute block of time each day this week devoted to career week speakers. Each day, they met with a different local professional that gave them background on what they do, and what students would expect to do to be in their position.

During last year's career week, presenters spoke exclusively to seniors at the school.


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"The feedback we got from the business community was that those kids already had a sense of what they were doing (after high school). They asked if they could speak with the younger students," said Assistant Principal Kristyn Harrington.

This year, "the feedback from school has been beyond tremendous the presenters did a great job of engaging students," said Peter Odierna, executive director of Bennington County Industrial Corporation.

Odierna spearheaded Career Week by finding a diverse collection of 140 local business professionals to speak. "We wanted the presenters to stress the correlation between education and income ... as well as the importance of math and science in their respective fields," he said.

Odierna said the week's events gave students a look at local career opportunities out of high school, college or other training. As career week is held throughout future years, BCIC's objective will be to grow Vermont's labor force. "This is a long-term business development effort. After enough time, we feel it will bear low-hanging fruit," said Odierna.

On Friday, Salem sat through his final presentation of the week. Kathy Leech, a commercial loan officer for Merchant's Bank in Bennington, went over the broad schematics of how banks work, and then some. She made clear to students what subjects they learn in high school are highly valuable to somebody in her position. "Most importantly: Writing concise, clear sentences without error. In any job, always be careful what you say in an e-mail or text messages, and make sure it's accurate," Leech said.

Leech also made it evident that basic math and computer skills are very important. Her advice to the group of students who may not necessarily be interested in banking: "If you ever have a chance to take a bookkeeping course, take it as an elective. It will help you with your personal finances and put you one up over others in any job you hold."

Though only 16 years old, Salem said he has a pretty good idea that he will go to school for dentistry to follow in his family's footsteps at Salem Dentistry, but that he still found something to learn from each respective professional he listened to.

Contact Tom Momberg at tmomberg@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg