School News

Fifty-two BHR Adams Scholars honored at ceremony on Dec. 11

In photo, Senator Mike Rush with Adams Scholar Destiny Taylor.   Photo by Judy Bass                 

                                                                                                                                                                          CANTON - Fifty-two recipients of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship in the Class of 2020 at Blue Hills Regional Technical School were honored recently at a ceremony at the school attended by administrators, staff, friends and family members, Blue Hills Regional District School Committee Chair Thomas R. Polito, Jr., of Dedham, and legislators from Blue Hills’ nine-town district which is comprised of Avon, Braintree, Canton, Dedham, Holbrook, Milton, Norwood, Randolph and Westwood.

The distinguished guests included Sen. Walter F. Timilty, Rep. William C. Galvin and Sen. Mike Rush.  Ms. Summer Ordaz, aide to Rep. William J. Driscoll, Jr., attended in his absence. Mr. Brandon Pelchat, aide to Rep. Paul McMurtry, attended in his absence.

According to the website of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to qualify for the Adams scholarship, Class of 2020 students must receive a score of 260 or higher on one of the following MCAS tests – Grade 10 ELA, Grade 10 Mathematics, high school STE (Biology, Chemistry, Introductory Physics or Technology / Engineering), and earn a score of 240 or higher on the other two tests. Additionally, students need to “have combined scores from the three MCAS tests that place them in the top 25% of students in the graduating class in their district.”

The event program from the Blue Hills Regional ceremony states, “This scholarship offers four years of tuition credits for full-time students attending any University of Massachusetts campus or any state or community college.”

Blue Hills Superintendent-Director Jill Rossetti welcomed the students and the audience saying, “These students have truly gone above and beyond in terms of scholarly excellence. This award is proof of their diligence, capability and willingness to strive for the highest intellectual standards and meet them.”

After introductory remarks by Principal Geoffrey Zini, Academic Director Paul Bavuso gave the keynote address. He described the robust support network that John Adams had, headed by his wife, Abigail, and reminded the students that they did not attain the distinction of being Adams scholars all by themselves. “Think about someone who helped you along the way,” Dr. Bavuso exhorted them. “Learn from as many people as you can.”

“You are the cream of the crop,” Sen. Timilty told the students. “We’re proud of each and every one of you. You have made us all better.”

The ceremony was organized by Blue Hills Regional’s Guidance Department, including counselors Laura O’Reilly, who was the emcee, Sarah Titus, John-Henry Davis, Jill Metzger and secretary Peggy Hall.

 

 

 

BHR Grad Marc O'Brien Returns to His Former High School to Work on Major Renovation Project

By Judy Bass

CANTON – Decades ago, author Thomas Wolfe wrote a classic novel titled “You Can’t Go Home Again.” For Marc O’Brien, however, that sentiment doesn’t quite ring true.

A 2004 graduate of Blue Hills Regional Technical School who studied Construction Technology, Mr. O’Brien, 34, now an experienced professional carpenter employed by Consigli Construction, which proclaims itself “one of the largest general contractors in the Northeast,” came back to the high school alma mater he still holds dear in July to work on the last phase of a major, multi-million dollar renovation project.

As Mr. O’Brien puts it, “it really did come full circle” for him, with many Blue Hills staff members whom he knew when he walked the halls as a student recalling him and greeting him warmly, appreciating the success he has earned and brought back to Blue Hills with him.

“They remembered me right off the bat,” Mr. O’Brien said with bemusement. “It’s funny how you leave an impression on people.”

Mr. O’Brien, who lived in Norwood when he was in high school and now resides in Foxboro with his wife and two young children, comes from a family that includes several proud Blue Hills alumni. Two of his uncles attended Blue Hills for carpentry, his mother went to the school to learn typing and office skills, and his older brother opted for Drafting / CAD. His father, who attended Canton High School, was a carpenter.

After he graduated from Blue Hills 15 years ago, Mr. O’Brien and one of his uncles, a Class of 2000 member, headed west to Colorado for two years. He then came back to Massachusetts to do custom millwork and fabrications for Mystic Scenic Studios in Norwood for eight years.

