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Health Tech Students to Attend Summer “Mini-Medical School” Program

For the first time ever Franklin County Technical School Health Technology students will participate in a unique health care educational program at Baystate Franklin Medical Center this summer.

Starting in July, juniors Morgan Gradie of Colrain and Khylar Hughes of Ashfield will be among a group of up to 15 area students who will participate in the hospital’s Student Ambassador Program. The program introduces students to health care careers, including nursing, radiology, cardiopulmonary, oncology, family practice, wound care, neurology, clinical engineering, nutrition, rehabilitation, pharmacy, endoscopy, and surgery.

The six week program pairs each student with a mentor who will guide them through a day at Baystate Franklin. Students can be assigned to participate in up to six different departments through the course of the program, as well as observe a surgical procedure.

According to the Baystate Franklin Medical Center description of the program a staff mentor “will offer encouragement, help the student to grow, and oversee appropriate student volunteer assignments within the staff member’s work unit.”

“This is a valuable program because students get the opportunity to work with professionals in a hospital setting,” said FCTS Health Technology instructor Gretchen Werle. “They’ll see what it’s like to work in a variety of careers. It will help them with future career decision-making by going through this six week program.”

Gradie and Hughes were both surprised and honored to be selected for the program.

“There’s never been a student from Franklin County Tech to do this,” Hughes said. “I’m very happy that I was selected.”

Gradie said she applied for the ambassadorship because she wants to become a registered nurse and work in a hospital.

“I hope to learn about how different people react in different circumstances,” she said. “Later when I get a job I’ll know how to act with people in different situations.”

All students admitted to the program had to apply and selected candidates were then interviewed. The program runs Tuesdays and Thursdays from July 12 through August 18, with an orientation on July 7. Following the program there is a career night and a graduation.

Hughes said she is looking forward to experiencing what it’s like to work firsthand in the health care field. Her top choices of departments to participate in were medical/surgery, emergency room, radiology, and obstetrics.

“You hear about what it’s like to work in the field, but you don’t know what it’s actually like,” Hughes said. “I’m really excited to see a birth or surgery.”

FCTS Health Technology students do get practical health care experience as part of their curriculum. For this reason, Hughes felt they have a leg up on other students.

“We’re a lot more prepared than other students,” she said. “We have hands-on experience. We go to job sites; we do clinicals.”

Because of what they learned in FCTS Business instructor Raye Young’s Career Enhancement class, Gradie added that she and Hughes also presented themselves in a professional manner to Baystate Franklin administrators.

“We were the only ones to come in with our resumes when we did the interviews,” she said.

According to Werle, Hughes and Gradie were excellent candidates for the Student Ambassador Program because of the health care experience they have already gained in the FCTS Health Technology program.

“They have so much background going to health care settings,” she said. “I’m happy that the interviewer recognized their potential and chose them. I think it’s a great fit for our program and the Ambassador program. The hospital calls it a mini-medical school. I hope it’s something our kids can get into every year.”

Mock Trial Teaches Students About Justice System

Tensions were running high in the jury room as arguments flew back and forth regarding the guilt or innocence of accused drunk driver Alex Filn.

Filn, 18, was charged with the death of 17-year-old Anita Lobel who died as a result of a car crash following a party. Filn was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment, criminally negligent homicide, and vehicular manslaughter.

During deliberations, juror Emily Jamieson argued that the prosecution did not prove that Filn drove the car the night Lobel was killed.

“The only testimony they had you had to disregard and a lot of jurors didn’t do that,” Jamieson said.

She pointed out that she thought he was guilty of three of the four charges, but not vehicular homicide.

Jury foreman Steven Easton said going into the jury room he was unsure of Filn’s guilt, but in the end he was convinced of his culpability.

The three day trial ended in a mistrial when a member of Filn’s defense team tried to bribe Easton by offering to buy him an item from the Franklin County Technical School bakery.

The trial was a Mock Trial put on by Elyse Cann’s Government and Law students. Besides jurors, students played the roles of the defendant, witnesses, defense and prosecuting attorneys, police officers, bailiff, court reporter, clerk of courts, school officials, parents of the victim, and more.

In all, 35 students participated in the Mock Trial. Janice Momaney, guidance department administrative assistant, played the judge.

