Vermont State University Apprenticeship Program Grows

Workforce Development in The Works at Vermont State University as Apprentice Programs Grow Significantly

More Vermonters take the opportunity to earn while they learn electrical, plumbing skills

Vermont State University (VTSU) reported a 13 percent increase in the number of students enrolled in its electrical and plumbing apprenticeship programs this year—up from 726 last year to 822. Efforts to grow the program come in response to acute workforce shortages in both sectors. Students in the programs work for local employers during the day and study a few nights a week, earning wages as they increase their skills.

“We are so happy to be growing because these programs are tightly aligned with the VTSU mission of preparing students for meaningful work, consistent with student aspirations and regional and state needs.” said Sarah Ballou, program manager for the VTSU apprenticeship programs. “We know that apprenticeships like these enable employers to develop and prepare their future workforces, while students can obtain paid work experience, classroom instruction and nationally recognized credentials. Plumbers and electricians are sorely needed, and they make solid wages,” she added.

Ballou said people of all ages take advantage of the VTSU program, noting that the oldest apprentice in this year’s cohort is 58.

“Students can start with the program in high school, through their tech centers,” she noted. “Our youngest apprentice this year is 17.”

Ballou said she is particularly proud that the program is attracting more women.

“The number of women in the program this year is more than 50 percent higher than last year,” she explained. “We hope that trend will continue.”

One employer who has fostered many apprentices is Pam Benoit of Benoit Electric.

“We use registered apprentices all the time,” she commented, noting that she works with VTSU and also directly through local high school tech centers. “The benefit to us is when they graduate, hopefully they will stay working for us.”

Benoit explained that apprentices work toward their licenses for four years—each of the first three years learning skills in a classroom or online setting and also gaining 2000 needed work hours. Benoit Electric covers the cost of classes for students. They buy their own books, but Benoit pays them back if they pass.

“The fourth year is hands-on only,” Benoit noted. “Before they can take their journeyman test for certification, they need 8,000 hands-on hours.”

She said she felt a lot of people don’t know about the program and other trade programs like them.

“For some students, they’re made to feel like college is their only next step after high school but there are other options if college isn’t the right fit,” Benoit states. “If students and parents are open-minded, an apprenticeship program can give a student a chance to see if they’ll like a trade. You can apprentice hands-on during day and take classes at night. There’s no out-of-pocket expense and you’re working at the same time. For people who just don’t know what they want to do, it’s a great option.”

One student started by going the college route and ended up as a Benoit apprentice. Dan Bartlett originally got an associate degree in electrical engineering from Vermont Technical College (now VTSU).

“When I was going through that program, I saw that it was mostly geared to computers and chips. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t like dealing with small circuits and teeny, tiny parts. Toward the end of my second year in electrical engineering, I didn’t really see myself in that career,” he said. “Right before I graduated, I began talking to some electrical contractors and became interested in this work. I knew, at that point, I would still have to do some apprenticeship hours. So, I changed direction a little bit. A lot [of knowledge he earned] transferred.”

Bartlett was able to test out of two years of electrical program coursework and jump into the third year of the electrical apprentice program. When asked what advice he would give a student considering options for after high school, Bartlett was clear.

“The one thing I always think about is that trades are very important, very needed. College isn’t for everybody; tech centers can be just as good. You can get a quality job with a quality salary without college and there’s no out-of-pocket expense.

“You’re in school, but at the same time, you’re coming to work five days a week, learning while you’re working,” he stressed. “Don’t rule out your options. Electrical work, plumbing, welding, nursing—these are all viable careers for which you can train while you work.”

The apprenticeship program continues to enroll students throughout the year. To learn more visit: .

VTSU Atmospheric Science Program Hosts Eclipse Event for High School Students at Lyndon Campus

A partial solar eclipse.

Vermont State University Atmospheric Sciences Program to Host Eclipse Event for High School Students at Lyndon Campus

Hundreds of high school students from around New England will travel to the Lyndon campus of Vermont State University (VTSU) to view the solar eclipse. 

This rare astronomical phenomenon will be celebrated by Vermont State University’s atmospheric sciences program, now in its 49th year and known for producing top meteorologists. 

Ari Preston, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, will help lead the event for high schoolers, including a discussion of the weather conditions (cloud cover) ahead of the solar eclipse event, a walk to the viewing area at varsity athletic field, and eclipse observations.

