There probably aren’t too many college sophomores at Harvard University who are certified in stick and flux-core welding.

Sarah Finnemore, the 2013 valedictorian of her graduating class at Skowhegan Area High School, is probably the only one.

Finnemore, of Norridgewock, turned in her steel-toe boots, welder’s mask, Carhartt jeans and leather work jacket and went off to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., in 2013, but still keeps her torch abilities ready for more sparks to fly when the time comes.

For now it’s all about tough courses in economics and college field hockey at one of America’s premier universities.

“It’s definitely busy, difficult, but definitely worthwhile,” she said. “At first, when I was transitioning to school last fall as a freshman, I was kind of nervous that it was going to be too hard coming from such a rural town, but it wasn’t and I enjoy every aspect of life here.”

While at Harvard, Finnemore has also taken an anthropology course, a German language course, econometrics, macro- and microeconomic theory, nutrition and global health and a course called Messing With Markets, about why the government chooses to interfere with policies such as taxation and free distribution.

But seriously, Sarah was asked, do classmates, professors or college administrators chuckle when they see or hear of her welding certification on her transcripts?

“It’s definitely something that kind of sticks out a little bit,” she said. “I’m not sure that there is anyone else here who has a certification in welding. There usually is a very positive reaction. People think it’s really cool. I think it would be really fun to get a chance to weld again. I’m not really sure in what outlet I’d be able to, but if I got the opportunity, I’d take advantage of it.”

Her mother, Mary Finnemore, a science teacher at Skowhegan high school, said Sarah hasn’t really done much welding since high school. Her father is Chris Finnemore, an engineer who works as utilities manager at Sappi Fine Paper.

“I think she welded with her dad on projects around the house, but not as a job,” Mary Finnemore said. “Apparently it’s been a topic of conversations at events when people say, ‘Oh, you’re a certified welder?’ because it comes across on interview questions. It’s kind of an oddball thing.”

Sarah Finnemore earned her welding certification through high school courses at the Somerset Career and Technical Center offered at the Cianbro construction company in Pittsfield, where she learned to cut steel with an oxygen-acetylene torch.

Troy Twitchell, of Hartland, Finnemore’s welding instructor at Cianbro, said Finnemore was only the second girl of the 40 students to enroll in the welding class in the four years the high school had been offering the course.

“She’s above average,” Twitchell said from the welding shop in 2013. “It’s a statistical fact that women have better hand/eye coordination than a man does. It’s a great fit for women who want to do it for a career.”

Finnemore also did volunteer work before going off to college, worked with youth field hockey, was a volunteer board member for the Greater Somerset Public Health Cooperative, was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army at Christmas, helped tutor other students at the high school and was president of the local National Honor Society chapter.

Last summer she attended a three-week finance class at the London School of Economics in England as part of a Harvard affiliated program and worked at the administration office at Cianbro. She spent 10 days with her field hockey team in Argentina during winter break this year.

Finnemore said she has not met another central Maine woman who is attending Harvard. Krysta Moulton, of Athens, is a senior at Harvard and will be graduating in May. She is majoring in government studies.

Other recent Skowhegan graduates who have attended Harvard are Haley Muse, class of 2007 and Emily Xie, class of 2008.

“It’s been very eye opening for her,” Sarah’s mother said. “The students that she’s met come from all over the world and have very diverse backgrounds, and that has been very exciting for her to see how different people live and the experiences that they have. Even her field hockey teammates, they don’t all come from the United States.”

Finnemore was a varsity member on three state championship field hockey teams at Skowhegan high school and has made the adjustment to NCAA Division 1 field hockey, she said.

Finnemore said a concussion sidelined her last season for a couple of games, but the Harvard Crimson has done well in her first two years.

“We had our first winning season in 10 years last year,” she said. “We lost to Princeton last year, but it was a very close game, and they’re usually tops in the Ivy League. We actually beat Columbia, who had a share of the Ivy League title, so that was exciting.”

This summer she has a job in Boston with the Fidelity investment group.

Finnemore said her studies at Skowhegan and her work — welding and administration at Cianbro — set a solid foundation to prepare her for college and for life after Harvard.

“I think I came to Harvard very prepared,” she said. “I felt Harvard very manageable coming from Skowhegan. I feel I had a good base in all of the subjects. I learned so much from everyone at Cianbro. The experiences I gained are invaluable.

“The welding definitely has shown me that taking on new challenges is a great way to learn and meet new people. All my experiences from home have definitely helped me at Harvard.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.