Mr. O’Brien was hired by Consigli, the construction project manager for the Blue Hills renovation, in October 2016 and thereby was able to join the carpenters union.

His career began to sizzle. He worked on Holbrook Middle-High School, Lavietes Pavilion, which is a basketball arena at Harvard University in Cambridge, and Stoughton High School, a visually stunning facility he lauds as outstanding.

Now, helping to finish the sweeping renovation at Blue Hills is Mr. O’Brien’s focus as he pitches in to install doors, hardware, and other items on the “punch list” of things that need to be wrapped up before the project is officially done. When he talks about the job, his pride and sense of gratification emerge clearly. This, to him, is definitely not just another assignment.

In fact, the first week that he was on site at Blue Hills last summer “was really a trip,” Mr. O’Brien exults. Thoughts of the good times he had there as a young man playing football and baseball while he grew in maturity and competence along the way flooded back to him. He says he was a good student who never was in too much trouble and that he “absolutely” got what he required from his education at Blue Hills to launch a successful, rewarding career.

Mr. O’Brien says he especially loved working on outside crew during his time in Construction Tech at the school, building projects in Blue Hills’ district towns with his classmates that to this day he gleefully points out to his wife. “It’s an honor to say I built [this or] that [structure],” he explains. Obviously, the pleasure he takes in knowing what he achieved in those bygone days has not dimmed one bit.

Neither has his advocacy for the benefits of a technical high school education. Citing the fact that people who have expensive four-year college degrees frequently can’t get jobs despite their educational background, Mr. O’Brien said, “Trades are always going to be there. There will always be houses and buildings that need to be built. It’s so practical and smart to think that way.”

As for choosing Blue Hills as his high school, Mr. O’Brien emphatically calls it “the best move I ever made, best move in my life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BHR holds Fall 2019 Advisory Board dinner and meetings

Left to right: Students Christopher Alcimbert and Domenic Schiavo with Auto Collision Repair and Refinishing Lead Teacher Dwight Seaman.

By Judy Bass 

CANTON – Blue Hills Regional Technical School recently held its Fall 2019 Advisory Board dinner and meetings, both of which were well-attended by faculty, administrators and dozens of enthusiastic professionals eager to pitch in and use their years of training and expertise to help the school and its students.

In the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 74, which governs vocational technical education in the Commonwealth, Chapter 6 states: “Each school district, county agricultural school, collaborative or municipality operating an approved vocational-technical program shall, under a plan approved by the commissioner under the direction of the state board, appoint advisory committees composed of representatives of local business and industry related to the program, organized labor, parents and students, which shall consult with and advise the trustees and other school officials managing and supervising such schools.”

The Advisory Boards of each of Blue Hills Regional’s 17 technical programs typically meet twice annually, in the fall and spring, for a dinner followed by meetings of individual Advisory Boards. The professionals on these Boards advise the school on key issues such as curriculum, the latest equipment, industry trends and best practices, and assist in ensuring that the students get the most useful, state-of-the-art instruction possible. The active participation of the Advisory Board members in the educational process at Blue Hills Regional is an illustration of the extremely valuable, ongoing connection between business/industry and the school.

Principal Geoffrey Zini delivered opening remarks in which he lauded technical education at Blue Hills for providing students with “real world applications, scenarios and experiences.”

Superintendent Jill Rossetti told the audience that there have been many significant changes since the last time they were last at Blue Hills. She was appointed Superintendent; Mr. Zini was appointed Principal; Dr. Paul Bavuso was hired as the new Academic Director; and the renovation project was transforming the building substantially and was in its final stages. One thing Superintendent Rossetti said would not change, however, was the close and valuable relationships with representatives of local and regional business and industry, which are vital to our students’ education. “Your involvement with our school is of the utmost importance,” she said emphatically. Superintendent Rossetti thanked Vocational Director Michelle Sylvia and her assistant, Ms. Deb Beane, for doing a great job of organizing the event, Maintenance for the set-up, and the Culinary students and teachers and cafeteria workers for the excellent meal and food presentation.