“This once-in-a-lifetime event has really sparked an interest in atmospheric sciences and astronomy,” he notes. “I’m excited to welcome the high school students to campus on Monday and look forward to sharing this experience, as well as the opportunities we offer at VTSU for students to learn more about meteorology and climate change science.”

Clear skies are expected for this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Media wishing to attend should R.S.V.P. to Ari at and note the following schedule:

  • 1:30 PM – Weather Briefing with Ari Preston, Alexander Twilight Theatre
  • 1:45 PM – Break & begin walk to Varsity Athletic Field (viewing area)
  • 2:15 PM – Start of Partial Solar Eclipse
  • 3:25 PM – Approximate Start of Totality (2-3 min duration)
  • 4:30 PM – Final Observations and Departure

Bridge Building Competition

The winning team of the Vermont State Bridge Building Competition all dressed in blue holding the remnants of their popsicle stick bridge.

Lisa (he, him), the duly named Popsicle stick bridge constructed by People’s Academy Wild Wolves won the 2024 middle school bridge building competition earlier today, supporting 4,822 pounds before (literally) cracking under the pressure.

Hosted in Judd Hall on Vermont State University’s (VTSU) Randolph Center Campus, today marked the 10th almost-annual Middle School Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Competition (minus two COVID years), bringing together 110 middle school students from 8 schools throughout Vermont. Twenty-eight teams of students applied physics and engineering principles in the construction of bridges using only Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s glue, tooth picks, and dental floss. These unique events not only provide students with the opportunity to experience what it is to be an engineer – designing structures to a set of specifications and then see them perform their function – but also represents a valuable teambuilding experiences – foster collaboration and curiosity, and inspire future generations of engineers to become the kinds of creative problem-solvers our society needs to thrive.

“This is such a positive and inspiring event for everyone – the competing teams and their coaches, VTSU students, staff, and faculty. The energy during these events is contagious!” said engineering professor and organizer John Diebold. “Not only is the Bridge Building Competition one of the highlights of our year, it’s also an invaluable opportunity for young learners to get real, hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) experience. This competition is one of those.

The Bridge Building Competition is conducted in partnership with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). VTrans generously provides financial support and provides engineers to act as judges. Student bridges are judged on aesthetics and originality of design, and presentation. Students predict the load their bridge will carry and their bridge is crushed by the Gordonator. With the actual load measured the strength-to-weight ratio is calculated.

Vermont State University’s civil and environmental engineering students help facilitate the event, supporting teams, collecting data, and running the Gordonator. VTSU students supporting the event today included Dominic Mazzilli a 2nd year Civil and Environmental Engineering student, who’s bridge, Truss-Ty supported over 1,400 pounds.

New 3D Technology Certificate Program and 3D Summer Camp for Vermont High School Students to be offered at Vermont State University

Addressing employer demand for highly-skilled workers and Vermonters’ demand for education in cutting-edge technologies, Vermont State University will offer a new 3D Technology Certificate program in 2024.  

The certificate program will provide training in a range of cutting-edge 3D technologies, and prepare Vermonters for the rapidly expanding pool of professions adopting 3D applications. The program includes three courses – 3D imaging, 3D modeling, and 3D printing – that can be taken in any order and that will provide a comprehensive perspective on 3D technology. Courses are being taught from the Castleton, Lyndon, and Randolph campuses of Vermont State University, and will soon be available to both traditional college students and working professionals across the state via hybrid learning.

The 3D Technology Certificate program builds on state-of-art technology and skills found throughout the new Vermont State University, and constitutes a new partnership among the Randolph campus Engineering program, the Animation and Illustration program in Lyndon, and the Anthropology, Archaeology, and Geography program on the Castleton campus.

“This is an amazing opportunity for Vermonters to acquire some of the most in-demand skills on the job market today. The multidisciplinary and hybrid nature of the programs assures that training will be accessible to the widest possible audience,” said Matthew Moriarty, an Assistant Professor of Archaeology who also coordinates the 3D program.

In conjunction with the new program, VTSU is launching a six-week residential program in 3D technology for high school students that will be offered this summer.  The camp will run in three two-week sessions from June 23rd to August 2nd on the VTSU-Randolph campus. Each session will provide an intensive 3-credit college course for up to 20 rising juniors, seniors, and 2024 high school graduates. Most importantly, eligible Vermont students will be eligible to participate in the summer program free of charge.

