Franklin County Technical School   82 Industrial Blvd.   Turners Falls, MA 413 . 863 . 9561

FCTS Students Best State Legislators in First Ever Cooking Competition

The kitchen smelled heavenly as the aroma of spices mingled with chicken, vegetables and fruits, but the clock was ticking and the chefs had little time to savor their handiwork.

“Twenty more minutes,” shouted Chef Ben Pike. “Only twenty more minutes to go.”

The Franklin County Technical School’s Apprentice Restaurant kitchen had been buzzing with activity for over an hour as teams from the school’s Culinary Arts department and state legislators battled to determine the winner of the first annual Massachusetts Legislators and Culinary Students Cooking Competition.

Pike served as host, as he explained the rules, answered questions from contestants, and kept an eye on the clock. Each of the four teams had an hour and a half to whip up an entrée and dessert and attractively present them on plates to be judged by a four person panel.

When it was over FCTS students Shayla Demers from Millers Falls and Kassidy Flores from Turners Falls emerged as the winning team. The two took the top prize with their oregano pepper chicken with cranberry-apple-walnut rice pilaf, and key lime-apple meringue tart with strawberries for dessert.

“It was stressful, but it was a great experience” Flores said. “It was hard, but worth it. The hardest part was getting everything out on time and not messing anything up.”

Her teammate was surprised they won partially because of the caliber of the competition, but she felt a sense of pride at the result.

“I’m incredibly happy,” Demers said. “I’m amazed, but I’m proud of myself. I feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Another FCTS student team made up of Joey Barcomb of Halifax, Vermont and Alix Burnette of Erving came in third place with their spicy teriyaki chicken with rice, and homemade salted caramel ice cream with apples for dessert.

“I thought it went good overall,” Burnette said following the competition. “It wasn’t stressful to me until the last 10 minutes. You had to make sure everything was plated right and that it looked good.”

FCTS Students Best State Legislators in First Ever Cooking Competition

Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee of Athol and Rep. Paul Mark of Peru earned second place with their bruschetta featuring local goat cheese, sautéed chicken in white wine, roasted potatoes, and a dessert of “adult apple crisp” using apple jack brandy and local cream.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg of Northampton and Rep. Steve Kulik of Worthington finished fourth with their roast chicken with raisins, apples, honey, asparagus, and a dessert plate of local Macintosh apples, cheeses and local honey.

“There’s a theme to this,” Kulik joked. “That’s how we do legislation.”

The event was based on competitive cooking shows like “Chopped” and, while it was a good natured contest, it featured some of the high tension and hectic pace of that Food Network series as the clock wound down.

The four judges for the competition were FCTS Superintendent Richard J. Martin, Greenfield Community College President Robert Pura, Myron Becker, owner of Chef Myron’s Fine Cooking Sauces, and former FCTS Culinary Arts instructor Paul Abbey.

Each team was given a mystery basket that contained a whole chicken and an apple and was allowed to have the run of the FCTS Culinary Arts program’s kitchen to gather vegetables, spices and whatever else they needed to make their recipes. Many of the ingredients were locally sourced.

Local farms and businesses, Diemand Farm, Hagers Farm Market, Foster’s Supermarket, Greenfields Market, Brattleboro Co-op, Upingill Farm, and Pine Hill Orchard contributed food and products to the event.

A small audience watched a simulcast of the Cooking Competition in the Apprentice Restaurant’s dining room. Vocational Curriculum Director Jocelyn Croft acted as MC as she talked to the crowd about the competition and the Culinary Arts program, and even took some people into the kitchen for short tours.

The Cooking Competition was the brainchild of Pike and Whipps Lee, who have known each other for years. The idea was to promote relationships between local legislators and FCTS students, bring attention to the school's culinary department, highlight locally produced foods, and to raise funds for the Culinary department.

The legislators all had a great time and were pleased that they could shine a light on the school’s Culinary Arts program.

“I thought it would be great for the legislature to show support for the students at the tech school, and to highlight local farms and production,” Kulik said.

Rosenberg added that the event featured “good food, good friends and good fun.”

FCTS Students Best State Legislators in First Ever Cooking Competition

A graduate of Johnson & Wales University and the former owner of two restaurants, Whipps Lee said it was a treat that she and her fellow legislators got to have fun with their constituents.

“When my colleagues and I are out in Franklin County it’s all business,” Whipps Lee said. “It’s nice to have a play day. We’ve had lunch in the school’s restaurant. I’m so impressed with what the students do here and what they did today.”

Mark mentioned that he was so busy cooking that time seemed to fly by. He said it was important for him and his fellow legislators to participate because it brought attention to Franklin County Technical School’s Culinary program at an opportune time.

