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Rumble Strip: St. Johnsbury Academy Students Learn Trades Right On Campus

St. Johnsbury Academy electrical program students gather around a table at the Brantview dorm.
Erica Heilman
Rumble Strip
St. Johnsbury Academy students in the electrical program work on a renovation project at the Brantview dormitory on campus.

At St. Johnsbury Academy, career technical education is a serious business, and student work is there for all to see, and use, and taste.

Right now in Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, 19 high school kids are managing all the electric work for a $5.5 million renovation on the Academy campus. Together with their teacher, Jeremy Roberts, they are on schedule to finish this new dorm by April. 

Meanwhile, the autobody students are in the shop doing maintenance on all Academy-owned vehicles. The culinary kids are preparing lunch for the public at their restaurant downtown.

"Sometimes in Career and Technical Education ... people think you’re not smart. But at the Academy it's better, because teachers and students can see what we’re doing. And they see how much we contribute to the school. The truth is, some of us learn better when we can see what we’re doing. When we can pull things apart and figure out why they work." — Matthew Shonia, St. Johnsbury Academy Electrical Program

Unlike most programs in the state, Career and Technical Education at St. Johnsbury Academy is integrated into the larger academic school. As a result, 80 percent of the full student body takes at least one CTE course during their academic career, and two-thirds of the students who focus their time in CTE go on to secondary education in their trade field or employment in that field.

In this program you’ll hear from five students and two teachers in the CTE program at the Academy. They are kids who love to "work with their hands" and "learn by doing." They are kids who want to graduate from high school with employable skills.

And during years of on-the-job training with teachers who are master tradesmen in their fields, they develop unique and important relationships with these teachers — and sometimes relationships are life-altering.

Broadcast on VPR on March 15, 2018. Click here to listen to the full episode.

A thin grey line.

In this program:

  • Jeremy Roberts, master electrician
  • Matthew Stark, master woodworker


  • Alex Heywood, Electric
  • Matthew Shonia, Electric
  • Noah Garey, Woodworking
  • Dennis Destins, Electric and Woodworking
  • Gwen Frechette, Culinary



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