The 3D program and summer camp are made possible by a special appropriation of the legislature in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget (2023 Act 78 Sec. B.1101(c)2).  

The funding was championed by the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development to further their efforts to address critical employer needs for highly-skilled workers. Representative Michael Marcotte, chair of the committee, notes, “developing skills in advanced 3D technology will be critical to Vermonters entering a variety of fields and preparing them for the rapidly expanding pool of professions adopting 3D applications, including manufacturing, healthcare, education, real estate, gaming, construction, and more. We see this as an opportunity to provide high school students with an onramp to an emerging field as well as to provide current and adult learners cutting-edge skills in advanced technologies.” 

David Bergh, Interim President of Vermont State University, expresses appreciation for the state’s support for this initiative. “We are incredibly grateful to the Vermont legislature for supporting this initiative and for having the vision to see the long-term benefits our state will reap by providing this training to learners of every age. This new program and the summer camp will help position Vermonters to embrace a wide range of new career possibilities and we are excited to offer them across Vermont State University.”

Applications for the 3D Technology Summer Camp are available now on the VTSU summer camps website: and here:

Career Tech Education Students to Visit VTSU Randolph March 26

Vermont State University will welcome students from Vermont’s Career and Technical Education centers to the Randolph campus on Tuesday, March 26, for an event designed to introduce them to different tracks to entering the building industry. 

Between 150-200 students are expected to attend the third-annual event sponsored and organized by the Vermont Retail Lumber Dealers Association (VRLDA). Vermont State’s Architectural Engineering Technology program helps to facilitate the day’s activities.  

At the event, students will learn about the VTSU degree programs that prepare students for this in-demand field, and VRLDA will highlight career opportunities students can enter right after high school. 

“The buildings industry needs employees, both in the professions (including designers and construction managers) and in the trades (including builders),” said Scott Sabol, P.E., Professor of Architectural Engineering Technology. “This event offers the Vermont Retail Lumber Dealers Association and VTSU the opportunity to share information with students about immediate workforce options available to them, and the professional, degree-based careers that can be pursued in Vermont in this field.” 

A series of rotating information sessions will be held, including equipment demos, career mentoring sessions, exploration of the VTSU Randolph Construction Management Lab, and opportunities to talk with VTSU Admissions counselors. Campus tours will also be available. 

Vermont Animation Festival Begins Friday, March 22

Ninth Annual Festival Brings Animation Talent to the NEK

The Vermont Animation Festival welcomes notable creators Dustin Grella and Dan Bandit (a.k.a. Ghostshrimp) to the ninth annual festival March 22-23, 2024, hosted by Vermont State University Lyndon in partnership with Catamount Arts.

An animator and documentary filmmaker, Dustin Grella’s films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, he’s won the Walt Disney Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and his film “Prayers for Peace” screened at almost two hundred festivals worldwide and won more than forty awards.

Dan Bandit was just nominated for a Grammy for the album art/package design for the Gravity Falls soundtrack. His work appears on a variety of animated shows on the Cartoon Network, including Adventure Time, Disney, Netflix, and Nickelodeon, including SpongeBob and Midnight Gospel.

“The VAF was originally created to give our own students a venue to show their work to the VTSU community,” said Kate Renner, Vermont Animation Festival director and VTSU Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Art.We are thrilled that our students now have the opportunity to learn from legends like Dustin Grella and Dan Bandit on our own campus through the VAF. This years’ workshops are especially friendly to participants of all ages and experience levels, and we look forward to welcoming a large turnout from the NEK and beyond.”

The Vermont Animation Festival, held on the Vermont State Lyndon campus, offers a full slate of activities for beginner and experienced animators, including workshops, a film screening, and artist talks with Grella and Bandit.

Animated films of all lengths may be submitted for viewing and judging as part of the festival. Submissions close at 5 p.m. on March 15. Films from students and emerging animators are especially welcome. Complete festival information, including submission guidelines, is available at

The Vermont Animation Festival was created in 2015 by former Lyndon faculty member Robby Gilbert to showcase the unique voices of artists in New England working in animation and moving images. The festival provides a forum for regional artists, including Vermont State’s Animation and Illustration students, to showcase their work and workshops to engage the community.