Cann’s students spent a week preparing for the trial, which is a fictional case. She said she has used this trial at least five times over the years, and “each year it’s different.” One of Cann’s goals in presenting the Mock Trial is to deepen the understanding and appreciation her students have for the judicial system.

“It’s interesting how it plays out,” she said. “I want the students to understand that it’s the prosecution’s responsibility to prove the defendant is guilty. All the defense has to do is poke holes in that premise.”

Because it was a drunken driving case, students also learned lessons in not drinking and driving and the importance of wearing a seat belt.

According to Cann, the students take ownership of the trial in everything from preparation right through to the final verdict.

“It’s part of stepping outside their comfort zone to take on another role,” she said. “It’s always interesting to see who will step up. They pretty much run the whole thing. I set up the premise and they take over.”

Colby Collins, who played Alex Filn, said he was nervous that he was going to be convicted. He put the blame on his lawyers.

“I had bad lawyers,” he said. “They were unprepared and they didn’t work as a team. I could have fired them all and taken the case myself.”

Tim Momaney, who played police officer Jeff Brent, admitted that the trial was difficult because of conflicting and unreliable testimony from witnesses who were intoxicated on the night of the accident. He said much of the testimony had to be thrown out.

“I had a lot of good information to give,” Momaney said. “A lot of the witness testimony fell through, which made me a key witness.”

Tala Houle was high school student and witness Chris Warden, a passenger in the car at the time of the accident. She said her testimony could have solved the case, but lawyers made a crucial mistake.

“I was called to the stand, but they didn’t ask the right questions,” Houle said. “They didn’t ask me who drove the car into the tree. Anita was panicking a lot and she grabbed the steering wheel and drove the car into the tree.”

Prosecuting attorney Brittany Andrews said she wants to be a lawyer one day and learned some valuable lessons during the trial.

“It was interesting,” she said. “I loved the whole experience. The toughest job was knowing the defendant was innocent of different charges and trying to prove him guilty. Everybody was intoxicated; it was a tough trial to prosecute.”

Defense attorney Tim Piela said the trial gave him insight on how the judicial system really works. He said it was hard to come to the truth since there was conflicting testimony from unreliable witnesses.

“Being a defense attorney was a really tough job,” Piela said. “I’d rather be on the jury. I’d be open minded. I don’t think a person is guilty right away.”

As the mother of the crash victim, business teacher Raye Young led a 27 person Mother Against Drunk Driving protest into court. Holding homemade signs, they chanted, “No more victims.”

“I went after the defendant and shouted things like, ‘you took my baby’ and ‘I’ll never be a grandmother,’” Young said. “It was very emotional. I was screaming. The kids were flabbergasted. I do it every year with my class. The kids get a lot out of it. It changes the dynamics of the courtroom. They see the emotional piece and exercising of free speech. There is more to a trial than the words of the attorney. There are people hurting on both sides.”

Judge Janice Momaney, who is a big fan of television’s “Law and Order” franchise, said it took a lot of preparation for the role, but she enjoyed the experience. She gave the students credit for the hard work they put into the trial.

“It was great to see that the prosecution and defense were so prepared,” Momaney said. “I think they learned a good lesson from doing it.”

Cann was proud of her students, many of whom like Andrews and Easton took leadership roles during the trial.

“The kids were totally invested in it,” she said. “That makes me feel good. I’m proud of them this year. I think it was a great experience.”

Cann also presented a second Mock Trial this year, a real case based on the prosecution of Ruben “Hurricane” Carter for murder. That trial ended in a verdict of not guilty. The trial brought the surface issues that still resonate today, including racism, civil rights, and police brutality.

One of Cann’s students had a profound impact on the course of the trial.

“One of the lawyers for the defense is shy, but she really wanted to defend,” Cann said. “There was a moment when the lawyer got a police officer to admit that he made racist comments. The lawyer made a powerful speech about racism that flipped the opinions of some people. The kids began to understand that there’s a depth of systematic and individual racism in our society that affects African American people.”

In Control Family Foundation Teaches FCTS Students Important Driving Safety Lessons

Riding in a car traveling 45 miles per hour along a straight strip of a parking lot seems like it’s going a lot faster than if you were on the street.