Vocational Director Sylvia said that “Vocational education is where the rubber meets the road.  It’s where students come to learn a trade in one of the 17 state-of-the-art vocational programs that we offer.  We strive to keep pace with the economy. We produce graduates who have choices and have a competitive advantage.  Our students choose to go into their trade or into an apprentice program. Many choose to further their skills by going on to college.  Yet others choose the military. Blue Hills works to tailor a students’ track to success. This is done by offering rigorous academic courses which include several AP courses in conjunction with the skills learned in our vocational programs.”

Ms. Sylvia also mentioned that Blue Hills was awarded just over $240,000 in Perkins Grant money which will be allocated to the following: Culinary will get two new service stations and a Dough Divider, Auto Collision has a new Hunter Alignment Machine, Cosmetology is getting vented manicure stations, Health Assisting just acquired a new curriculum called Health Center 21 as well as an allocation of $75,000 for the SimMan, an advanced patient simulator. Electronics will get a 3D printer, and a number of professional development opportunities are present for our teachers.”

General Advisory Board Chair Linda Wirta said her goal is to attain a 75% Advisory Board members participation rate “on a consistent basis.” She also reviewed newsworthy developments in the economy, especially those that may affect our students and graduates, and she wished our new Superintendent and Principal, Ms. Rossetti and Mr. Zini, respectively, the best. (Ms. Wirta served on the Superintendent Search Committee earlier this year.) She mentioned that during recent technical program visits, she noticed three things from the students and teachers: “a great sense of pride in their work and their new surroundings, relief that the [renovation] construction is coming to an end, and excitement for what potentially lies ahead.” Ms. Wirta said that a Handbook has been compiled for Advisory Board members, and she thanked Vocational Director Sylvia for taking the lead on this endeavor. “As always, “Ms. Wirta concluded, “we will continue to strategize best practices for our Advisory Committees.”

Christopher Alcimbert of Randolph, a junior in Cosmetology who is the SkillsUSA State Vice President said, “The vocational programs have the ability to pull the leader out of each and every one of us. Vocational schools give students the chance to prepare for the real world of work while we also earn a high school diploma. The reason why I came to Blue Hills and chose Cosmetology is because I have a true passion for cosmetics and fashion. In the future, I plan to further this education by getting my cosmetology license and then attending college to major in dermatology.  Eventually I hope to become a dermatologist, carrying and using my leadership and entrepreneurial skills to open my own practice. I can pursue these dreams while earning excellent wages in my vocation. This dream is made obtainable, not only just through my program, but also thanks to SkillsUSA.”

There were two very special moments during the early portion of the evening that no one in the throng will soon forget. One was the introduction of Mr. Bernard H. Baher, a retired engineer from Avon, who, at the age of 99, is still a vital and highly respected part of Blue Hills just as he has been since the school was founded 53 years ago.

As Ms. Sylvia explained when she introduced him, Mr. Baher—whom she affectionately calls “Mr. Bernie” - retired as the Avon representative to the Blue Hills Regional District School Committee in 1987 after serving in that capacity for 22 consecutive years. (Mr. Baher was one of the members of the original Blue Hills Regional District School Committee. He was its chairman three times.) He helped start the Blue Hills Foundation, and was its president from 1989 to 2005, installed the school budget in a computer and instructed the school’s business manager on the budget program, repaired the handsomely crafted flagpole eagle outside the school, which he created, three times, consulted with school officials on an occasional basis, made presentations to Blue Hills’ Engineering students from 2005 to the present, and is an Advisory Board member for the Engineering program.

A longtime advocate of vocational education, Mr. Baher was appointed Chairman of the National Council on Vocational Education by President George H.W. Bush and served until it was abolished by Congress in 1991. Everyone in the Blue Hills Regional community is extremely grateful to Mr. Baher for his tireless advocacy for this school and for career and technical education.

Student Domenic Schiavo of Norwood, a senior in Auto Collision Repair & Refinishing, was introduced. He entered a SkillsUSA competition in Collision repair last year and won at the district level, at the State level, and then in Kentucky at the National level, he placed sixth in his field. “Dom is always very professional,” said Ms. Sylvia, “and has taken on a lot of important projects in Collision Technology.  His instructor, Dwight Seaman, knows he can rely on Dom to get the job done and done well.” In recognition of his excellence and his achievements, Dom was presented with a new ratchet set from Snap-On Tools.