To learn more about VTSU’s program at the Lyndon campus, see

Vermont Arts Council Presents Virtual Showcase of VTSU Student Filmmakers

The Vermont Arts Council Spotlight Gallery is hosting a virtual exhibit of films from March 1-April 30 created by students in the Cinema & Production concentration within VTSU’s B.A. in Communications program; a virtual artist talk will be held March 8, 5-6 p.m.

“As the film and creative media sector grows in Vermont, so should our support of those learning the craft and training to enter the industry,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Susan Evans McClure. “By spotlighting young filmmakers learning at our state university campuses, we reinforce that the future of the sector is already here in the state, and we show Vermonters curious about the sector that there is a local path to joining it.”

See to view the exhibit, sign up for the talk, and for more information.

Statement from Vermont State University on Global Foundries Securing $1.5 Billion in Planned Direct Funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce

The following is a statement from Vermont State University Interim President David Bergh on the news that business partner, Global Foundries has secured $1.5 billion in federal funding, some of which will support their groundbreaking chip manufacturing operations at their Essex, Vermont facility:

“On behalf of Vermont State University (VTSU), we are delighted to congratulate our partners at GlobalFoundries (GF), who recently received $1.5 billion in planned direct funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce as part of the U.S. CHIPS and Science Act. This investment will help GF to expand and create new manufacturing capacity at their Essex Junction, Vermont facility to increase their capabilities to securely produce more essential chips for automotive, internet, aerospace, defense and other vital markets in Vermont. The funding will also enable GF to update its Vermont facility.

“We are proud to partner with GF on the GlobalFoundries Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Program, which helps build the workforce they need to do their important work. As high-tech jobs grow, Vermont industry increasingly needs maintenance technicians to manage complex processes and maintain advanced equipment. GF and VTSU have partnered to educate more students—especially recent high school graduates and Vermonters looking for a career change—to fill open positions.

“At VTSU, we are proud that in Vermont, state and local officials, university partners and business and community leaders work together to create shared successes; we consider it our mission to train students for meaningful and needed positions here in our state.”

Vermont State University Announces Fall 2023 Dean’s List & President’s List

The view of a pond from the top of a mountain at sunrise.

Congratulations, Vermont State Students!

We’re thrilled to announce our Dean’s List and President’s List recipients for the Fall 2023 semester.

Registration Open for Annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Competition

A popsicle stick bridge buckles under pressure of a machine at the Vermont State University bridge building competition.

Vermont State University will welcome middle school and high school students to the Randolph campus for the 10th annual Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Competition on March 14 and 28. 

Using only Popsicle sticks, Elmer’s wood glue, toothpicks, and dental floss, teams of students will build their bridges according to competition design specifications at their schools and then present them at the competition. The High School Competition will be held on Thursday, March 14, and the Middle School Competition will be held on Thursday, March 28. 

Through this competition, “students get a good dose of design and build experience and also presentation experience,” said Professor John Diebold, VTSU Engineering Technology department. “They can build a bridge any way they want as long as they only use the four materials and follow the competition design specifications.” 

On competition day, student groups present their bridges to engineers from VTrans who serve as the judges. VTrans is also a major donor for these events. The bridges are judged on aesthetics, originality of the design, the student presentation, and the predicted carrying load of the bridge. The bridges are then crushed and the structural efficiency is calculated. The competition record to date for a load carried before bridge failure is 7,500 pounds! 

The competition is a fantastic hands-on way to demonstrate the real-world application of STEM coursework in middle school and high school classes, and all middle school and high school teachers are encouraged to take part. The student energy at these events is contagious! 

Share the news: Registration for Bridge Building Competition is now open. See for more information and the link to the registration form. 

Vermont Animation Festival Announces Animator Dustin Grella as Keynote Speaker

Ninth Annual Festival Begins Friday, March 22

The Vermont Animation Festival welcomes animator and documentary filmmaker Dustin Grella as the Keynote Speaker for the March 22-23, 2024 festival hosted by Vermont State University Lyndon in partnership with Catamount Arts.

Grella’s films have screened at the Cannes Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, he’s won the Walt Disney Award at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and his film “Prayers for Peace” screened at almost two hundred festivals worldwide and won more than forty awards. His work has been commissioned by The New York Times, PBS, and MIT Media Lab, and he teaches workshops and performs magic lantern shows out of a decommissioned school bus that he converted into a Mobile Animation Lab.