“We’re in the middle of budget season so there’s no better time to bring attention to the tech school,” Mark said.

For his part, Pike was pleased that the event showed off the talents of his students and the abundance of homegrown food and other products available in the region.

“I think it highlights our program and I hope it adds more enthusiasm, pride and professionalism to this industry,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the students who won first place and I could see how happy they were and that’s great.”

Martin was happy to host the legislators at the school and to be able to show them the excellent work being done by the students.

“The food competition provided an opportunity for state and local legislators to engage with the students within the communities in which they serve,” he said. “Having state legislators at FCTS to participate in a local event demonstrated their caring and concern for students. The cooking competition was not a political event, but one which encompassed the willingness to serve. Pun intended.”

FCTS Students Participate in Major Alzheimer’s Disease Conference

Although Franklin County Technical School Health Technology students Jordyn Hall and Dylan Rogers will not graduate until next year, the two have already presented a talk to health care professionals at a prestigious conference on Alzheimer’s disease.

Hall, from Colrain, and Rogers, from Northfield, were the only high school students among dozens of health care professionals presenting workshops on Alzheimer’s treatment at the annual A Map Through the Maze Conference for Alzheimer Care Professionals held at the Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA on May 18.

This major conference is sponsored by the Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, and is the largest event in New England for Alzheimer’s professionals.

Hall, Rogers and their Health Technology instructor Gretchen D. Werle, RN, MSN, presented a program called “Introducing Simple Chair Yoga Exercises to People with Dementia.” The program was one of 39 being presented at the conference.

Chair yoga modifies movements used in traditional yoga to make the practice accessible to anyone. It does not involve using a mat or standing and therefore can be done by people in wheelchairs or those who for other reasons have limited mobility.

Talking a few days before the conference, the students were a little nervous about presenting the program in front of such a large and prestigious audience, but they were also looking forward to it. Not only were they excited about making their presentation, they felt they would also come back with new information that will enhance their work.

“I’m interested in getting feedback to see how we can improve to help Alzheimer’s patients,” Rogers said.

Two years ago Werle learned Lakshmi Voelker Chair Yoga at a teacher training at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge. She took what she learned at the training and introduced yoga routines that fit within the FCTS Health Technology program.

The Alzheimer’s program at FCTS is taught to freshmen and sophomores. As juniors, Hall and Rogers volunteer at The Arbors in Greenfield helping freshmen and sophomores as they practice chair yoga with Alzheimer’s patients.

Hall said the conference will help with the work they do with their fellow students.

“I’m looking for different strategies to help the freshmen and sophomores that they can use at their site,” she said. “I like helping people with Alzheimer’s become more engaged, not just with us but with other participants. I like seeing them grow.”

This is the second year in a row Werle and her students have conducted a workshop on chair yoga at the Map Through the Maze Conference.

FCTS Students Participate in Major Alzheimer’s Disease Conference

“I was interested in going to the conference, but it never worked out,” Werle said. “Last year I looked at the call for workshops and thought about the innovative chair yoga program we do at The Arbors and the GVNA Adult Day Health Program. I put in a proposal and it was accepted. Last year Kaiti Churchill, Sienna Diemand and I presented and it went very well.”

Werle said the students were “awestruck” to not only be attending such a large conference at a big hotel, but also to be important presenters.

“Likewise people at the conference were impressed by them being there and being high school students,” she said. “They did a great job. The presentation was very well received.”

Werle began the program at the conference with an introduction, followed by a presentation of the current research on the benefits of chair yoga and building social connections. Hall and Rogers then led 24 session attendees through the series of exercises that their clients experience.

Rogers also presented a segment on guided visualization which was added to their presentation this year.

The chair yoga routine involves acupressure points, knee strengthening exercises, chair yoga postures, and a guided visualization. There is also an important social aspect that begins the program. Student leaders begin by asking a question from a “Treasure Chest of Memories,” a collection of question cards that are designed to access long term memory, which tends to stay intact longer in people with dementia. Participants go around the circle and answer the question presented.

Recent studies have demonstrated the benefits of yoga and chair yoga for people with Alzheimer’s. A 2006 study of healthy senior citizens found that those participating in yoga classes showed significant improvement in quality of life measurements, as well as in balance and forward bending ability.

Another study from 2012 stated that chair yoga is a feasible and safe intervention for seniors in their nineties and over 100 years old who may be at risk for falls. A 2011 literature review of non-pharmaceutical interventions found that there was a significant decrease in pain in elderly individuals that participated in a chair yoga group as opposed to other groups.

Rogers said he was happy to share with the conference audience his experience working with Alzheimer’s patients at The Arbors and the positive results he has seen.

