Laura Gunter of East Dixfield is the first Foster Career and Technical Education Center student to obtain the North East Safe Logger Certification. She is pictured with the certificate. Submitted photo

FARMINGTON — Laura Gunter, a student in the forestry and wood harvesting program offered through Foster Career and Technical Education Center on the Mt. Blue Campus, is the first student from the center ever to obtain North East Safe Logger Certification.

A fairly new certification, it is available through Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands (TCNEF) for students and any logger who wishes to be certified.

Gunter, a senior from East Dixfield, said she signed up for the forestry program on a whim.

“I’m truly interested in the outdoors,” she said. “A friend told me about the program. It was a spur of the moment decision. It just happened. I didn’t have anything better planned for senior year.

Laura Gunter signed up for the forestry and wood harvesting program at Foster CTE Center in Farmington. She is seen with her chain saw and some of the protective equipment she wears while learning about working in the woods. Submitted photo

“I met (instructors) Rodney (Spiller) and Dean (Merrill). I love them. It’s a blast.”

Gunter said she has learned to appreciate their being overly dramatic about safety.

“I have seen things,” she said. “Safety is a big deal, a concern. They make it stand out so I’m always thinking about safety.”

Gunter said she decided to take the online certification course after classroom learning was halted because of Gov. Mills’ stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The two-week course involved more than 16 hours of work.

“I learned a bunch of things,” she said. “The CPR was the most interactive. The stuff about welding was really cool.

“I never thought about the hazards of welding.”

Gunter plans to attend college but is unsure where or what she will study.

“If we’re stuck with COVID stuff, I’ll take online classes,” she said. “If not, I want to experience dorm life.

Submitted photo

“My career is unknown, but it’s got to be something outdoors.”

Spiller said Gunter is also the first female student to obtain the North East Safe Logger Certification.

“She’s a pleasure to have in class,” he said. “She’s a tough, intelligent young lady.

“She’s not afraid to try anything. She participated in wrestling, football. Discus and shot put in track.”

Spiller said another student, Eddie Hebert, is in the process of obtaining the certification.

Spiller said the relatively new certification is offered to students as well as loggers. It is one of several new programs available to Foster CTE Center students taking the forestry and wood harvesting program.

“This certification gives some different pieces such as blood-borne pathogens and sexual harassment,” Spiller said. “It’s a very good training program. I went through it myself.

“I think it’s really good for the kids, especially right now. Remote learning is tough for Foster Tech programs. From the end of October to June, it’s hands-on learning. I’ve done a lot of thinking outside the box for students to continue to learn without that.

“It’s cool to have a training that covers policy and understanding for all businesses.”

Spiller said he will miss Gunter in class next year. He had planned to push more training on her this spring.

“I think she would have done really well,” he said.

Gunter said the forestry program has been the best time of her school career.

“If something interests you, just do it,” she said. “I’m so glad I decided to take forestry. If given the chance to do something, do it!”


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