“The dignity of work enhances the dignity of life”
Valley Tech Construction Technology senior Julie Cavanaugh of Mendon is one of many students gaining hands-on experience by working on renovations to the historic carriage house owned by Alternatives Unlimited, Inc.
A new partnership was celebrated on Thursday, October 29, 2015, when Blackstone Valley Tech, Alternatives Unlimited, Inc., and Lowe’s broke ground on a community construction project.
The groundbreaking was held in Northbridge, Mass., on property owned by Alternatives, a not for profit agency dedicated to improving the lives of persons with psychiatric or developmental disabilities by offering a wide range of residential, employment and day services. Utilizing funding from the SkillsUSA/Lowe’s 2015 Campus Improvement Grant Program and working closely with representatives of the Lowe’s Home Improvement store in Milford, Mass., Valley Tech will renovate several historic structures owned by Alternatives, including a 150-year-old carriage house and a Victorian era greenhouse.
Alternatives Executive Director Dennis H. Rice said that once renovated, the carriage house will feature new offices, restrooms, a kitchen, and multipurpose spaces that could host classes, training programs, and cultural events. According to Rice, Valley Tech and Alternatives are ideally suited to partner on the renovation project, which he considers an “inclusive and collaborative solution to a community need.”
“Certainly, Valley Tech provides skills and support to help their students be successful,” Rice said. “We do the same thing with the individuals we serve, who are challenged by either a developmental disability or a psychiatric disability. We give them skills and support so they can be successful in the community.”
Led by instructor Mike Swanick, renovations will be made by the staff and students of Valley Tech’s Construction Technology program, with ongoing contributions from the Drafting, Engineering Technology, Electrical, and HVAC & R programs. According to Rice, however, the BVT students and staff won’t be working alone.
“While the construction is being done, we hope to include some of the people we serve,” explained Rice. “This project is a real skill-building opportunity for us, as well as the students.”
Following the groundbreaking ceremony, Brian Walker, Manager of the Milford Lowe’s Home Improvement store, presented Valley Tech with a ceremonial check for $25,000 and applauded the public-private partnership.
“Lowe’s takes great pride in improving the communities we serve, but we know that improving the community is not a ‘do it yourself’ job,” Walker said.
Valley Tech Superintendent-Director Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick praised the project as a “pinnacle of opportunity” for Valley Tech students to develop real-world skills and improve their community while helping individuals with special needs do the same. A member of the Governor’s Task Force on Economic Opportunity for Populations Facing Chronically High Rates of Unemployment, Fitzpatrick said he will encourage the study group to consider the Alternatives project as a viable model for replication.
“The dignity of work enhances the dignity of life,” Fitzpatrick commented. “We are proud to join Alternatives and Lowe’s in this community endeavor and hope to inspire similar projects throughout the state.”
Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School serves the towns of Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton and Uxbridge. Located in the heart of the Blackstone Valley, Blackstone Valley Tech creates a positive learning community that prepares students for personal and professional success in an internationally competitive society through a fusion of rigorous vocational, technical, and academic skills. The school’s website is www.valleytech.k12.ma.us.