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Culinary Students Get Creative and Competitive for Cake Wars

A team of culinary arts students who created a Halloween themed cake emerged victorious in this year’s version of Cake Wars.

The contest, devised by culinary arts instructor Brenda Fortin, featured three teams of three students on each team. The winning cake, called Day of the Dead, was created by the team of Alix Burnett of Erving, Fallyn Adams of Gill, and Emily Giguere of Colrain. Runners up were second place finisher Gone Muddin’ and third place winner was Cabin in the Woods.

Gone Muddin’ was created by Tala Houle of Greenfield, Corey Mitchell and Alex McBurnie, both of Orange. The Cabin in the Woods team consisted of Brittany Andrews of New Salem, Emily Jamieson of Greenfield, and Joey Barcomb of Halifax, Vermont.

Day of the Dead is a triple layer cake with black, purple and orange frosting covering the base, and purple and orange stars and white beading along the base. On top is an orange frosting skull with black top hat and purple headstone, surrounded by gray, black and purple frosting rosebuds.

Gone Muddin’ is a three layer cake with a black and white frosting base, and chocolate frosting trickling down from one side like mud. Two toy four wheel drive trucks are depicted climbing up the muddy slope, while another rests at the bottom seemingly stuck in the mud. Another truck made of frosting sits off to the side.

Culinary Students Get Creative and Competitive for Cake Wars

Cabin in the Woods has a large square chocolate base with green frosting shaped like blades of grass decorating the base. Off to the side is a chocolate cabin. A chocolate mountain with blue waterfall is surrounded by trees, animals and campfire made of frosting.

Fortin said Cake Wars is a fun and creative way for her students to learn the curriculum.

“The kids thrive on competition,” she said. “It was a collaboration. They had to decide everything on their own without my input. They had to compromise and resolve conflicts. They were able to work through it. It’s fun to see them get together and do this.”

Adams agreed, saying she loved collaborating with her friends.

“It was a team effort,” she said. “Everybody put together pieces of a puzzle to create a bigger picture.”

Culinary Students Get Creative and Competitive for Cake Wars

Giguere said she had a great time working on the project.

“It was fun,” she said. “It was a great experience. It was good to work with all of our different ideas and combine them.”

Burnett, who competed in Cake Wars in the past, said her experience was a benefit to her team.

“I was able to help other people,” she said. “Everyone’s cake turned out really good.”

FCTS Golfer is an Inspiration to Teammates and Opponents Alike

Nobody would mistake Adam Brennan for a scratch golfer.

It took the Franklin County Technical School senior from Northfield three years as a member of the school’s golf team before he finally played in a match last year. This year he only played in four out of 15 matches. No, Brennan is not going to be the next Tiger Woods.

Although he didn’t play in a match until junior year, Brennan was determined to get on the course to help his team and when he did it was a dream come true.

“I wanted to make my first golf match and I knew I’d get there eventually,” he said. “On the first hole I was nervous, but I felt pretty good. I was excited. Then you forget about it and move on. It’s just a game; your life doesn’t depend on it.”

What Brennan lacks in golf skills, he makes up for in heart, character, determination, courage, kindness, and generosity. His golf coach Sean Knightly and his teammates have the utmost admiration for Brennan because of these qualities which he demonstrates on the course and off.

Knightly said one of things he admires about Brennan is his willingness to go out of his way to help other players.

“Adam is shy, funny, smart and well liked,” Knightly said. “He’s a positive player who’s always smiling. For a guy who wouldn’t get much playing time, he was always excited to play, whether it was in practice or a tournament. He was caring, whether it was about new team members or team morale. I even saw him caring about players from other teams. If someone wasn’t playing well Adam would tell him to keep his chin up.”

Brennan, 17, has literally had to fight all of his life. He was born severely underweight and with cerebral palsy, and had to undergo four surgeries on his legs, which has caused him to walk with a severe limp.

“Adam was born 11 weeks early and he weighed 2 lbs., 14.7 ounces,” said his mother Claire Brennan. “He was in preschool when he had his first surgery. He was pigeon-toed. They broke both of his legs, turned them, pinned them, and lengthened his hamstrings. He was in full leg casts. He went to preschool in a wheelchair.”

Brennan also had surgeries on his left foot in 2012 and on his right foot in 2013 to lengthen the ligaments in his feet and ankles. The 2013 surgery included a lengthening of his Achilles tendon.

