A program at Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School will allow public school students in Saugus and surrounding towns to learn a trade.
The 12-week program, Exploring Vocational and Career Technical Pathways, allows in-district students in grades 9-12 not currently enrolled at the school to expand their knowledge in one of 13 tech programs for free.
“As a School Committee member of a public school district, I think that giving children options is what the key is,” said Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the school committee for Saugus Public Schools. “Vocational school is not for everybody, but public school isn’t for everyone either. Obviously I represent the public schools and work hard for the public schools, but I also think it’s our responsibility to give children options.”
The technical school has more than 1,200 students from Saugus, Revere, North Reading, Reading, Chelsea, Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, Wakefield, Winchester, Winthrop, and Woburn, according to its website. Of the 292 students who graduated from the school last year, 55 were from Saugus. This was more than in any of the other communities.
All four of Meredith’s children have attended Northeast Metropolitan Regional High School, and one returned to the public school system.
“Once children learn a trade with their hands, they have it forever,” said Meredith. “The college acceptance rate is higher now than it’s ever been graduating from those technical schools. I think it’s a great opportunity for kids who may have never otherwise been able to learn a trade. It’s an invaluable lesson to learn how to use your hands or your mind. It’s an additional tool for those kids to have while they’re working their way to college.”
Peter Rossetti, who sits on the school committee for Northeast Metropolitan Regional High School, said Saugus students typically make up the second or third largest population at the school. This year, there are 191 Saugus children attending.
“It’s kind of tough when a kid has to decide at a relatively young age what they want to do with the rest of their life,” said Rossetti, who thought the program would be especially valuable to eighth- and ninth-graders. “I think it’s a fine idea and I think it’s something that the kids who are inclined to do something like that — go into a trade — would really benefit from. They have the opportunity to get a free look before they make a decision.”
This is the second year the program has been offered. It’s funded by a $100,000 grant from Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, which awards $10 million each year through its $100K for 100 grant program. The grant will be used to offer the program for four years.
“We take our role as our communities’ alternative high school option very seriously,” said Principal Carla Scuzzarella. “This grant provides us with the means to offer vocational and technical opportunities for students who are thinking about options for their future.”
High interest in last year’s program led the school to provide more course offerings, said Scuzzarella. Students can pick from nearly all of the school’s tech programs, including automotive technology, business technology, drafting and design, carpentry, cosmetology, culinary arts, design and visual communications, electrical, health assisting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning/refrigeration, metal fabrication, plumbing, and robotics.
Three four-week sessions are taught on Saturdays by Northeast instructors. Participants get an abridged version of each shop’s curriculum and can attend all three sessions, and pick three different shops to explore, or stick with one for 12 weeks.
“Teachers saw the positive impact this program had on communities during our pilot program and wanted to become more involved,” Program Director Joe O’Brien Jr. said. “This is a great opportunity for students who are interested in one, two or three areas of technical study to learn more and gain valuable skills that can be applied in college or a career.”
The first of three sessions is running now through March 2. Session two will run from March 9-30 and session three will be April 6 through May 4.