“Although Dustin has received international recognition for his work, one of the most admirable elements of his creative practice is how much he values community collaboration,” said Kate Renner, Vermont Animation Festival director and VTSU Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Art. “Dustin’s presence on our campus will offer engaging animation experiences for our students and for all members of the larger community who want to participate.”

The Vermont Animation Festival, held on the Vermont State Lyndon campus, offers a full slate of activities for beginner and experienced animators, including workshops, a film screening, and an artist talk with Dustin Grella.

Animated films of all lengths may be submitted for viewing and judging as part of the festival. Submissions opened January 1, and close at 11:59 p.m. on March 10. Films from students and emerging animators are especially welcome. Complete festival information, including submission guidelines, is available at

The Vermont Animation Festival was created in 2015 by former Lyndon faculty member Robby Gilbert to showcase the unique voices of artists in New England working in animation and moving images. The festival provides a forum for regional artists, including Vermont State’s Animation and Illustration students, to showcase their work and workshops to engage the community.

To learn more about VTSU’s program at the Lyndon campus, see

Vermont State University Will Use $1.9M Grant to Improve Access to Higher Ed for Rural Students

A group of three students walking in the snow on a Vermont State University campus.

VTSU to partner with other state colleges, non-profits to bolster workforce and fill high-wage jobs with students from around the state

According to the 2020 census, Vermont is the most rural state in the US, with 65% of the population living in rural areas and 76% of grade 9 to 12 students attending rural high schools. Rural students are currently less likely than their urban counterparts to enroll in and graduate from four-year education programs. In Vermont, only 59% of rural students enroll in higher education, compared to 67% of urban and suburban students. This jeopardizes both the prospects for the students to enter high-wage jobs and also for the Vermont workforce, which has a strong need for highly skilled workers in a variety of fields.

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded VTSU $1.9 million dollars over four years through the Rural Postsecondary and Economic Development program—the latest is a series of welcome grants obtained by VTSU. The grant is earmarked to fund the ROAD to Success Project, a plan that will, among other initiatives:

  • Help VTSU faculty continue to support rural students who may lack technology, time, transportation or finances to pursue traditional four-year programs and deliver services they need to be successful.
  • Create councils staffed with educators, employers, non-profit professionals and others interested in student achievement in rural communities throughout the state to support the programs.
  • Enrich the ability of Community College of Vermont (CCV), the state’s provider of two-year certificate and associate degrees, to help students transfer into four-year programs at VTSU that can educate them to fill high-wage and high-need programs they might otherwise not enter.

“We know that certain services can help rural students learn about and succeed in disciplines that produce needed high-wage earners,” said Jennifer-Kristina Jones, Assistant Vice President of Academic Support and Educational Opportunity Programs for VTSU, who helped secure the grant and will lead the initiative. “They start with programs in high school and beyond to advise students, who may not have college graduates as role models, of what programs exist for them and how they might access the programs. Our partner, the Vermont Student Assistance Program (VSAC) already provides these services and the grant will help to expand their capacity to reach more rural students,” she added.

“After the students have entered college— whether at a VTSU campus or at a CCV campus from which they can later transfer to us—we can provide them with additional services, such as 24/7 remote tutoring and paid experiential learning, to help them succeed in their programs,” she explained.

“We’re happy to host campuses in many rural settings in Vermont and we are committed to making those campuses open and accessible to the communities that surround them,” remarked David Bergh, interim president of Vermont State University. “Many of the students who will be able to take advantage of the ROAD to Success programming will contribute to these campuses and keep them thriving,” he added.

The ROAD to Success program will also pay for technology—student tools like laptops and tablets, technology to upgrade rural classrooms and paid faculty professional development to transition courses and degree programs to 100% online formats, ensuring educators can adapt to the needs of rural students.

“We are committed to providing our programs in formats that allow Vermont students to prepare for meaningful employment in Vermont’s workforce,” stated Bergh. “One part of our vision is to radically expand access to rural students by becoming America’s first statewide hybrid university—offering many undergraduate and graduate degrees 100% online. The Department of Education grant will help us further that vision.”