 

 

 

 

BHR has successful, well-attended Open House

In photo, Blue Hills Regional Criminal Justice student Allyson demonstrates how to dust for fingerprints at the school's recent Open House. It was one of many demonstrations of Blue Hills students' technical skills that were held during the event. Photo by Judy Bass

By Judy Bass

CANTON - Blue Hills Regional Technical School was abuzz with excitement on Nov. 6 when its annual Open House was held, drawing hundreds of enthusiastic prospective students and their families for an up-close look at the outstanding academic and career education the school offers.

By all accounts, the night was a smash hit across the board.

“Our current students and master instructors showcased their program spaces, technical equipment, sample projects, led interactive experiences, demonstrations and answered questions for 6th, 7th and 8th graders and their families in 17 unique career/vocational technical programs” said Blue Hills Regional Superintendent Jill Rossetti. “It's very inspiring to watch the professionalism our students, staff and faculty display while giving their all during this amazing annual event. They teach and learn effectively, connect with potential, nervous students while making them feel welcome. Over four hundred students have already applied!”  

The school showcased itself at its very best. In fact, many classrooms were so packed with people that it was nearly impossible to get in the door.

No wonder. There were intriguing attractions galore. For example, the Culinary Arts program had long tables laden with delectable food including artfully-decorated cakes, a bread cornucopia, cookies, and scores of other tasty dishes just waiting to be sampled. Students in Criminal Justice showed the guests techniques they use to dust for fingerprints and perform CPR. In Automotive Technology, cars awaiting repairs lined the garage-like space where students and teachers animatedly discussed what they do and how. The cafeteria was filled with round tables where laptops were set up for students to apply for admission on the spot – and quite a few did.

What really set the evening - which was organized chiefly by Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Marybeth Joyce and Admissions Administrative Assistant Carole Martins - apart, aside from the phenomenal turnout, was the atmosphere generated by the entire Blue Hills Regional community. Everyone, from administrators to teachers, staff and students, was totally energized, eager to extol and exemplify the virtues of the school that clearly means so much to them.

That feeling was communicated in the welcoming attitude of the staff who directed visitors around the sprawling building, in the smiles of students who took obvious pride in themselves and their school, and in all the preparations that had been made with such care and thought. Everything that was done reinforced the occasion’s theme, targeted mainly to 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders: “We’re so glad you came – and we hope that you’ll make Blue Hills Regional your future high school.”

A sincere thank you to the Blue Hills administration, faculty, staff, students and District School Committee members for their assistance and continued support.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindness Rocks at Blue Hills

Student Kayla holds a copy of "A Pebble for Your Thoughts" while other students paint their kindness rocks. Photo by Judy Bass   (Click "View Full Article" for story)

By Judy Bass

CANTON - During lunches in the cafeteria at Blue Hills Regional Technical School, you would typically see students eating, chatting, and enjoying a short break from their usual hectic activities. What you would not typically see are students eagerly lining up to adorn small rocks with brief, heartfelt messages, but that is exactly what happened at Blue Hills during one memorable week in October.

They were actually participating in a movement started by Cape Cod resident Megan Murphy, who founded The Kindness Project. Her modest venture caught fire, generating international attention and publicity, a book titled “A Pebble for Your Thoughts: How One Kindness Rock at the Right Moment Can Change Your Life,” and a catchy motto, “One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life.”

Ms. Murphy, weary of the negativity rampant in the news every day, had started taking solitary walks along the beach to rejuvenate her spirits. She also began collecting rocks and writing inspirational messages on them. A friend stumbled upon one and warmly thanked Ms. Murphy for giving her an unexpected emotional pick-me-up when she least anticipated it.

Suddenly realizing the immense power of those humble rocks and messages, Ms. Murphy was energized to leave the rocks in even more locations – at the grocery store, at the coffee shop, “and basically anywhere I felt they would be found by someone who needed the inspiration,” as she wrote in the introduction to her book.