“From the first- through fifth grades, Adam had to have physical therapy,” Claire Brennan said. “He had pins and screws in his legs and feet. It was brutal. Adam never complained. He’s never wondered what he could or could not do. He’s happy and easy going. He was the one who initiated the last two operations.”

Besides his mother, Brennan is the son of Denis, a senior master sergeant in the National Guard, who works in munitions at Barnes Air National Guard Base, and he has a sister Cara, 15, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Regional School. Claire Brennan is a special education teacher and runs the inclusion program at Pioneer Valley Regional.

Claire Brennan said her son always wanted to play sports, but because of his issues with maintaining balance, golf was the only one available to him. FCTS Golfer is an Inspiration to Teammates and Opponents Alike

“Just because I’m disabled, it doesn’t mean I can’t do what other people do,” Adam Brennan said.

When Brennan went to middle school at Pioneer Valley Regional, he joined the golf team in the seventh grade. He never played in a match though, but was determined to keep trying.

“I came to Franklin County Tech and wanted to stick with it and see if it worked out,” he said. “I thought in the back of my head that I would play. In middle school I was the last person picked, but I had a feeling it would change when I got here.”

Because of his difficulty walking, Brennan was offered a golf cart in all of the matches he played in, but he refused and opted to carry his golf clubs like all of the other players. But, it took him much longer to do things like climb slopes and hills on the golf course.

“I didn’t want to be the guy that gets special treatment,” he said. “I didn’t need a cart. I can do it. There are certain points where I don’t want to be noticed. I want to be treated like everyone else.”

There was one time during a match when Brennan lost his balance and took a tumble on a small hill. As Knightly approached him, Brennan just stood up, picked up his clubs and concentrated on his next shot.

“It wasn’t always easy for him to walk the course,” Knightly said. “But, it was hard to gauge where he was physically because he never complained.”

Brennan’s finest moment on the golf course came this season when he won a point for his team to help Franklin County Technical School win a tournament against Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School. He beat his opponent on the first hole and on holes 4, 5, and 6 to secure the point.

“On the bus ride home the whole team was chanting his name,” Knightly said. “One of our players said Adam is always smiling and is the first one to ask others how their day is going, no matter how his day is going. Players look at Adam as one of the team leaders because of his positive attitude and never give up philosophy. Adam is a fighter.”

Brennan will graduate from Franklin County Technical School in June, and no matter what he does in the future, Knightly is sure he will make a positive contribution to the lives of others.

“I can see Adam being a coach,” he said. “He’d be an excellent coach or teacher. He has patience and a love of the game. I hope he works with people in some way because his attitude is infectious. He’s positive, supportive and encouraging. He’s one of the most inspirational players I’ve ever seen. You like being around a guy like that.”

Claire Brennan has watched her son develop into the fine young man that he is. He’s a role model, although he insists he isn’t one. Adam earned the respect, not only of his coach and teammates, but also of opposing players and coaches.

“He’s a pretty amazing kid,” his mother said. “It’s his attitude that I’m the most amazed about. He never says a bad word about anyone. He’s always so happy, upbeat and kind.”


For the sixth year in a row, Franklin County Technical School students, faculty, staff, and administrators collected food and other items and donated them to the Family Inn in Greenfield in time for Christmas.

Food drive organizer Barbara Williams, FCTS accounts payable/bookkeeping clerk, said the effort was very successful and “we hope to do it again next year.”

Williams and students Dylan Rogers, 16, of Northfield, Dylan Saladino, 17, of Jacksonville, Vermont and Eric McDonough, 16, of Shutesbury delivered 15 boxes and six bags of food and other items including paper products, shampoo, toothpaste, feminine products, hand cream, and dog and cat food.

They also delivered two bags of new, unwrapped toys for the resident children along with two bicycles donated by FCTS teacher Ken Lynes, and paraprofessionals JoAnn Stafford and Lee Carey that they had received from Toys for Tots.

Williams said the staff at the Family Inn was very grateful to receive the donations.

“They were happy to receive everything they got,” she said. “We choose this time of year before Christmas for our food drive because the shelves are bare after Thanksgiving. This will take them through the year.”

The food and other items were collected at the school over a number of weeks leading up to this week’s delivery. People attending the annual Little Drummer Craft Fair at Franklin County Technical School in November were encouraged to donate non-perishable items as part of the food drive as well. Those who made donations had their names entered into a raffle.

