The Mountain Times

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Seventh graders take journey to learn about college and careers

CASTLETON-Over 300 junior high school students from around the region gathered at Castleton State College last week for an annual event presented by the Rutland Region Workforce Investment Board on the importance of education and career goals. The aphorism for the day was "your journey starts here." Seventh graders spent the day on campus hearing from inspirational speakers, touring the college and meeting with student athletes.

"We're trying to do things to increase the relevance of school," said Nancy Burzon, executive director of the board.
Many seemed to echo the message that if a young student shows interest in a particular path in life, it is critical that he or she recognizes the importance of their choices now. "Today doesn't have to be about putting a plan in place but let's challenge you to think about a few things," said adjunct professor and head football coach Marc Klatt in his welcoming speech. "College is a place to enhance your personal growth. It's going to challenge you in the way you think and feel about things. You're going to have the opportunity to hear about and experience others perspectives. Life is about challenges and how you respond to them."

The assembly then heard from a Vermont State Trooper about his education, life and the importance of perseverance.

After the introductory remarks, the young students split into groups led by 42 college mentors, most of which were athletes.

"These students are a few years ahead of these seventh graders in their own journey. They are going to be helping these younger students think about their future by sharing their stories," Burzon said.

As both a teacher and coach, Marc Klatt knows firsthand the unique pressures college student-athletes encounter, and notes that it is impressive that they are able to take time to participate. "It speaks to the type of student-athletes we have here," Klatt says.

"They are always willing and giving of their time which is at a premium because of classes, practice, games, and training sessions with our strength and conditioning staff."

In the smaller groups, the seventh graders shared what they wanted to be when they grew up and if they had plans for college. "At first, they were a bit hesitant to ask us questions, but as the day went on, they were all over it asking us questions about college, academics, and sports," said Chelsea Crehan, one of the student leaders. "I enjoyed it and would do it again if the opportunity presented itself."

Crehan plans on becoming a middle school physical education teacher so she enjoyed the opportunity to interact with that age group. She sees value in the program and recognizes the importance of having choices presented to you early in your educational career. "There are many students who do not believe they are college bound or will make it to college. I think it is good to put the idea of college and also athletics into their heads at an early age because everyone has the opportunity to make a choice about college and what they want to be when they grow up. It gives students the opportunity to set goals for themselves early and reevaluate once they get to high school," she said.

An extensive tour of the Castleton campus was the highlight of the day for many of the young students. They saw classrooms, dorm buildings and athletic complexes.

To wrap the day up, Anthony Edwards and Melissa Rixon spoke to the whole group who reunited at the Fine Arts Center at Castleton. Edwards and Rixon are both are recent graduates of Rutland High School and shared their stories about the choices they made and the resources they utilized. Edwards shoots photography for the Rutland Herald and spoke highly of the Stafford Technical School program. Rixon is currently a student at Johnson State College and she spoke about how her plans and goals changed throughout her educational pursuits. She wrapped up the event succinctly by quoting the 'best motivational speaker ever:' Yoda, from Star Wars. "Do or do not, there is no try."