“I like to see people with Alzheimer’s purposefully engaged in something and be sociable with other people,” he said. “You can almost see the light go on inside of them when they socialize with others.”

Kaiti Churchill  Franklin County Tech 2016 MAVA/MVA Outstanding Vocational Technical Student of the Year Award Winner

Kaitlin Churchill didn’t realize that winning the Outstanding Vocational Technical Student Award was a big deal until she walked into a packed Mechanics Hall in Worcester for the presentation ceremony.

“The amount of students there was huge; the event was huge,” she said. “I was shocked. Realizing how big it was, it’s an honor.”

Churchill, a senior from Turners Falls, was Franklin County Technical School’s 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Vocational Technical Student Award. The award is sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) and Massachusetts Vocational Association (MVA).

The awards ceremony was held at Mechanics Hall where students from 52 vocational and technical schools across Massachusetts were honored for their outstanding academic careers and involvement in their schools and communities.

Churchill, who is in the Health Technology program at FCTS, is the daughter of Laura and Chris Churchill. An outstanding student, she has excelled in her academic and vocational programs. Churchill takes advanced placement and honors courses, is consistently one of the top five students in her class, and has a GPA of 3.85. She is a recipient of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship and was the winner of the prestigious Smith College Book Award in 2015.

Known as a leader at FCTS, Churchill has been an officer for SkillsUSA, captain of the soccer team, and peer mediator. She is a member of the National Honor Society, theater and drama club, and the jazz band.

In addition to her accomplishments in school, Churchill works as a psychiatric nurse’s aide at Farren Care Center in Turners Falls, works part-time at Yankee Candle, is a CNA at a psychiatric nursing facility, and volunteers at several local organizations, including Baystate Hospice and a local soup kitchen.

“When she won the award, she truly didn’t understand its implications until we entered that beautiful room where 51 other vocational schools were also honoring their highly accomplished students,” Laura Churchill said of her daughter. “Kaiti was surrounded by the people that had helped her through the years - administration, teachers and a couple of family members. It was the absolute right group to celebrate her accomplishments. We all watched as she walked onto the stage and got misty eyed at her receiving the award.”

Kaiti Churchill  Franklin County Tech 2016 MAVA/MVA Outstanding Vocational Technical Student of the Year Award Winner

Churchill was among five finalists chosen by the FCTS guidance and administrative teams for the award. Superintendent Richard Martin conducted interviews with the candidates, during which GPA, vocational aptitude, work ethic, community service, and extracurricular activities were all considered.

“It was clear after the first round of interviews that Kaitlin was exemplary in all areas,” Martin said. “Most impressive was her work ethic to hold down full time jobs, attend school, provide volunteer services, and maintain a high GPA. Kaitlin demonstrated excellent interpersonal skills and is very goal oriented.”

Churchill is going to attend the University of Massachusetts to major in neuropsychology in the fall. She hopes to one day become a neurosurgeon.

Laura Churchill said her daughter first expressed an interest in becoming a surgeon when she was 11-years-old and hasn’t veered from that goal since. She said Kaitlin has been an “outstanding person as well as a motivated student since she was very young.”

“At the awards ceremony, when they were announcing her accomplishments and plans, the announcer read that she ‘plans to attend UMass Amherst to become a psychiatrist or surgeon,’” Laura Churchill said. “When Kaiti returned to the table she whispered to me “why did they say ‘or?’ I had to laugh. This is the epitome of how Kaiti thinks. She knows no limits and I hope she never changes.”

Churchill’s Health Technology teachers, Gretchen Werle and Piper Sagan so admired her work, they selected her and another student to co-present a topic at last year’s “Map Through the Maze Conference for Health Care Professionals,” sponsored by the American Alzheimer’s Association.

Sagan called Churchill, “always very focused on her goals. She’s a compassionate person and quite mature.”

Werle added that Churchill’s engaging and determined personality have a lot to do with her success.

“Kaiti’s very hard working and a good communicator,” she said. “But, she’s also cheerful, even when she’s feeling overwhelmed. During this challenging senior year when a lot of things were stacking up, she got through it and ended up her time as a student here in a positive way. She accomplished a lot.”

FCTS Carpentry Students Get Greenfield Housing Authority Ready for Spring

The Greenfield Housing Authority recently prepared for the colors of spring with help from students in the Franklin County Technical School Carpentry program.

The students built and installed 58 flower boxes to the outside of GHA residences. The boxes are six feet long and are made of PVC lumber. The project only cost the GHA $3,500 in materials.

“The flower boxes are made of recycled plastic,” said FCTS Carpentry instructor Michael Nobrega. “They’re maintenance-free. They don’t have to be painted and they won’t rot.”

