There's one in every crowd.

That one impressionable kid, the first to raise his or her hand when asked if they want to be a dentist, doctor, fireman, or journalist, is an ever-ready, enthusiastic student.

On Thursday, during a visit to the Ravalli Republic with other Washington School first graders, that student was Kameron Cords.

When did Cords stumble upon his passion for journalistic endeavors?

"Since forever," he replied.

Cords and his classmates were taking part in a two-day walking tour - officials at Washington School called it a walking community field trip - that took the students to a variety of businesses in downtown Hamilton.

In addition to a visit to the newsroom of the Republic, there were stops at Bitterroot Drug, Big Sky Candy, the dental practice of Eli Johnson, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, Lakeland Feeds, Safeway, the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department and the Post Office.

A stop at the hospital coincided with an official observance of National Emergency Medical Services Week.

Accordingly, a pair of ambulances parked out front greeted the students' arrival.

Emergency medical technician Roy Grant, who has served on ambulance crews in Ravalli County for 28 years, talked the students through the job of an emergency services responder. He then cautioned them to hold their ears for the much-anticipated flare of lights and sirens.

EMT Katie Hamilton said it is always a pleasure to talk to kids about her job.

"The first thing about this job is you want to help people," she said. "You do it because you want to save lives."

Hamilton and Grant pointed out that they are just two of 63 EMTs and paramedics serving the Bitterroot Valley between Bass Creek and Lost Trail Pass. During 2009, those responders brought some 3,500 emergency cases through the doors of the EMS ward of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, where emergency room personnel treated more than 10,000 people.

The importance of it all was not lost on the students. Especially when one of their own was volunteered to be strapped to a back board and, gurney-bound, loaded into the back of an ambulance.

Still, there was that lone, first no-doubter of an upraised hand when the question ‘who wants to be an EMT or paramedic?' came. After a little more prompting, a few more joined in.

Washington School Principal Shawna Kientz said the students gain a lot from exposure to people working in the various careers that are featured in a community like Hamilton.

"It's a great way for them to get a sense of the community," Kientz said.

Kientz said the foray was a rare field trip for students in her school, where budget constraints won't allow for the more-expensive, transportation-dependent kind of trip.

Nonetheless, with a good deal of support from the community in the form of 250 plates of spaghetti sold at a recent community-night dinner, Kientz said plans are in the works for educational class trips to Missoula before the end of the school year.

As with any good field trip, walking or not, the tour of Hamilton businesses was woven into the curriculum, Kientz said.

There was an offshoot to the first grade reading program.

And to stress the importance of staying in school, councilor Vickie Dickerson asked students what kind of reading and writing skills might be required to perform various jobs.

First grade teacher Jeannette Gray said they also worked on directional skills, using Google Earth to zero in on Hamilton and plot their routes through the town on maps they created.

The kids' success with this exercise prompted a when-the-student-becomes-the-master moment.

"At one point I actually took a wrong turn and the kids said, ‘Oh, Ms. Gray, you took a wrong turn,'" Gray said.

Despite the fact that Big Sky Candy did not ply them with free samples of their products, each student left the dental office with a bag containing the rudiments of oral hygiene.

When all was said and done, students and teachers found their way - "the kids didn't even complain about walking" - through the journey and back again to school for a continuation of the inevitable discussions about "what do you want to be when you grow up."

Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or


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