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Career Center students place first in winter forestry contest

BRATTLEBORO—What does an ash tree look like after it’s been infested with the emerald ash borer? Students in Dennis Hamilton’s Forestry and Natural Resources class at the Windham Regional Career Center can tell you.

They recently won first place at the Vermont Farm Show’s winter forestry contest, and this kind of identification was part of the competition. The contest, sponsored by Future Farmers of America (FFA), was held at the 82nd annual Vermont Farm Show at the Champlain Valley fairgrounds in Essex Junction.

Career centers from throughout the state were involved in the competition, as were more than 160 students.

Three of Hamilton’s students won the top three honors and placed first as a team: Sam Rushton from Grafton; Oscar Smith from Whitingham; and Corey Nystrom from Brookline, respectively.

The competition consisted of four components: identifying local trees by bark and bud; identifying samples of both native and non-native pests by seeing either the pests themselves or viewing the damage done to trees; grading various samples of maple syrup; and completing a written exam on Christmas and maple tree production and on insects and pests.

Hamilton says the most valuable part of this experience seemed to him to be the self-esteem that students gained from seeing how well they fared against other students in the state.

“Kids don’t think they ‘have it’ and you take them to something like this and they realize they do. It makes the whole venture worthwhile,” he explained.

The Career Center’s Forestry and Natural Resources course is an outside, environmental class that works with trees, wildlife, habitat, fish and water. Students learn to operate large and small equipment, participate in Game of Logging safety training, plant and climb trees, produce maple syrup, and explore other added-value products. Students also gain certification in CPR, AED, and standard first aid.

Earlier this year, Hamilton’s students took first place in an FFA-sponsored, state-wide soil judging contest.

The Windham Regional Career Center provides technical and career training for students from these high schools: Brattleboro, Leland & Gray, Twin Valley, Bellows Falls, and Hinsdale, N.H., as well as the Austine School for the Deaf.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #244 (Wednesday, March 5, 2014). This story appeared on page A4.

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