Norwich Tech senior is hands-on expert in heating, cooling
Norwich — Norwich Technical High School senior Summer Clark has a knack for installing and repairing the systems that provide heat, hot water and air conditioning to people's homes.
The 18-year-old Lebanon resident, an honors student who graduates next month, already has a job in her trade, which is heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC. She works as an apprentice at 72 Degrees Air Conditioning and Heating in Baltic and is close to receiving a license for the trade.
Clark exudes competence in jeans, work boots and monogrammed blue work shirt with neatly rolled-up sleeves. Bright-eyed and smiling during an interview at the school's HVAC shop earlier this week, she said enrolling at Norwich Tech was the best decision she ever made. She won't have student loan debt and will be doing what she loves upon graduation.
"It just really caught my eye that I can learn something that not a lot of people understand and don't know about," Clark said during an earlier phone interview. "I love getting into the trade and being hands-on. I want to stay in the field, but eventually be able to move up to selling units all over the world and traveling and maybe managing my own company."
Clark said her biggest influence has been her father, John Clark, who is an auto mechanic with his own shop in Lebanon. The father said during a phone interview that she saw him turn a lot of wrenches over the years and listened when he told her that she would always be able to get a job if she was skilled at working with her hands.
"The drive she has is the biggest helper for Summer," John Clark said. "Nobody is going to tell her she can't do something. I've told my kids, there's no such thing as 'I can't' in our house. You can do anything you want to."
Some students arrive at the HVAC shop with no knowledge of basic hand tools. Not Clark.
"She comes from a house with toolboxes, and you can definitely tell," said HVAC shop teacher Russ Stockton, who is a 1998 graduate of the program he now teaches.
Stockton said Clark has an excellent work ethic and won't take no for an answer when it comes to troubleshooting. HVAC is an excellent choice of occupation, since there's a year-round need for service, he said.
She is the only female in her shop class of five HVAC students, and when she goes on work sites, customers sometimes asked whether she is the shop owner's daughter. Her teachers and classmates say Clark is as good as, or better than, anyone.
"She works hard, and the rest of the class has to keep up with her," said HVAC Department Head David Bellinghiri, who is retiring this year after 28 years of teaching. He said he likes having girls in the class, since they tend to be more organized than boys and their presence helps keep the boys in line.
"I just think her personality as working in a predominantly male environment will take her to heights anybody else could reach," Bellinghiri said.
Clark has participated in the school's work-based learning program and the HVAC production program, where the entire class goes out to work sites.
Work and school have left Clark with little spare time, but she said she enjoys snowmobiling and hanging out with her family. She said her boyfriend and her best friend are both in the HVAC program, and that "hanging out" to them often consists of driving around or going to the movies.
Ty Ricard, the best friend, said Clark, whom he's known since first grade, knows what she's doing.
"Beyond far, she's one of the best of all of us," Ricard said. "She listens. She does it properly the first time. She doesn't have to ask a lot of questions."