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10 Questions with Andria Hautamaki

Banner graphic for alumni spotlight featuring TVHS alumni Andria Hautamaki

1. What is your name, which TSD schools did you attend, and what year did you graduate?

My name is Andria Hautamaki. I attended Walt Clark Middle School and I graduated from Thompson Valley High School (TVHS) in 2003.

2. What have you been doing since graduation, and what is your proudest accomplishment?

After high school, I took a gap year in Costa Rica. Next, I attended Wheaton College in Illinois where I majored in English Literature. After finishing my undergraduate degree, I taught high school English as a Second Language (ESL) in Los Angeles, California for two years. Later, I completed my Master’s degree in International Agricultural Development at the University of California, Davis. I currently work as a freelance photographer and writer. As a journalist, it’s rewarding to meet people from different walks of life and share the nuances of their experiences through text and photos. Publications I’ve freelanced for in recent years include Smithsonian Magazine, NPR, National Geographic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Western Horseman.

3. What is your best memory of school?

I ran cross country all four years of high school, and our TVHS team was really united. We had a lot of fun together during training, traveling to competitions, and many memorable traditions, such as spaghetti dinners the night before a race.

4. What was your biggest challenge during school?

One of my biggest challenges during school was balancing my various interests! A huge thanks goes to my parents who were present at everything from sporting events to horse shows; they prioritized making time for me and my brother’s school work and extracurricular activities despite their busy work schedules.

5. What do you know now that you wish your younger self had known?

I wish I’d put less pressure on myself to “know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.” Some people know exactly what they want to do, and that’s great! But a lot of folks, including myself, need time to experiment with different classes or jobs, be honest about what they like and don’t like, and adapt and change course to match their interests. When I was in high school, I felt like there was only one “right” college and degree program out there, and was afraid I’d make the “wrong” choice. In in reality, there were probably a variety of good options. I wish I’d stressed less on making the perfect choice, and focused more on stepping towards what I was naturally interested in, good at, and enjoyed.

6. What advice would you give to students in school now?

Focus on building quality relationships with your peers and with teachers, coaches, or mentors who you connect with and respect. Steer clear of negative friendships or relationships. Spend time with people that encourage you, believe in you, draw out your talents, and help you be your best self.

7. Name one person who changed your life for the better during school and how they did it.

My photography teacher, Scott Sprain, gave me my start in photography and he encouraged me to explore the world with my camera. With Mr. Sprain, I took Photo 1, Photo 2, and then repeated Photo 3 as many times as I could. His classes gave me a strong foundation in photography and I use the skills he taught me every time I’m on an assignment.

I’d also like to thank our cross country and track coaches from 1999-2003 for their support and encouragement, especially Bernadine Knittel, Ernie Derrera, and Jay Klagge. I remember them saying that it’s great if we do well at the next competition, but the biggest success is that we learn how to incorporate exercise into our daily routine for the rest of our life.

8. If you could wave a magic wand and change something about your school years, what would it be?

If I could change something about my school years, I wish I had worried less about figuring out the future and focused more on enjoying that unique time of life. At the same time, I don’t regret studying well and trying hard.

9. How did school prepare you for what you are doing now?

Growing up in Loveland, I had the opportunity to explore various activities, from arts and academics to music and sports. I’m also grateful for local clubs, like my 4-H club, and community events such as the Larimer County Fair. Engaging in these different activities allowed me to discover my passions. Looking back, I see that my early interests in literature, art, and agriculture still frame the work that I do today.

10. What do you hope to accomplish in the future?

I want to continue using my photography and journalism to share stories at the intersection of the environment, agriculture, and rural life. Recently, I’ve learned how to use a border collie to herd cattle — border collies have incredible herding instincts! — and I’d like to hone my ability to communicate better with my dogs.