SJA News

Operation Creation Focuses on Employability Skills and Community Service

Operation Creation participants pose for a group shot. Front row (l-r): Lillian Clark, Cierra Manassa-Curnin, Hannah Bacon, Claire Morgan, Isaiah Priest, Braeden Beck, Ken Achilles, Jacob Baesemann, Gavin Durfur, Aryen Whitchurch, Lizzy Shattuck; 2nd row (l-r): Emerson Jolliffe, Ezra Wilson, Rolincio Davis, Ozara Rice, Jada Decker, Gavin Gafoori, Kameron Lill, Ryan Sullivan, Robert Wood, Chandler Labounty, Bailey Caron; 3rd row (l-r): Breannah Patten, Caid Murphy, Geoffry Hauver, Sophia Barron, Sophia Stark, Charlie Favreau, Matthew Newland, Kay Conner, Catherine Mastroianni-Douglas, Jonah Plazek.

Operation Creation wrapped up a very successful fifth year last week in St. Johnsbury. Nearly 40 rising ninth graders met with area business leaders, served lunch at the Hilltopper Restaurant, sold hardwood cutting boards, visited area businesses, and volunteered each week at the St. Johnsbury Community Farm.

Two main focuses of the Operation Creation program are employability skills and community service. Students practice various skills that are key to successful future employment throughout the program: communication, teamwork, problem solving, initiative and enterprise, planning and organization, self-management, learning and technology. They also spend time on local community service projects.

Each day of the three-week program begins with a brief talk from area business people, which helps students understand local businesses and how the skills they are learning are useful in the real world. Speakers this year included St. Johnsbury Select Board Chair Jeff Moore, Pat Cahoon of NFP (Poulos Insurance), Cindy Robillard of the Vermont Department of Labor, and Schilling Beer Company co-owner John Lenzini. They discussed the keys to their success and why they have all decided to live and work in the Northeast Kingdom, as well as their hiring process and how the various employability skills come into play. In order to increase their understanding of and capacity for these skills, students rated themselves weekly on the skills they'd learned and their achievements in each aspect of the program. They also wrote down goals for improvement as they moved through the different areas of the program.

Operation Creation students also learn the responsibilities of belonging to a community. Headmaster Tom Lovett wrote, "This idea of belonging to something bigger than ourselves is at the core of our commitment to community. It is embedded in one of the three promises I make to every prospective student and parent. We do everything we can to help each person in our community experience a sense of belonging, of participation, and of responsibility for others." This idea is echoed by many area businesses. As the Operation Creation students visited NSA Industries, Fairbanks Scales, Maple Grove, WEIDMANN and Passumpsic Bank, they heard a recurrent theme: successful businesses give back to their communities. Operation Creation students experienced community service firsthand with work at the St. Johnsbury Community Garden and the town forest.

Dale Urie, director of the Operation Creation program, said, "I wanted to put more emphasis on employability skills this year as I feel that these skills are something that the "workers" will use in all of the jobs they have in the future. I want them to be able to see that these skills are transferable from job to job, no matter what it is. I ask the students to work on these in my coaching and in my classroom."

Headmaster Tom Lovett added, "This year's Operation Creation team was one of the most successful ever! Not only did they set records for the number of lunches served and cutting boards sold, but they showed exceptional teamwork and communication skills. They have already developed key employability skills that will help them be successful throughout their high school years and beyond. None of this would have been possible without the support of our sponsors and benefactors, so we are grateful for such strong support for the young people in our community."

Operation Creation is sponsored by many community businesses. This year over 30 businesses either donated money or invited the group to tour their facilities. The program is underwritten by the generous support of the E.E. Ford and Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundations.

For more information about the Operation Creation program, please visit