Eli Rosenblum-Stephens (MMFS ‘16) has enjoyed woodworking ever since he was first introduced to it as a middle schooler. He took classes outside of school and even built himself a workshop in the basement of his family’s home. “I’ve always liked working with my hands, and found wood to be a really nice medium,” says Eli.
As a 10th grader, Eli took part in creating woodworking classes at MMFS. “I helped build the woodworking program in the upper school. I organized donations of a bunch of tools and assisted with teaching techniques during classes. There were about six or seven of us who took it as an art elective that first year.” In 2016, a stool that Eli built earned a Merit award in the prestigious YoungArts competition; the piece was included in an exhibition of National YoungArts Foundation winners at Sotheby’s.
After graduation, Eli moved to Vermont to attend an immersion program with the Vermont Woodworking School. He took undergraduate classes at Northern Vermont University, where he created a work in concrete that is currently on display in public parkland. Eli also got some real-world industry experience while working for Copeland Furniture. But after completing the immersion program with VWS in 2019, Eli wanted to take some time to decide what was next for him. “Then COVID-19 hit.”
Eli took online classes at NVU last spring to complete his AA in Fine Woodworking and Furniture Design, graduating magna cum laude. “It was a long process, but I’m very glad that I went back and finished my degree.”
Eli is currently exploring career options in the renewable energy field. “I’d like to find a career path where I can incorporate all of my interests—design, building, technology, and sustainability. I am currently enrolled in the Associate training course of The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, a program for designing solar energy systems for residential and commercial spaces.”
Eli thinks back on his years at MMFS fondly. “I liked how small MMFS was. I liked knowing everyone, and that it felt tight knit. I was always very quiet in school. But other students would gravitate to me if they had questions because I was open to helping others. This happened at VWS too, actually. If I understand something, I want to help others.”
Eli’s advice to other students with learning disabilities is to keep working hard, even if it’s not comfortable. “It’s important to advocate for yourself if you have needs that aren’t being met.”
Eli also encourages MMFS seniors to take their time with college and career choices. “If you are unsure right now, that is totally fine. College is a good place to explore your interests and see where they lead you. But a college degree is not for everyone.” Eli suggests doing internships or finding other ways to experience the work you think you might want to do. “You might think you like something from the outside looking in, but once you are in it, you might not like it so much. And you might find something you like better in the process.”