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Blackstone Valley Tech's Past, Present, and Future Explored in 50th Anniversary Open House

Dec 01, 2014 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Cosmetology junior Lexie Surrette of Bellingham demonstrates her skills at the Open House

William Lapierre and Jeffrey Hanratty are from different towns, grew up in different eras, and differ in age by more than 40 years, but they do have one very important thing in common: They both say Blackstone Valley Tech changed their lives for the better.
Lapierre, a 1970 graduate of Valley Tech's first class, and Hanratty, a current Electrical senior, got the chance to meet and talk shop during an October 25 open house held in recognition of the school district's 50th anniversary. Lapierre told Hanratty that when BVT's doors opened in 1966, he had already completed his freshman year of high school and had to agree to repeat the ninth grade in order to join Valley Tech's first class. Looking back, Lapierre said he wouldn't change a thing and credited Valley Tech's cooperative education program with placing him at Wyman Gordon of Grafton, where he went on to have a successful 43-year career.
Although his own career is just getting underway, Hanratty said that like Lapierre, he's confident Valley Tech has placed him on the pathway to success.
"Coming here is the best decision I've made so far," Hanratty told Lapierre.
Similar exchanges occurred throughout the open house, as 50 years' worth of alumni, staff, students, and supporters took guided tours of Valley Tech's 17 vocational technical programs. While some looked back on their time at BVT, others considered the future.
"I might want to go to school here," said Andrew Boucher, a middle school student from Millbury, as he checked out a demonstration of a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) router. "There's computers that do everything now and you need people who understand how they work."
For parents of prospective students like Andrew's father, Kent, the open house was a chance to hear from the parents of current students and graduates. In the Manufacturing and Engineering Technology shop, Kevin Young of Uxbridge claimed that his children's BVT experiences have been highpoints of parenthood.
"One of the coolest parts of my life was seeing my son graduate from Manufacturing," Young said. "My daughter just did the freshman program exploratory. To see your kid come home excited about their day at school makes you feel good as a parent."
Perhaps no one in attendance felt more pride than Wayne Gilly, who began serving on the Valley Tech School Committee in 1964 and played an instrumental role in the school's design and construction.
"It was a program we were all enthused about, but we didn't know just how successful it would be," Gilly recalled.  (continued below)

The Construction Technology program's backhoe simulator was a popular attraction at the recent Open House

Fifty years later, as he toured the very school he helped build, Gilly reflected on the many changes that have taken place since he and 12 other dedicated school committee members first broke ground on Valley Tech's campus.
"To see where it is today is remarkable. Unbelievable," Gilly said. "This place, in my opinion, is one of the finest schools in the country."

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 vigorous vocational, technical, and academic skills. The school’s website is
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