Published DateMEREDITH — Students at Inter-Lakes High School Tuesday morning heard the stories of four people who grew up in the Lakes Region and, after exposure to the wider world, decided to return to make their careers and lives in their home communities.
''Coming back to New Hampshire is the best decision I ever made,'' said Ashley Landroche, owner of The Studio at Meredith Bay, where she teaches dancing, yoga and performing arts.
She grew up dancing under her grandmother's instruction at Meredith's own Sally's School of Dance and from early on in her life had her eyes set on the big stage, spending her high school years at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts near Boston and moving on to the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music where she earned a B.F.A in Musical Theatre..
From there she went to New York City, where between auditioning for parts she supported herself as a waitress, eventually landing a job as a performer on a cruise ship where she spent two and a half years.
''I got to see a lot of the world but all the time I was away I was thinking of New Hampshire. I decided to come back to be close to my family and bring what I learned back to the community,'' Landroche told the students.
She says that she is now in a committed relationship and building a home in area after having started her own business just last June.
Rob Stephens, manager of Moulton's Farm, said that he never really went away from the Lakes Region, although he did feel the pull of the outside world, passing up an internship at Disney World in order to remain in New Hampshire. A 1996 graduate of Moultonborough Academy who had started working at Moulton's Farm in 1990, Stephens earned a degree in horticulture and landscape design from the Thompson School of Applied Sciences at UNH in 1998 and started his own landscaping business which is now run by his younger brothers.
''I was always interested in hands-on kind of things and family is very important to me,'' said Stephens, who urged the students to find what it is they are passionate about and apply themselves to it.
He said that the local Lakes Region Community College in Laconia is a good place to start, especially for those who have an interest in working with their hands.
''Don't be ashamed. There are great opportunities there,'' said Stephens, who pointed out that the college is not only close, but is also affordable.
''There's nothing worse than going to college or school and coming out with a load of debt,'' said Stephens.
Selectman Carla Horne, who grew up in Meredith and is the daughter of the town's former police chief, urged the students to take advantage of the supportive environment they have in high school and apply themselves so that they will be well prepared for their future.
''It took me until I was 40 to learn what I wanted to do. When I was in high school I was more interested in basketball than the classroom,'' said Horne, who said that she attended Plymouth State University with a goal of becoming an elementary school teacher but decided that wasn't for her.
She later went to Florida where she studied architecture before moving back to Meredith, where she worked in the construction business for 20 years.
Some 13 years ago she went back to school and started her own home inspection business, Grand View Home Inspections, which in recent years has expanded beyond the Lakes Region.
''I love my job and I love Meredith and there are great opportunities here,'' Horne told the students, telling them that citizen volunteers have created ''a strong, close knit community'' which she is proud to be a part of.
Atty. Matthew Huot of the Wescott, Dyer, Fitzgerald and Nichols law office in Laconia, is a 2001 graduate of Laconia High School who earned degree in government at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and his law degree at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
He said that he came back to Laconia, along with his wife, who is an also an attorney, because of family ties and the love of the area and it's natural beauty.
''We need young professionals who are engaged and involved and who can make a positive contribution to their communities,'' said Huot, who along with the other participants told the students that it was important to work while in high school to put themselves in a position where they can succeed in their career goals.
The panelists were introduced by Rhonda Hanaway of the Career Partnership Program, a public/private partnership between The Greater Meredith Program and the school district, which encourages student participation through a variety of initiatives, including job shadowing, internships with local businesses, community service and assisting students in finding and applying for summer or part-time employment.
Attorney Matt Huot of Laconia, Carla Horne, owner of Grand View Home Inspections, Ashley Landroche, owner of The Studio at Meredith Bay, and Rob Stephens, manager of Moulton's Farm, told students at Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith why they chose to pursue careers in their home towns. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)