“Things like these donations will help to keep the Family Inn going,” Williams said. “This is one less thing they’ll have to go out and purchase.”

Williams noted that hunger and homelessness is not a stranger to the tech school. She said from time to time there been graduates of the school who have fallen on hard times and have had to stay or receive meals at the Family Inn. Williams hoped to impart that message onto Rogers, Saladino, and McDonough.

“We’re very aware of the fact that some students and their families could utilize the food from this effort,” she said. “Although the kids who deliver the food don’t receive assistance, I want them to understand the importance of what we’re doing. It’s important for them to know that there are people out there who are hungry and don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”

FCTS Class of 2018 and Montague PD Give Family Early Christmas

It was a very Merry Christmas for a family of three when members of the Franklin County Technical School Class of 2018 and the Montague Police Department partnered to deliver gifts from Toys for Tots.

Alyssa Waryas was thrilled and thankful when FCTS students Dan Momaney and Scott Martin, Class of 2018 advisors Ken Lynes and JoAnn Stafford, as well as Montague Police Department Sergeant Chris Williams knocked on their door three days before Christmas to deliver the gifts.

“We’re excited,” Waryas, the mother of Joshua Gaulin, 13, and Lilly Waryas, 20 months old, said. “Sergeant Williams stopped by one day and asked us if we’d like to get some gifts from Toys for Tots. This is the first time for us. It’s helpful. This year has been a difficult year.”

As the gifts for the children were carried into the living room, it was like the family had their own private Santa Claus and elves. Among the gifts for Joshua and Lilly were bicycles, board games, stuffed animals, videos, video games, and much more.

Lynes said he contacted Williams about potentially giving Toys for Tots to a family in Turners Falls, and then got the students involved. Williams thought Waryas and her family would be great recipients.

FCTS Class of 2018 and Montague PD Give Family Early Christmas

“I know the family through my professional experience,” Williams said. “They’re a good family. I thought Josh and Lilly were deserving.”

An email from Lynes to Toys for Tots requesting the toys came next. After the request was accepted, Lynes and the students travelled to New England Tractor Training School in Chicopee, the Toys for Tots distribution center, and picked up the presents. Lynes, Stafford, Williams, Momaney and Martin packed up the toys and other gifts at FCTS on the day of delivery and took them to Waryas and her children.

In the past Franklin County Tech has distributed Toys for Tots to students in its pre-employment program, the Survival Center in Turners Falls, and tech school staff.

“This is the first time we did family outreach,” Lynes said.

This year, the Franklin County Tech Class of 2018 also distributed Toys for Tots to the Family Inn in Greenfield.

Momaney, 16, a student in the FCTS plumbing and heating program, said he volunteered to be part of the Toys for Tots effort.

“I thought it would be a good way to give back to the community and make people happy,” he said.

Martin, 16, a student in the landscaping and horticulture program, and son of FCTS Superintendent Richard Martin, agreed that distributing Toys for Tots to a needy family is a good way to give back.

“It feels good to do something for other people,” he said. “I love it. It feels great. I like to see the smiles on their faces.”

Stafford it was gratifying to see the students embrace the spirit of the season by becoming involved with Toys for Tots.

“To see the faces of the family was heartwarming,” she said. “And to see the faces and hear both Dan and Scott talk about how good they felt being a part of this was equally as heartwarming. Sharing a little joy to a deserving family is what this time of the year is all about.”

Best of the Best: Hailey R. Lowell Awarded Coveted Superintendents Honor

Hailey R. Lowell of Wendell found it hard to describe what drives her to excellence in the classroom, at work and in the community.

“I work hard; I set goals and I love learning new things,” she said after a short pause.

Lowell, a senior in the Franklin County Technical School machine technology program, was among eight Franklin County high school seniors to be awarded the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Certificate of Academic Excellence.

If Lowell, who wants to be a lawyer, was somewhat at a loss for words about her achievements, her shop teachers were not.

“She’s very positive,” said Les Pomainville, a machine technology instructor. “Hailey’s very outgoing; she’s very organized. She’s driven. She’ll make a great lawyer someday.”

Thomas Tourigny, another machine technology teacher, said Lowell is always determined to complete a project to the best of her ability, no matter the obstacles.

