In the Spotlight

TIPS Students Learn about VT BIZ

TIPS students at Oxbow and Hartford High Schools participated in business tours that provided students direct contact with Vermont employers. These tours gave students an opportunity to see different work environments, learn about workplace expectations and engage in conversations with employees at each site.

Our first stop was Nutty Steph’s Vermont Granola in Montpelier. The students learned about Owner, Steph Rieke (a.k.a. Nutty Steph) and her journey to manufacturing and selling the perfect granola at the age of 23!

Steph recently took on the responsibility of a second company known as Green River Chocolates. Students were encouraged by her story and were made to feel right at home by her staff. A student at Hartford High School (HHS) said that Steph was “outgoing and down to earth, which made me more invested in the experience and eager to participate in the discussion.“

Learning to ask questions and use observations skills was one of our many objectives during the tours. Another HHS student said, “Nutty Steph’s and staff were friendly and energetic. They all seemed to love their jobs. It is something that they have put together over the past few years and have fun doing.
I want to work in an environment where I am able to enjoy what I do every day.” Kids openly expressed what their interests were and what they hoped to gain from TIPS.



A Hartford High School student showcases a 10lb bar of chocolate with Nutty Steph’s owner Steph Reike. During their visit students were able to help split apart and melt the chocolate bar while learning about the process of creating chocolate truffles and other treats.

A HHS student said, “In order to buy stuff or to have things like an apartment, I need a job that I am interested in and happy at. TIPS, as I understand, will give me the option to experience a job that I think I might want. Maybe I will like it and maybe not, either way it will be a good experience for me, and I will find out things about myself.”

Students also learned about the Granolamobile and how Nutty Steph’s chooses to manage instate sales and deliveries with a vegetable oil powered car. They also heard from employee Trisha Denton who shared how she started her career with Nutty Steph and the Granola Crew. Students felt motivated after visiting Nutty Steph's. A student from HHS noted, “I had a blast!! This day was much more than I expected. It inspired me to look deeper into different companies and to explore new things.”

An Oxbow student helps wrap milk chocolate banana nut bars.

Other visits included a stop at Ben and Jerry’s in Waterbury. Students took part in a factory tour learning about how their ice cream is made, distributed and sold. Small Dog Electronics in Waitsfield was another company that students experienced. Small Dog Electronics is an Apple specialist company committed to offering customers a unique combination of value and superior customer service. Students toured both their store and distribution center.

The last site we visited was Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) Visitors Center in Waterbury. At this newly renovated train station, students learned about GMCR and their passion for coffee. Students watched interactive videos highlighting where the coffee is grown to how it is roasted and distributed right here in Vermont. Students learned about different jobs that are available at one of the 200 Best Small Companies in America.

TIPS is offered to local high schools through a collaboration between the Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership (UVBEP) and Navicate. Thanks to a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor, UVBEP is piloting TIPS at two schools from November 2007 - August 2008. As with other established UVBEP programs, participating schools and communities need to provide matching funding for TIPS or other programs to continue. Read more or contact UVBEP for details.

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