Massachusetts Capital Skills Grant creates opportunities for GHS students


Vocational students huddle around new equipment.


The new 2017-2018 school year presents new hands-on availabilities for all Gloucester High School students. A $499,000 grant request sent from the GHS vocational program to modify and update the vocational equipment, was approved and sponsored by Governor Charlie Baker.

As many know, Gloucester High School is in need of several renovations. As first year Head of Vocational Programs, Ms. Lysen opened her ears to the requests of the program’s staff. Since many of the pieces of equipment being used to teach students about vocational were purchased in the 1950’s, Lysen decided it was time for a change. The teachers within the department worked to develop a list of desired machinery, tools, and costs in order to modernize the vocational curriculum. In February of 2017, the vocational staff, including new Machine Technical teacher Matthew Coye and Ms. Lysen, sent a grant proposal to the office of Governor Baker, who was offering a total of $1 million in grants to chosen schools’ vocational programs in Massachusetts. And with some luck, in March of 2017, the grant was accepted and the process of remodeling began.

Although, it wasn’t just luck. The staff worked hard to develop an idea that would put Gloucester High School’s application over the top. The game-winning idea was that this grant would also fund what is known as the new “Makerspace Lab”. This lab will have several new machines such as 3D printers and simulation machinery. This part of the grant is proposed to create new opportunities for the vocational programs as well as automotive, machine-tech, carpentry, robotics, electrical, CAD and regular STEM classes. Lysen described this lab as a great “integration opportunity” for students to merge their studies with real life machine skills. This proposed lab is expected to be up and running by the end of October with the help of the GHS carpentry and electrical classes. Lysen expressed how this “Makerspace Lab” is really “for everyone” and her hopes that this new feature will draw attention from the students and attract them to the vocational program. Lysen also reached out to several colleges and businesses, such as Applied Materials, who wrote a letter of support for the grant request.

Opposed to other vocational high schools in Massachusetts, Gloucester High School stands out because it teaches both vocational classes as well as STEM classes. This is fantastic since students do not need to commit to a school that is entirely vocational, such as Essex Technical High School. If they were to commit to a school that is completely vocational, they would be stuck there or have to transfer to an entirely different school if the desire for change ever occurred. However, since GHS is a hybrid between these programs it offers a chance to try out both without having to completely commit to one or the other. This “50/50” characteristic also helped to make Gloucester High School stand out amongst other school’s proposals.

Now that GHS has received the money, they have to make sure that it is utilized in the correct way over the next few years. Since they made a proposal with certain goals, administration needs to make sure that the plan is followed and the money is used for exactly what they proposed. Over the next three years, Governor Baker is going to check in and make sure that the money he granted is being put to good use.

This grant is huge for opening up opportunities for students in the vocational program.  “Lots of companies are looking for skillsets that have to do with these machines,” says Mr. Coye, “and students will be able to come in here and learn them for their future”. With these machines students will have a hands on experience to master skills they will need to know in the real world.

This grant has brought together citizens of the Gloucester community of all ages. Along with the current staff and students in the vocational program, many others helped in the complicated process. Last school year, then-Senior Kevin Nolan used the CAD program provided at Gloucester to develop the exact floor plan and measurements used for the renovations. Many others, including former student Mr. Jim Sargent, helped create the list of desired materials and equipment along with former-teacher Mr. Verga. Although, the new vocational program isn’t expected to be in use for another month or so, it’s already attracting attention and bringing the community together.
“Massachusetts is top in the country for the quantity and quality of vocational job opportunities.” said Lysen. She expresses that the new equipment and “Makerspace Lab” aims to be a great resource for students to learn and apply acquired skills learned in machine tech courses.  “These machines are useful because every [vocational] company will have them so when we go to work, it will be a lot easier since we already know how to use them,” adds Senior Andrew Silva, “This is stuff we learn at college, so it’s a lot cheaper to learn here.” Silva also talked about how some students would have to travel to colleges across the country for the opportunity to work with these machines. It is a huge advantage for GHS students to use these machines throughout their high school career so they’ll have an advantage over others that have not had the chance to use this equipment.

This Mass Capital Skills Grant will modernize the equipment used and help prepare interested students for a vocational career. The proposed Makerspace Lab is an extension that school administration and program leaders have high hopes of attracting new students and integrating STEM courses with vocational programs. So whether you’re a committed vocational student or a dedicated STEM student, this new grant will offer you new opportunities to learn from hands on learning experiences.