“When she puts her mind to doing something, she makes it happen,” he said. “She’s highly motivated. At the same time, she has a sweet disposition; she’s a very caring soul. She’ll do well wherever she goes, whatever she does.”

The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents’ Certificate of Academic Excellence awards were presented on Thursday, December 3, 2015 following the annual Franklin County Area Superintendents’ Association Awards Dinner held at Franklin County Technical School’s Apprentice Restaurant. The event honors the award-winning students, and includes invited guests such as parents, guardians, family members, principals, teachers and other staff from participating schools.

Best of the Best: Hailey R. Lowell Awarded Coveted Superintendents Honor

The Certificate of Academic Excellence is awarded to students who have distinguished themselves in the pursuit of high academic standards throughout their high school careers, as well as service to the community, and personal qualities such as leadership and integrity.

Besides Lowell, awards were also presented to Zachary Abraham Erslev Arfa of Mohawk Trail Regional High School, Eugenia Cojocaru of Greenfield High School, Meghan-Grace Slocombe of Frontier Regional School, Olivia Katherine Dufour of Athol High School, Nevan Shattuck of Turners Falls High School, Christopher John Christiansen of Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School, and Emily Malsch of Pioneer Valley Regional School.

In introducing Lowell, FCTS Superintendent Richard J. Martin cited her incredibly diverse activities and accomplishments. He said Lowell holds a 3.8 grade point average, is enrolled in three courses at Greenfield Community College, holds down a 40-hour a week cooperative education job, ranked #4 statewide out of 1,000 students in a SkillsUSA competition for machine technology, and is involved in school clubs and activities. In her spare time, Lowell is a hunter and works restoring her 1978 Ford Bronco.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with Hailey on several occasions over the last few months and have found her to be a hardworking, conscientious, and pleasant young lady filled with passion to be successful with her college and career endeavors,” Martin said. “It’s been an extreme pleasure the last four years to be your principal and now superintendent of an exceptional student like yourself.”

Lowell’s parents Robert and Jennifer were very proud of their daughter’s achievements. Her mother said she was mature beyond her years as a child and always driven.

“When she was younger, she was 11 going on 20,” Jennifer Lowell said. “She knows what she wants for goals in life. It blows my mind.”

FCTS Adams Scholarship Winners Earn Free State College or University Tuition

Franklin County Technical School winners of the 2015 John and Abigail Adams Scholarship and their parents and guardians recently attended a breakfast in their honor at the FCTS Apprentice Restaurant, prepared by the school’s Culinary Arts program staff and students.

Thirty-three seniors were awarded the Adams Scholarship, which provides a tuition waiver for eight consecutive semesters of undergraduate education at a Massachusetts state college, community college, or university for students who score at the advanced and proficient levels on the grade 10 MCAS tests in English and Math. To qualify for the scholarship, students must also have a combined score that puts them in the top 25 percent of all scores in their district.

The names, towns and vocational programs of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship recipients are:

  • Fallyn Adams – Gill
    Culinary Arts
  • Nicholas Baranoski – Greenfield
    Plumbing
  • Jonathan Boston – Northfield
    Machine Technology
  • Brandon Boudah – Deerfield
    Machine Technology
  • Jarod Brown – Montague
    Electrical
  • Austin Burdick – Shelburne
    Plumbing
  • Daniel Chabott II – Northfield
    Carpentry
  • Kaitlin Churchill – Shelburne
    Health Technology
  • Laurel Cooke – Warwick
    Electrical
  • Ivy Cross – Montague
    Health Technology
  • Jeremy Durant – Deerfield
    Carpentry
  • Steven Easton – Bernardston
    Electrical
  • Kamryn Frost – Orange
    Health Technology
  • Victoria Howes – Orange
    Cosmetology
  • Kyle Johnson – Ashfield
    Plumbing
  • Clay Kelley – Buckland
    Automotive Technology
  • Aubrey Klerowski – Colrain
    Business Technology
  • Catherine Landers – Montague
    Programming & Web Design
  • Hailey Lowell – Wendell
    Machine Technology
  • Lindsey Mailloux – Erving
    Cosmetology
  • Mitchell Mailloux – Erving
    Electrical
  • James Miller – Greenfield
    Machine Technology
  • Timothy Momaney – Montague
    Machine Technology
  • Walter Piela – Deerfield
    Welding
  • Christopher Porrovecchio – Bernardston - Electrical
  • Bradley Sawyer – Greenfield
    Programming & Web Design
  • Emily Sullivan – Colrain
    Landscaping & Horticulture
  • Colton Tarbox – Wendell
    Programming & Web Design
  • Justin Thompson – Orange
    Machine Technology
  • Teagan Valeski – Buckland
    Health Technology
  • Gabriel Vorce – Orange
    Electrical
  • Amber Whitmore – Orange
    Automotive Collision & Repair
  • Mallory Willis – Charlemont
    Health Technology
Local Author Discusses Book Focusing on Transgender Teen