Carpentry program freshmen built the boxes and sophomores installed them. Leah Wozniak, a 10th grader from Heath, said installing the flower boxes was “a nice little project.’

FCTS Carpentry Students Get Greenfield Housing Authority Ready for Spring

“It was great seeing the results,” she said. “The residents were impressed. It took us an afternoon to put them up. It wasn’t too bad.”

Wozniak said her father was a carpenter when he was younger and she is “following in his footsteps.”

Valerie Speegle, a sophomore from Buckland, also plans to pursue a career in carpentry. She was happy to be able to do something to brighten up the outside of the apartment buildings.

“It was a good project to do and to help people who are not as able as they used to be,” Speegle said. “It was all pretty hands on.”

Sam Bobala of Milers Falls said he had fun working on the project and getting to meet some of the GHA residents.

“It was a good experience,” said the 10th grader. “The residents were nice and they appreciated what we did. They put on a pizza party for us.”

Former Student Brings His Web Development Expertise to the Classroom

The Franklin County Technical School Programming and Web Development program recently hosted a special guest instructor as 2013 graduate Matt Boudah stepped in for a week to teach animation.

Programming and web development instructor Cyndi Bussey said Boudah contacted her to ask if he could come into her class to teach during a vacation week from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he is a student at the Isenberg School of Management. Bussey was only too happy to oblige.

“Matt is working with the juniors to develop an app that will be available in the app store,” she said. “They really enjoy working with him. He has a good rapport with them. He brings something new to the classroom.”

Last year, Boudah and friends Avery Rovatti and Aaron Milewski formed a company called Temple Studios, LLC, and developed a game app called Shear Resistance. The game can be downloaded for free and is played on Apple devices like an iPhone or iPad.

Milewski is a fellow FCTS graduate, while Rovatti attended the tech school through junior year and completed high school online with the Massachusetts Virtual Academy.

Bussey said Boudah is a great role model for her students because of his post-Franklin County Tech career.

“It’s a really good example for the students to see that they can leave here and go to UMass or start their own company and become successful,” she said.

Former Student Brings His Web Development Expertise to the Classroom

For his part, Boudah was having fun teaching Bussey’s class.

“I’m showing them how to build a game from scratch,” he said. “I’m not that much older than they are, so they can relate a lot more to me. I try to be more personal with them. When I was here there were plenty of speakers but they didn’t do that. I can show them how to go from the shop to the real world.”

Destiny McDonough Goes Onto SkillsUSA National ConferenceAfter Winning State Competition

Destiny McDonough of Whately, a senior in the Franklin County Technical School Cosmetology program will compete at the 52nd annual SkillsUSA National Skills and Leadership Conference in June.

McDonough, 18, earned a spot at the competition after winning the gold medal in the Nail Care competition at the state Leadership Conference in Marlborough on April 28-30, 2016.

At the state competition, McDonough displayed her talent by working on the nails of Victoria Geary, a junior in the Cosmetology program. They were considered a team and Geary’s written test scores helped boost McDonough’s scores.

Louisville, Kentucky will host the National Skills and Leadership Conference from June 20-24, 2016. More than 16,000 students, teachers, and business partners from around the country are expected to participate in the conference.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of educators, students, and industry partners working together to ensure a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA Massachusetts has grown to over 31,000 members.

McDonough said she was confident she would win second place at the state competition, but was pleasantly surprised when she won first place.

“It’s crazy,” she said. “It feels great that I did it for my school. Once I go to Nationals, I’ll be representing the state of Massachusetts. It’s fun doing something you love.”

FCTS Cosmetology instructor and SkillsUSA advisor Electra Manley said she recognized McDonough’s talent shortly after she entered the program.

“For the last three years, I thought this kid could do it,” she said. “Destiny’s a natural talent doing hair and nails.”

McDonough recently completed her state board exam and holds a professional Cosmetology license. She said that if she pursues a career in cosmetology she will become a nail technician.

“I like doing nails more than anything else,” she said.

Other Franklin County Technical School students participating in the state SkillsUSA conference were Kristin Slowinski, Jayy Harris, Tori Howes, Ally Renaud, Hailey Perkins, Lindsey Mailloux, Colton Tarbox, Victoria Geary, and Spencer Hunt.

Earlier this year, McDonough earned a silver medal at the district competition in North Adams. At the district competition, Renaud won gold in Cosmetology and Tarbox took home gold for Computer Web Design. In addition to McDonough’s silver medal, Mallory Willis also placed silver for Health Technology. Chad Williams took home bronze for Machine Technology. Kristen Slowinski was elected a SkillsUSA state officer.

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