Where are they now? Mount Abraham Union High School – Nicole (Baker) Schmitz, 2008
Mount Abraham Union High School – Nicole (Baker) Schmitz, 2008
Hometown, current residence, age: Bristol is my hometown, and I now live in Curitiba, State of Parana, Brazil. I am 27.
Family: Luiz Schmitz, spouse, Brazilian, Control & Automation Engineer; Maple, our Brazilian-American (definitely a Vermonter) puppy. My parents are William and Janice Baker of Bristol.
What I am up to: I currently live in Southern Brazil with my husband, Luiz, and our troublemaker Maple. Over the course of the past year, I packed my life into two suitcases, flew to Brazil, became a permanent resident, began learning Portuguese and have continued to advance my career working with international students. I even became an international student again (4th time is the charm)!
From Brazil, I continue to be connected to our small town and work for the Wells Mountain Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports programming in education, literacy and communities. I work specifically with the Empowerment Through Education program that currently supports over 100 students in developing nations to earn their first bachelor’s degree in their countries and our graduates — over 100 individuals as well. We believe that education coupled with community service and leadership development changes lives. We are always eager to share our story and we seek volunteers to review applications annually, check out www.wellsmountainfoundation.org or stop into the office at 25D Main St. in Bristol.
As a remote employee, thanks to my laptop, I have the opportunity to travel the world every day supporting our beneficiaries in more than 30 countries. Throughout the month of April, I was even luckier and traveled with Jordyn Wells (2001 Mt. Abraham UHS graduate) to Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Ghana, meeting with our current WMF scholars and alumni.
In Brazil, I am also working as a professional advisor to assist Brazilians with interview preparation and business English advancement. My favorite students are those who work for cruise companies. Preparing language lessons about Mickey Mouse, Aruba, Puerto Rico, the Mediterranean, exotic wines, private islands and all-you-can-eat chocolate buffets means that work is never dull.
How I got to where I am now: I graduated from Champlain College with a B.S. degree in International Business in 2012. My experiences leading to receiving my diploma were vast and I am ever thankful to my parents for supporting my crazy ideas (but very good ideas!) and for the mentors and employers who believed in my abilities. I attended four institutions in three countries before earning my bachelor’s degree: Arcadia University (Pennsylvania), Stirling University (Scotland), Veritas Universidad (Costa Rica) and Champlain College. My desire for cultural knowledge and exposure to different aspects of international business was supported by employment with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Ben & Jerry’s, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Rich Frog Industries, Country Walkers, PH International, Vermont International Academy and Champlain College’s Office of International Education & Emergent Media Center.
Adults to whom I can attribute my current success: Without the support of my parents, William and Janice Baker, I would have never traveled to eastern Poland as a Rotary Exchange Student during my junior year of high school in 2006-2007. Till this day, I am not sure how I convinced them to allow their only daughter to study abroad for a year at 16. But, for this I am ever thankful. It changed my life. My experience living with my host family, the Nowaczynskis, and traveling throughout Europe taught me that we have so much to learn in life, that people are people regardless of their nationality or their religion, and that we must all do our part in being supportive of one another. I also am very thankful for the members of the former Bristol Rotary Club, members of the Middlebury Rotary Club and Heather Foster-Provencher, Dr. Anne Friedrichs of Mt. Abraham, Dr. Scott Baker and Pat Boera of Champlain College, and Dr. Lynda Reid, all educators who guided me to become the global citizen that I am today.
How my Vermont roots have influenced who I am today: I attribute my humbleness, desire to spend all of my time outdoors, my love for exploring and my commitment to community directly to growing up in rural Vermont. Whilst I have lived in Poland, Scotland, Costa Rica, the state of Georgia and now Brazil, my true home is Vermont. Wherever I go, I always teach people about our wonderful state. More often than not, I have to start from the beginning and share that we are a U.S. State. But that is OK; life is about learning. I can’t wait to jump into the New Haven River, search for books at the Three Day Stampede, pick blueberries at the Lower Notch Berry Farm, and ride my bike until I must stop for a creemee with rainbow sprinkles during my visit home this summer.
My memories of high school: High school was most enjoyable for me once I discovered what I loved most and when I found teachers who I connected with. Once I found my passion for the world, I tried to make connections with all that I was learning and saw around me. My least favorite memories of high school were my feelings of fear and any math class. During this stage of my development, I began to understand national news broadcasts, the increasing reports of school violence and my deepening understanding of global terrorism. And in regards to math classes, a letter and a number never should be equal or substitute another. Things get complicated when this starts to happen!
My advice for this year’s crop of graduating seniors: Always accept people from different backgrounds. Aim to have a wide range of friends — friends from home, friends from outside your major in college or outside your battalion in the armed forces, make friends with the check-out personnel at the grocery store, be friendly with the immigrant who speaks halted English and the bus driver who always drives during the night shift. We can learn so much from others. It takes courage to step beyond our circle of best friends. But if you grant yourself this opportunity to accept others, you will learn so much.
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