Ellen Wittlinger, author of young adult and middle grade books, told Franklin County Technical School students that her novels often focus on gay, lesbian and transgender characters because they are usually inaccurately portrayed in literature.

She said she came to know and become friends with gays and lesbians when she lived for many years in Provincetown. Through these friendships, Wittlinger gained understanding and empathy for LGBT issues.

“There’s a large gay and lesbian population in Provincetown,” she said. “A lot of gays and lesbians I knew there had come from homes where they had been thrown out. I felt common cause with my friends who were gay and lesbian.”

Wittlinger was at Franklin County Technical School Library recently to give a reading sponsored by the school’s Gay Straight Alliance and the library. She read from her novel “Parrotfish,” published in 2007 about a transgender teen’s search for identity and acceptance. Wittlinger recently updated the book to include current terminology and list of resources.

The author of 15 books, Wittlinger lives in Haydenville. Her latest book, “Local Girl Swept Away” will come out in June 2016. Her novel “Hard Love” won a Printz Honor Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Her books have been on numerous ALA Best Books lists, Bank Street College of Education lists and state award lists. Wittlinger has won state awards in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Wittlinger’s work has been translated into many other languages including Turkish, Croatian and Korean. She has taught at Emerson College in Boston and in the Simmons College Writing for Children MFA program.

After reading an excerpt from “Parrotfish,” Wittlinger spoke about why she focuses on gay and lesbian characters in her books. She said gay and lesbian characters in the novels she read did not reflect the lives of the people she knew who were out and happy.


Members of the Franklin County Technical School SkillsUSA organization put smiles on the faces of veterans who reside at the Veterans Administration Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System in Leeds this Veterans Day.

Areyen Politis, 17, of Greenfield, a student in the cosmetology program, said it was fun to meet the veterans. She and her fellow students escorted the veterans into the assembly hall, served refreshments, played music and sang, and passed out gifts such as shirts.

Politis said she had never really given much thought to the sacrifices made by veterans before she went to the VA. Now she appreciates all they’ve done for our country and was happy to take time on Veterans Day to be with them.

“I felt like I did something for the veterans,” Politis said. “I felt good. I was proud of myself.”

Cosmetology student Lindsey Mailloux, 17, of Erving, sang the National Anthem and “God Bless America.” On “Amazing Grace,” Mailloux was accompanied on harmonies by Hailey Perkins and Lydia Dodge.

“You could hear a pin drop,” said SkillsUSA advisor Electra Manley, a cosmetology teacher.

Manley said it “inspiring” to see the SkillsUSA members sit and talk with the veterans, and ask them about their service. Ten students went to the VA and there were 50 veterans that participated in the program.

“The students all showed up on their day off, which was really impressive,” Manley said. “They were polite and courteous. Every single one of them stepped up. It made me very happy and proud of this group.”

Anne Murray, the Veterans Administration Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System’s voluntary service officer, said she was amazed by the involvement of the SkillsUSA students. She said they did “everything from soup to nuts” to set up, decorate the auditorium, and lead the event, including making sure the veterans could be there.

“The whole event was fabulous,” Murray said. “The kids came in ready to do everything. It was totally festive. Everybody had a blast. The kids and the veterans were talking and laughing. To see the veterans laughing and engaging with the kids, if nothing else, our goal was met.”

Murray said that because of issues like PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Veterans Day can be very difficult for combat veterans, but the SkillsUSA students lightened the mood and came away understanding the sacrifices of the veterans.

“Our veterans had the best Veterans Day and it wouldn’t have happened if the kids hadn’t been here,” she said. “It totally showed that the kids were grateful for our veterans. We’re hoping that this is the beginning of a collaboration with Franklin County Technical School that will last a long time.”

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