Ms. Murphy’s sweetly compassionate endeavor appealed to Blue Hills Library Media Specialist Caroline Dynan. A devotee herself of walking on the beach and admiring the unique rocks she noticed there, Mrs. Dynan proposed having Blue Hills students paint their own meaningful exhortations on rocks during lunches at the school if they wished to. They could keep them, give them away or leave them to be claimed by anybody in need of a little boost.

“I really enjoy our librarian, Mrs. Dynan, engaging our students during lunch as they paint positive messages on beach rocks,” said Blue Hills Superintendent Jill Rossetti. “It's a great way to make friends and make someone's day better by spreading kindness.”

A table was set up at the front of the cafeteria, with rocks already painted in striking hues by Mrs. Dynan just waiting for messages to be written on them. Students eagerly added thoughts like “Stay in School,” “Hope,” “Smile, You’re Amazing,” “Love Yourself” and “Good Luck,” citing the value of “creating positivity” and being “inspirational.” One rock simply had a cute smiley face on it. Some of the students collaborated on their rocks, while others went the solo route.

However they opted to go about it, all seemed to understand the deeper meaning of what they were doing. Based on the students’ enthusiasm for the project, Mrs. Dynan would like to set aside a space in the school library where they can work on more kindness rocks in the future.

“When I met Megan [Murphy] at a book signing,” said Mrs. Dynan, “I was inspired by her message and knew that I wanted to bring The Kindness Project to the students at Blue Hills. I wanted to do this activity with the students because I think that it's important for the students to think of others. The project fosters empathy, and shows that sometimes a small gesture can make a big difference.”

 

 

 

 

BHR Students Learn About Digital Life From Musician Juma Inniss, Founder Of The Message

Rapper and youth culture expert Juma Inniss shares his advice for being safe on social media and using it responsibly 

By Judy Bass 

On September 26, the cafeteria at Blue Hills Regional Technical School in Canton resounded with the lively sounds of rap music and the high-energy presentation of Juma Inniss, an accomplished musician and founder / director of The Message, an organization that helps students more fully understand and appreciate the value of “media literacy, critical thinking and healthy decision-making,” according to its website themessagemovement.com.

When he spoke to the Blue Hills students, Inniss’s theme was digital life, or how to use social media is a way that is safe, enjoyable and responsible.

“The Digital Life Talks with Juma Inniss are important reminders for many of us to check our privacy settings every three months, think before we post, treat others with respect, watch our screen time and be ourselves while keeping our vibes positive,” said Blue Hills Acting Superintendent-Director Jill Rossetti.  

According to The Message’s website, Inniss “is a youth culture expert, media literacy educator, and recording artist/producer from Boston. He is also the founder and director of The Message. He has been using popular culture, music, and other media to engage and uplift youth for more than a decade. He has worked extensively in his local community, helping teens develop social consciousness and media literacy skills. Inniss has written and produced two full-length albums. He holds a B.S. in Marketing Communication from Emerson College and an A.S. in Broadcasting from the New England Institute of Art. Inniss is a member of the National Association for Media Literacy Education and an advisor to Media Literacy Now.”

He began his talk at Blue Hills by pointing out that when people are on social media, they are constantly exchanging messages, some of which are positive, while others may be harmful or negative. Noting that we need to be aware that “messages can dictate where our feet go,” Inniss launched into a discussion of some key points regarding smart social media use.

Those points included keeping you location – and your business - to yourself and never sharing passwords with your friends. To reinforce the importance of that final point, Inniss mentioned that 70 per cent of employers screen job candidates’ media profiles before deciding who to hire – and that sharing inappropriate material on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can easily disqualify an applicant.

“You don’t want to close doors on yourself.” Inniss advised the students.

So what else did he tell the students about social media? “Keep it positive,” he urged them. “Avoid things that get you into trouble,” like negative comments about other people. Thirty-nine per cent of kids in Massachusetts have experienced some kind of trauma, he said, so don’t be rude or hurtful online.

Instead, Inniss exhorted them, “Focus on what makes you unique. Every one of you has something to offer the world. Don’t be caught up in what other people are doing.”