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River Valley Community College to Present Award to Hypertherm Exec

Claremont — For her years of support of efforts to train and employ graduates of River Valley Community College in Claremont, and to generally widen access to job training, the school will confer its Walter R. Peterson Award on Hypertherm’s Barbara Couch.

Couch, Hypertherm’s vice president of corporate responsibility, will receive the award on Sept. 19, during the Peterson Award dinner that will complete a week of activities marking the inauguration of new college president Alicia B. Harvey-Smith.

“I have enormous regard for the partnership between Hypertherm and River Valley Community College,” Couch said recently. “We provide lab space and equipment to RVCC students seeking a certificate in manufacturing technology, while RVCC provides certificates carrying 28 credits to our associates who graduate from the program. For many of our associates, RVCC welcomes their first steps into college. That is huge.”

Couch pointed to a recent report from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, which estimates that only one in three students obtains a four-year college or university degree by ages 25, while nearly a third of jobs likely to open over the next 10 years will require some post-high-school education — but not necessarily a four-year degree.

“I believe businesses need to be more engaged with their academic community institutions, community colleges no exception,” Couch continued. “These institutions exist to address our future workforce development needs and they need our help. We need to take the long view on the value of investing in talent early.”

Early this year, Couch and her husband, Hypertherm co-founder and CEO Richard Couch, transferred their majority-ownership stake in the manufacturer of metal-cutting technology into a trust fund that made the company’s 1,400-member workforce, most of which works in the Upper Valley, 100-percent owners of Hypertherm’s common stock. They announced the transfer in January, with Barbara Couch noting that she would devote more time to the Hypertherm HOPE Foundation upon her and her husband’s eventual retirement from the company’s day-to-day operation.

On the Road

Sharon Academy junior-to-be Clara Henderson will spend the 2014-2015 academic year in Germany as a “youth ambassador,” under a Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Scholarship. She is one of 50 students in the Northeast and 250 around the United States who will live with host families in Germany while attending a local high school and immersing themselves in the culture.

According to AFSUSA International Programs, a partner in the youth exchange with the federal Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Henderson earned her scholarship “due to her demonstrated academic qualifications, cultural open-mindedness, and motivation.”

To learn more about the youth exchange, including ways to become eligible for scholarships for the 2015-2016 academic year, visit usagermanyscholarship.org.

Simple Gifts

Martin Downs, of Meriden, former director of public health programs for the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative, has donated $10,000 to the initiative’s Youth 2 Youth (Y2Y) program helping area middle-schoolers avoid alcohol, drugs and other risky behaviors.

Downs, a former Valley News staff writer who now heads a research and communications firm that promotes sexual health, made the contribution in memory of his mother, Christine M. Downs. “My mother was an intelligent, charismatic and beautiful woman who died from chronic alcoholism,” Downs said in a news release. “I want to support Y2Y because the program gives kids something I dearly wish my mother could have had at their age: the ability to make their own, informed choices about using alcohol; and what’s more, an opportunity to effect positive change in their environment.”

During the next two school years, the Downs gift will cover nearly half of the Y2Y budget. Y2Y, which started in 2010, serves more than 20 students each school year. During 2013-2014, Indian River School students in grades 5 through 8 educated their classmates about e-cigarettes and misuse of prescription medications. They also started Samantha Skunk, a smoking-prevention program aimed at first-graders at Canaan Elementary School and Enfield Village School.

“We are grateful that Martin would want to honor his mother’s memory by supporting our work on behalf of Mascoma Valley Youth,” MVHI executive director Alice R. Ely said. “Addiction can have such a devastating effect on families, and prevention programs everywhere struggle to maintain the funding to sustain their work. If we can positively affect the future of at least one youth each year, our program is worth the effort.”