CLAREMONT — Sneha Magadi was torn between becoming a Broadway actress or working in information technology.
As a student at Lebanon High School, she attended a summer program sponsored by Red River in 2018 that included teaching students about programming and assembling computers.
“I learned so much in the program it pushed me toward this field,” said Magadi, 19, a first-year student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a major in computer science and engineering.
This summer, two dozen students will convene in person or virtually to participate in Red River’s Think SMART program.
“They have to collaborate and troubleshoot and solve problems,” said Richard Ackerman, vice president of workforce development at Red River, a technology company based in Claremont.
“We’re trying the best we can to give them as much real world experience,” Ackerman said.
“We really promote putting the phones down and focusing on the task at hand and being creative and collaborating,” he said.
He hopes students keep Red River in mind during their working life.
“People who started in the program in ’14 are now in the real world gaining real work experience,” Ackerman said. “The boomerang potential is to come back because they have a working relationship here. Maybe become an employee, maybe become a customer, or they’re a very productive member of society.
“Any part of that is a win,” Ackerman said.
Jake Cardillo grew an interest in studying mechanical engineering from his time on his robotics team at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton.
The New London teen attended the Think SMART program in 2019.
“Learning that from there kind of pushed me to explore computer science (more),” said Cardillo, 19, a first-year student studying mechanical engineering at Brown University.
Started in 2014, the Red River program will meet two days a week this summer for the first time at the urging of previous attendees. The program runs from June 21 through mid-August.
Fifty-four students from six states, including six schools from New Hampshire, have participated over the years. Last year featured 20 students remotely from around the country.
The students received free laptops, which Cardillo used during high school. Cardillo and Magadi each won a $5,000 scholarship from Red River, a second computer and other gear.
Students also learned about personal finance, including the importance of taking advantage of a future employer’s 401(k) match.
Cardillo said he also gained confidence in public speaking in front of adults.
Students, Ackerman said, should think of the program as a food sampler.
“You get to try a couple of appetizers,” he said. “You may find, ‘I really love coding.’ ”
Magadi, who wants to become a cybersecurity analyst, isn’t giving up on her other dream, knowing that technology permeates society.
“You still might see me on Broadway,” she said.
What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, Fidelity Investments, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education. Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at email@example.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.