HANOVER – Hanson Multi-Service Senior Center Director Mary Collins has long faced the challenge of providing SHINE counseling services to a growing number of residents and their need for privacy, with her staff’s ability to work without the distraction of heavy foot traffic into Collins’ office.
The answer has been a renovation to a little-used space at the center, enclosing an alcove in the foyer to provide office space separate from the rest of the office, providing clients the privacy they need.
But in a town where finances are tight, who would do that work?
Hanson, one of eight member towns sending students to South Shore Tech, has received help from a program at the school that provides students with practical experience in their trades before they go into their cooperative education placements in the workforce.
“It’s been a great experience for a lot of our seniors,” Collins said. “[They] were so happy to see the young trades people in working on a project here. It’s been a great experience for our seniors and I think it’s been a good experience for the kids.”
Both the carpentry and electrical shops worked on the office project. Collins also said SST graduate Charles Baker, the town’s facilities manager was instrumental in putting the project together.
“We had a need and this was the best way to approach it,” Collins said.
Both Town Administrator Lisa Green and Select Board Chair Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett also lauded the program, both as a way of giving students valuable experience and one that saves the town money.
“They did a great job,” Green said of the project at the Senior Center. “It provided them with really essential experience in the trade and basically the town paid for the materials. That was a real savings for the town.”
“I think it’s a wonderful way for us to save tax dollars,” she said. “The benefit is also that it’s usually kids from the surrounding communities, or our own community, that are getting an opportunity for experience and to give back to their community. Honestly, it’s a no-brainer, a win-win-win.”
She stressed that students are very carefully supervised by licensed professionals on the jobsites, in the interest of safety as well as practical and educational experience.
More familiar with the work SST students did at the town’s historic Bonney House in 2017-18, FitzGerald-Kemmett, who used to chair the Community Preservation Commission, said that project was a valuable lesson in unexpected challenges during renovations.
“When they got in there. It ended up being a lot bigger than what they had originally thought, and it was a lesson for all the kids” she said, noting that the supervising teacher had to go back before the CPC to tell them the project was more involved than they thought it was and that the students would fix what they came across, but stressed they would not do a slap-dash job, as the aim was to teach how to deal with such problems in real life.
“I think we’re super-lucky and would like to see us looking for more projects that we could partner with SST on,” she said. “They have wonderful programs that have benefitted the town in so many different ways.”
SST students are currently busy obtaining practical experience in their vocational fields while benefiting several of the school’s member communities, as members of the School Committee heard during its Dec, 21 meeting.
Vocational Coordinator Robert Mello, who has been a metal fabrication instructor since 2010, joined the administrative team in 2019, and has become and an excellent project manager, “finding the right balance between aggressively taking opportunities for students to have real-life work experience in their fields before coop, and ensuring we accept only the projects that are safe and suitable for our students,” Assistant Principal Sandra Baldner reported to the committee.
Mello highlighted some of those projects for the committee, but advised that the carpentry students are booked through June.
“If you have any projects for your town, please reach out, but it’s probably going to be next school year,” Mello said.
Hanson’s Senior Center privacy wall project was among several he outlined, as well as working with cosmetology students to arrange hair and makeup services to seniors at the center. SST students are also working on two projects for private citizens in Hanson — a shed and a deck.
In Whitman, the Fire Department is making use of student workmanship to fill in a section of a floor where a fire pole was once located and the tower where the department used to hang hoses to provide more storage space.
“It takes the door that basically now opens up to a ‘bottomless pit,’ so we don’t have any liability issues there for the guys,” Mello said.
Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Clancy said Select Board member, and representative to the SST School Committee Dan Salvucci has been a big booster for the program.
Clancy has liked what he has seen so far, noting the couple of small projects for the department that Mello described as important to making better use of space at the station.
“They are here and they are helping us,” Clancy said. “It’s where the old poles used to be, we don’t use it anymore because of some [safety] concerns.
The biggest part of the project is sealing off the hose tower floor and putting a ceiling in there to give us a bit more storage.”
He said it is probably saving the town a significant amount of money. But the experience is the key.
“They’re getting some good experience and seeing some of the fire world, too, which is kind of cool” he said. Clancy added that the application process started in the summer and the work was able to begin in the fall.
“We’ve always reached out to South Shore when we thought they could add some value to what we’re doing,” said interim Town Administrator Frank Lynam. “The whole idea of vocational training is to teach kids how to be tradesman and, certainly, if we have to opportunity, to work with them on municipal projects, it gives them experience with a qualified builder/overseer and it ultimately saves us money as opposed to going out and hiring a contractor.”
Students have also worked on an overhang to protect gas meters and turnout gear storage cubbies at the Hanover Fire Department. They are doing some wiring work at the Hanover Police Department for the dispatch room. Horticulture students have also been helping with cleanups of Hanover’s veterans’ parks ahead of Veterans Day and Memorial Day observances in Hanover. They are also providing those landscaping services for Abington.
Carpentry students built a shed for a drama club production at Scituate High School and two sheds for Norwell residents are in the works as well as some dugouts at the high school ball fields. Sheds for residents will also be constructed in Abington.
“We’ve streamlined the application process,” Mello said. “We cut out some redundancy with Docusign … it’s just click and done.”
At their own school, SST students are building a fence to park buses behind, were wrapping up work on a new suite at the school’s vocational offices and building a new transportation office to allow the district to end it’s need to lease space.
Vocational Coordinator Keith Boyle, who directs the coop program has placed more students than ever before in internships or part-time employment with companies in their shop fields, Baldner said.
“Students now expect to go out on coop, which is a change from us expecting them to go out on coop.” she said of the change in culture at the school that Boyle is spearheading. “This is a fantastic change for us.”
Principal Mark Aubrey also reported that, as freshmen began their shop assignments, and 90 percent of them getting their first choice – and 97 percent got their first or second choice.
“A lot has to do with the budget from last year,” he said, noting the school was able to hire four teachers in electrical, allowing every student with electrical as a first choice getting a spot. Another hire in culinary allowed an additonal 20 students a place in the program and horticulture took on another 18.
“Where we are spending our money on personnel is where the students want to go and where they want to be,”