Successful women inspire students at CVU

CHITTENDEN SOUTH While seniors at Champlain Valley Union High School all must complete a graduation challenge project-- a final culminating project of their high school career that may tell them something about what they want to do after school-- Taryn Couture was already at work on hers over a year ago.

First inspired by Ann Richards, the late Democratic Texas governor, Couture said there is a need for role models of womens education. This idea is what prompted her to organize a first panel of women speakers last year that included Sen. Ginny Lyons, Vermont Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, and executive director of United Way in Chittenden County, Gretchen Morse. The project ended up spiraling into what is now her nearly complete grad challenge project.

On Friday, Feb. 9, Couture organized a second panel of accomplished and inspiring women in the community. The panel last week included Lisa Ventriss, president of the Vermont Business Roundtable, Patricia Heffernan, co -president and co-creator of Marketing Partners, Inc., and Jan Blittersdorf, president and CEO of NRG Systems in Hinesburg.

While each of the women had unique experiences and came from very different backgrounds, they found common denominators among their experiences when addressing the room full of CVU students. Jan Blittersdorf said she considers herself a social experiment, since taking over as CEO of NRG Systems. My husband and I decided to switch places, she said explaining that entrepreneurs are creative and inventive and sometimes get to a point where maintenance of a successful company is hard. Its an interesting dynamic change to make.

Patricia Heffernan told the audience that she took a very Vermont style career path, first working as a teacher, then teaching herself accounting and getting her masters degree in business administration and starting her own business. Heffernan described herself as a compulsive planner, who always has a five-year plan.

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