“Technology can be key to allowing a student who might have family members to support or a lack of reliable transportation to take on coursework,” Jones noted. “This program will provide that and more—sometimes the key to sparking an interest that will grow into a career is an internship at a Vermont company. We will help our rural students to be able to find opportunities such as that through the ROAD to Success program.

Work toward project goals has already begun. Though the U.S. Department of Education grant funds the ROAD to success program for only four years, VTSU staff involved with the program are confident those formative years will provide benefits for the unforeseeable future. With improved career options and higher graduation rates for rural students, they expect to produce a skilled workforce for high-demand occupations, benefiting the Vermont economy for years to come.  For more information about becoming a workforce or community partner, contact Jennifer-Kristina Jones at

VTSU to Offer Free Tuition for Some In-State Students

Vermont State University will begin to offer free tuition this fall for Vermonters with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 or less. 

VTSU Partners with State’s Largest Private Employer to Increase Enrollment in Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Program

Partnership with GlobalFoundries awarded a $850,000 Federal Employment and Training Administration (ETA) grant

As high-tech jobs grow, Vermont Industry increasingly needs maintenance technicians to manage complex processes and maintain advanced equipment. This, coupled with the retirements of many skilled workers, means opportunities for well-paid careers close to home. GlobalFoundries (GF), Vermont’s largest private sector employer, and Vermont State University (VTSU) have partnered to develop the GlobalFoundries Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship Program to educate more students—especially recent high school graduates—for open positions.

GF and VTSU have partnered together to market and create interest for GF’s Maintenance Technician Apprenticeship opportunity to students, recent high school graduates, and those looking for a career change.

“Engineer technician careers available at GlobalFoundries and other Vermont employers are plentiful and pay well,” said Jeffery Higgins, professor at VTSU. “We just need resources to make high school students and others aware of the opportunities and of the program we offer to help prepare them.”

The current GF Maintenance Technician Apprentice program includes a combination of on-the-job learning at GF and engineering courses offered through VTSU. Students work full time while pursuing their studies and receive full-time employee benefits and a competitive salary.

“Workforce development is a key priority for GF, and we are proud of our apprenticeship program in Vermont, the first of its kind in the in the U.S. semiconductor industry,” said Ken McAvey, Vice President and General Manager of GF Burlington. “GF thanks former Senator Leahy and Senator Welch for their longstanding support. The program, in partnership with VTSU, will advance our efforts to create the semiconductor workforce of the future right here in the state of Vermont.”

“We know there are still many students in Vermont—roughly 40 percent—who are not currently pursuing higher education options after high school,” Higgins noted. “Jobs at Vermont companies like GF not only provide good starting wages; they often offer tuition reimbursement for those students who decide to pursue college after employment. At GF, for example, employees have the opportunity to continue coursework to pursue an associate, bachelor’s or graduate degree through GF’s education reimbursement benefit. Many students are unaware of these benefits.”

The ETA grant, supported by then-Senator Patrick Leahy, funds a position within VTSU that will create and execute a strategic plan to communicate with high schoolers and others who would be good candidates for the apprentice program. It will also provide funding for the communications spending necessary to reach potential students.

Not only will the new outreach program benefit students; it will bolster the local economy by training employees who are in critical need at GlobalFoundries and other Vermont manufacturing sites.

“Strengthening our workforce in alignment with employer needs is an essential role of Vermont State Colleges and an important part of the mission of Vermont State University,” remarked David Bergh, interim president of VTSU. “We’re so happy to partner with GlobalFoundries and to have the support of former Senator Leahy and the ETA, so we can spread the word about the opportunities offered by the Maintenance Technician Apprentice Program.”

For more information about the program, and to apply for the GF job that enrolls one in the program, visit Careers (

Vermont Nursing Students Embrace Platelet Donation as a Class Act

Vermont State University students respond to critical need for whole blood and platelets

The Red Cross is facing an emergency blood shortage. The lowest number of people in 20 years are giving blood, per the nonprofit. Shortages are not uncommon in the U.S., as the number of donors has fallen 40 percent in the last two decades. When nursing students in Vermont State University’s first-year class learned about blood and blood products and the critical need for them, several classmates strongly felt the need to start donating—and the idea spread. 

