Many students can’t wait for the school bell to ring at the end of the day so that they can go home. But at Visalia Technical Early College High School (VTEC), when classes are over, the work continues. This is where juniors Emilee Flaming and Emma Fleetwood have devoted many of their 6,000 combined volunteer hours.

Learning Director Shari Williams says, “Emi and Emma’s leadership skills shined from day one. They took the lead during group activities and assisted other students, and worked tirelessly giving farm tours and planning school dances and activities. With our dual enrollment with College of the Sequoias, they have both earned many college credits. With all they have going on, these two still find time to help out whenever needed.

I am extremely proud of Emma and Emi and their selflessness in helping others.”

Emilee and Emma credit the way they were raised as the reason for volunteering with many organizations in the county. They both agree: “It doesn’t have anything to do with the number of volunteer hours, certificates or ribbons. It’s more about what we can give to make a situation better.”

Emilee’s older brother attended VTEC and she liked coming to his campus. “I have always liked the animals at the fair and wanted to show animals one day. I just took a leap of faith and tried VTEC because I liked what I saw.” Emilee quickly realized that VTEC provided a unique opportunity that fit her interests. “Classes are not what you would think around here. Our teachers will hold class in a building or a pasture, depending on what we are doing that day. It is not unusual to start class sitting at a desk and, if the veterinarian arrives at the pig barn during class, the entire class is now part of the vet procedures and learning hands-on care for our animals.” Whether students are in math, Spanish or history class, teachers align lessons with the hands-on school vision supporting the college and technical career pathways that the students are interested in pursuing after high school.

“My future plans are to be a CAL FIRE firefighter,” Emilee says. “Since I was 5 years old, I have always wanted to help people. I prefer active, hard work and being outdoors. I can see myself traveling the state of California and serving in one of the many branches of CAL FIRE.”

VTEC has offered Emma a high school experience where her passion for animals could be incorporated into her school day and beyond. As an 8-year-old, Emma was already working with animals and serving others. Alongside her grandfather, Emma volunteered at Access Adventure, a ranch with therapeutic horse carriage driving events for people living with mobility challenges, special needs, injuries and other limitations in life.

“I draw my passion for animals and helping others from my Grandpa,” she says. “When I volunteer, I look to give back where people and animals need it the most.”

Emma has discovered that the teachers at VTEC have similarities to her childhood role model. “To be a teacher here, you really have to understand the student’s reasons for attending VTEC. It means a lot to know that we have teachers that understand and support a non-traditional approach to learning. For example, during lambing season, we may have a ewe giving birth

at 11 at night. We have teachers like Miss Thompson coming back at night to include us in the birthing process and tending to the needs of the newborns.”

Emma will complete her associate’s degree early, thanks to the college courses available while at VTEC. Upon high school graduation, family and the four seasons of weather guide Emma’s decision to move to Kentucky, where she hopes to become a high school agriculture teacher and have her own herd of sheep one day.