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Second Annual LIFT Program in Essex

by Jillian Scannell

LIFT participants pose with the picnic table they built during the week-long summer program.

By: Ada Case, VWW Youth Program Coordinator

Program Kicks of in Essex

This June, 14 high school girls and gender-expansive youth began their summers by diving head-first into the trades during LIFT (Launching Inclusive Futures in Trades). LIFT is our newest youth program, and it was exciting to build upon the curriculum we piloted last summer. Participants gained hands-on experience in a variety of traditionally male-dominated career fields including: carpentry, electrical and renewable energy, automotive mechanics, and beekeeping. 

One LIFT participant holds a board while another participant uses a drill to screw.

LIFT Participant uses a chop saw


Carpentry and Electrical

To kick off the week, participants learned basic carpentry skills through building their own portable beach chairs under the supervision of carpenter and Trailblazers alum Lily Lukaszevicz. Next, they worked in groups to build two full-sized picnic tables which will each be gifted to a local organization. To wrap up the carpentry portion of the week, participants applied their skills and creativity to build anything they could dream upbookshelves, birdhouses, storage crates, and more!

Later in the week, Erin Malloy from Vermont Energy Education Program (VEEP) joined us to lead a workshop about electricity and renewable energy. Participants learned how circuits function and where electricity comes from. Then, participants gained hands-on experience wiring outlets and light switches. 

LIFT Participant examines bees during intro to bee-keeping

LIFT participants gather around bee hives while wearing safety suits


Intro to Beekeeping

We were excited to have Apiarist Kate Blofson led a workshop about beekeeping. Participants learned about the life cycle of bees, the hive caste system, and how to identify queens from drones and worker bees. Then, the group headed outside to do a mock queen-catch. They donned protective bee suits and gloves, then paired up to search for queen bees. The participants’ bravery was incredible, and soon some of them felt comfortable enough to remove their gloves and work with the bees using their bare hands. After the queen-catch was finished, participants made beeswax candles and did a honey tasting. A sweet way to end the day! 

LIFT participants gather around the hood of a car during the automotive lesson

LIFT participant uses a tire gauge to check the air pressure in a tire


Automotive Mechanics

On Friday morning, retired automotive and transportation services professor Steve Belitsos joined us for an auto mechanics workshop. Participants learned how to check fluids and tire pressure, use a scissor jack to change a tire, and more. Many of the LIFT participants are new drivers or looking forward to getting their drivers’ licenses soon, so these skills will surely come in handy as they learn to be responsible motorists. 

Additional Programming

We were also visited by two guest speakers, Beth White and Taylor Sirois, during the week. Beth is the founder of Habitat for Aviation, a nonprofit teaching youth about all aspects of the aviation field. Taylor is a graduate of the Advanced Welding Institute and currently works for BETA Technologies. Beth and Taylor each spoke with participants about their own career journeys and their experiences being a woman in the trades. It was inspiring to see how passionate they both are about their jobs and learn about each of these sectors.  

In addition to trades skills, social-emotional learning activities and fun games were incorporated each day to teach youth skills for navigating school, relationships, and the workplace. These lessons included activities from our own Power Skills curriculum, such as Owning My Digital Identity. This Power Skill encourages youth to examine their online habits and teaches them how to navigate virtual spaces safely and authentically. We also used several activities from Girls’ Leadership, including Community Contract, Breathing for Self-Regulation, and Future-Focused Prompts.

Margaret Overman, VWW’s Gender Equity Manager, also led a workshop around gender bias, occupational segregation, and the gender wage gap to provide participants with the tools to advocate for themselves as they begin to enter the workforce. 

Participant Feedback
  • “I got an intro to different trades in the field and I learned that if I set my mind to it, I can figure out a problem solve through any problem.” 
  • “I would recommend [LIFT] because it is a great community and you learn a lot about the trades.” 
  • “I learned how to build new things, how to check tire pressure. Something I learned about myself is it’s easier to make friends with people that like to do the stuff I do.” 
  • “I learned more about beekeeping. That I like it and enjoy carpentry more than I thought I would.” 
  • “[LIFT is] a good way to make new friends and a good way to learn stuff you wouldn’t know how to do.” 
  • “I learned I can do more than I thought.” 

A special thank you to all our instructors and guest speakers for such a wonderful week and to the Center for Technology, Essex for generously letting us use their space for the program 

The LIFT program is funded by many generous supporters, including: Town of Essex Human Services Fund, Carhartt, Salmon Foundation, and Serve Learn Earn.


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