“We support each other, and we work hard together,” Miranda Berry, class president, said.  “We all started out as strangers, and we’ve become a family. Typically, when one person has an idea, it just floods our group, and everybody just pitches in and joins. This happened with the Red Cross and donating. We were all talking about community service, and how the platelet and blood need is in such a heightened state right now. So, this would be a way to give back to our community and the people in need. We’re all here for nursing, and here to help people and heal people. This is just one way to support our drive and what we’re meant to do,” she remarked.

Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross, confirmed the need for both platelets and whole blood.

“One of the most distressing situations for a doctor is to have a hospital full of patients and an empty refrigerator without any blood products. A person needs lifesaving blood every two seconds in our country—and its availability can be the difference between life and death, however, blood is only available thanks to the generosity of those who roll up a sleeve to donate.” 

Stephanie Couturier, chief executive officer, American Red Cross Northern New England Region, heartily agrees.

“As a mom of a child who has needed blood, shortages like this hit close to home,” she noted. “Many people do not think about the strength of the nation’s blood supply or even where blood comes from until it tragically collides with their lives,” she added.

The nursing group also has a personal connection to blood and platelet donation. One of their classmates, Alex Blair, is a Leukemia survivor who required multiple units of blood and platelets during her treatment, ultimately resulting in complete remission. To show support for her and others like her, the nursing class has made a collective commitment to donate.

“I’m so proud of our nursing students, who understand how important blood and platelet donation is to the people they’ll care for,” expressed David Bergh, interim president of Vermont State University. “Because it’s so crucial, our Castleton campus was the host of the first day of this year’s ‘Gift of Life’ blood drive marathon.’”

A professor of the nursing class, Dr. Mary Hill, also stated she couldn’t be prouder of her students. 

“This is a very compassionate group. When an idea happens in this group, it just floods. It’s like fire. I think their compassion for human life is spreading across the campus. I think everybody sees that. It’s going to carry into practice as well,” said Hill.

In addition to being a professor of nursing at Vermont State University, she is also a hematology/oncology nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. 

“I witnessed firsthand patients who need these products. Platelets are what stop you from bleeding out and if you don’t have them, you can’t survive. The treatments we give to save lives, won’t be saved without platelets,” Hill said.

Hill’s experience drove her to ensure her nursing students know how important platelet donations are to patient care and she was successful. 

“Platelets save lives, quite literally,” explained Berry. “I am becoming a nurse to help people and to see the difference that I can make as a nurse and as myself, donating something that I can give to somebody to give them life, is just incredible and such an amazing feeling. I’m very fortunate to be able to give. It’s just a miraculous experience,” she said.

Platelets play a critical role in the treatment of millions of Americans fighting cancer, chronic diseases and traumatic injuries. Every 30 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs platelets. Low platelet count is a major side effect of cancer treatment. Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing platelet production. In a platelet donation, an apheresis machine collects a donor’s platelets along with some plasma, returning red cells and most of the plasma back to the donor, allowing them to donate more often. Many of the students in the class are now regular blood and platelet donors. Each of them has their own reason for why they donate.

“I started donating due to a lot of sickness and illness in family members. I really felt the need to be able to give back. It’s a very easy way to do it by donating blood or platelets,” said Sharon Derner, another first-year nursing student.

Berry and the rest of her class hope that donating platelets will continue to help the group bond together while serving their community. 

“We started signing up individually. We’ve also gone as groups and just donated. Some of us have donated blood and some of us have donated platelets. It’s continuing to grow and grow,” said Berry.

In addition to the satisfaction they get from donating and helping others, Berry and Hill both agree that the process of donating platelets can also be a very positive experience. 

“The process was very simple. I don’t think I felt a single bit of pain. It’s very peaceful and calming,” said Berry.

“It was actually a nice way to get away from everything and just sit there and not be bothered by the world, but knowing at the same time you’re helping somebody,” Hill added. “I have never donated platelets before, and I did it with Miranda for the first time about a month ago. It was very positive.”

Since platelets must be used within five days of donation, platelet donors are constantly needed. Combined with the national blood shortage, that’s why there’s a constant — and often critical — need for new and current donors to give to keep up with hospital demand. Schedule an appointment to donate today by visiting

“The reality is every two seconds someone in this country needs a blood transfusion – and that lifesaving gift is not available if not for volunteer donors,” Courturier stressed. “It’s the blood on hospital shelves that saves lives in an emergency, so I urge you to make 2024 the year you resolve to roll up a sleeve and become a blood donor.”