Minuteman Tech, a regional, vocational-technical high school in the western Boston suburb of Lexington, is a far cry from the old image of a vocational high school.
Minuteman looks more like a high-tech office park than a school. Here, in a futuristic brick and glass building, is a small city of real-life businesses providing students with work skills: two student-run restaurants (one serving grilled salmon with hollandaise), hair salon, fully equipped garage, child-care center, gift shop and bakery.
Out on the school grounds, students hammer pink insulation into a state-of-the-art model house.
Minuteman is where David Healy went after his disastrous high school experience. “It gave me confidence,” he says. Healy entered Minuteman as a postgraduate adult student and did a straight 2-year vocational program. He’s now working on his bachelor of arts and teaching there two nights a week.
“Many of the students in the neglected majority are just as bright, but they learn in a different way,” says James Amara, science department head at Minuteman. “They’re hands-on learners, not book learners.” He says Minuteman presents information in three forms: visual, auditory, and hands-on.
The school, which opened its doors in 1974, has 850 students (including adults) who come from 16 towns in the district. Tuition-paying students come from another 15 towns. The school turns out engineers, hotel managers, printers, beauty salon owners, day-care operators, commercial artists, plumbers, and more. Some of the school’s tech-prep students have gone on to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Purdue University.
In addition to getting state support, the school goes after grants and is promoting links with local industry. And there’s an eager world of work out there ready to snatch up grads.
“There are five to six part-time jobs waiting for every student in the culinary field,” the assistant superintendent says. And an auto mechanics teacher says, “One grad started working at a car dealership. It wasn’t 6 months and the boss is having him do all the trouble jobs and asking me, ‘Got any more like him?’ ”