With 45 students, Gloucester High School's automotive vocational program has what amounts to a full house, program curriculum coordinator Jack Parker says.
"Our program is growing by leaps and bounds," Parker said, "and it has to. There's a lot of interest in auto tech and in the trades right now, and the four seniors we graduated this year already have job offers in front of them if they want to take them. There's a real need when it comes to these skills."
Now, the Gloucester program is getting a boost from someone who has a need for the skilled workers the Gloucester High program delivers.
Warren Waugh, a Gloucester resident and co-founder of the Lyon-Waugh Motor Group of Peabody, is donating $150,000 over the next three years to the nonprofit Gloucester Education Foundation, which in turn will use the money to fund the an additional automotive teacher and other improvements for the high school auto program. Those will include the use of state-of-the-art equipment and vehicles that were bound for auction that the students can work on as they learn their craft, GEF Executive Director Christina Raimo said in announcing the donation that Waugh presented in a ceremony at the school on Monday.
"It's really going to strengthen this program," Raimo said. "This will really help us expand it, and Jack (Parker) has said the program is bursting at the seams."
The expanded program will offer students a close connection with the Lyon Waugh Auto Group, said Raimo, whose organization regularly provides grant support and practical boosts to programs within the Gloucester public schools. The program will open the door for visits to various dealership service departments by students as part of the curriculum, and classroom visits from Lyon-Waugh auto technicians who will share knowledge and state-of-the art trends.
“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to expand this program within our vocational offerings, and we very much appreciate Mr. Waugh’s generous contributions to our schools,” Schools Superintendent Richard Safier said. The automotive program is one of four core vocation offerings at Gloucester High, along with electrical technology, modern machine technology and carpentry.
Raimo said the donation comes after Waugh had visited the Gloucester High program and observed the students in action.
"The importance of giving back is essential and is at the core of what we do and who we are," Waugh said in a prepared statement. "We believe through our philanthropy we can make an impact in people’s lives, and strengthen our communities. Giving back is good, and we are happy to do so as long as we are able.”
Parker said the funding will enable the program to cover the cost of hiring teacher Brandon Maciel, who has worked with Parker at the school this school year and is completing his licensing requirements.
"Mr. Waugh has been very generous to us. This is a big help," Parker said. "This program has been here since the 1930s, but a lot of people still don't seem to know much about it. I can only see it betting better and better — especially now and with help like this.
"College isn't for everybody, and kids going right into the trades aren't going to be spending the next 20 years paying off their college debts," Parker said. "The fact is, they can make some serious money if a good auto tech gets into the right shop."
He said that preliminary signups show the program will likely have a dozen or more students graduating next spring.
"And I can pretty much guarantee you that they can all get jobs, too, if they want them," he said. "We've come a long way."
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705, or firstname.lastname@example.org.