Putting on the brakes going 45 mph also takes longer to stop than you would expect.

“If you’re going 45 miles per hour it takes more than 60 feet to stop,” said Jeremy Randall, a driving instructor with In Control Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that teaches driving safety to high school students and others.

Franklin County Technical School seniors, juniors and sophomores recently received crash prevention training from In Control. Students were driven by Randall and other drivers through a portion of the school parking lot at different speeds to demonstrate how long it takes to stop even at relatively low speeds like 30 mph.

The program teaches the importance of seat belt use, how to use an ABS braking system properly to steer out of potential crashes, the dangers of distracted or impaired driving and other lessons in driver safety.

“It’s a lot harder to stop when you’re going fast than I thought,” said Jeremy Bradshaw, an 11th grader from Greenfield. “The acceleration is a lot more intense going at top speed.”

FCTS School Resource Officer Michael Sevene was approached by In Control to bring the program to the school. He conferred with Superintendent Richard Martin and Assistant Principal John Carey and both thought it was a great idea to offer the training.

In Control Family Foundation received a $100,000 federal grant from the National Highway Safety Administration to bring the program to FCTS and other training sites.

In Control Family Foundation Teaches FCTS Students Important Driving Safety Lessons

“These kids are new drivers, so this is the time for them to get this training,” Sevene said. “This is something they don’t teach in driver’s education.”

In Control’s stated mission is simply to “drastically reduce automobile crashes through hands on instruction and community engagement.”

Dan Strollo, executive director of In Control, said his program goes beyond what is taught in driver’s education courses.

“Driver’s education can only teach you so much driving on the street,” he said. “A lot of stuff we do they talk about in driver’s ed classes, but we have them actually do it.”

Besides teaching about how long it takes to stop a car at various speeds, the program also addresses seat belt use and distracted and impaired driving.

Randall said texting while driving is particularly dangerous.

“If you are texting at 65 miles per hour and have to stop, it takes 100 feet per second,” he said.

Strollo said that between 20-30 percent of teenage drivers do not use seat belts, and without crash prevention training more than half of new drivers get into accidents within their first two years on the road.

“We’re trying to educate the public on how dangerous driving is,” he said. “Crash prevention training is something that is being done more in other countries. In European countries the crash rate is so much lower than in this country. In the 1970’s we were the safest place in the world for drivers. Now we’re around 40th place.”

Welding Program Students Get Tractor Ready for Competition

The bright yellow pulling tractor is called Dirt Grinda and it recently got a complete makeover thanks to the Franklin County Technical School welding program.

When Bob Isenhoff of Charleton, owner of the modified pulling tractor, needed some restoration work done, he approached FCTS welding instructors Lorin Burrows and Jesse Edwards.

“I used to work with Lorin’s father,” Isenhoff said. “I’m a mechanic at UPS and his father worked there.”

Welding Program Students Get Tractor Ready for Competition

The twin 350 Chevy engine modified tractor is all custom built. The FCTS welding students did the frame, roll cage, wheelie bars, front steering and front suspension, weight bars and bumpers, and fenders.

“It took all winter to do it,” Burrows said. “The sophomore, junior and senior classes all worked on it. It came out beautiful.”

According to Isenhoff, the tractor was “a frame with wheels in two different colors” before the welding shop worked on it. Isenhoff did the engine work and painted the tractor himself.

Welding Program Students Get Tractor Ready for Competition

Isenhoff is a member of Connecticut Tractor Pulling Association, and was planning to take the tractor to its first competition the weekend after the work at FCTS was finished. He couldn’t have been more pleased with the result, as the welding students did a remarkable job transforming the tractor.

“It came out better than I thought it would,” Isenhoff said. “You wonder if it’s going to turn out as good as it does in your mind and it exceeded what I imagined it would.”

Isenhoff made sure to thank the welding shop by having “Special Thanks to Franklin County Technical School” painted on the tractor.

FCTS Students Take Home Top Prizes at Poet’s Seat Contest

Franklin County Technical School students took home the top two prizes in the 25th Annual Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest in the 15- to 18-year-old category.

Jake Amidon won first place for his poem, “For the Love of Cars,” and Nick Baranoski took second place for his poem, “Plumbing Love.”

Amidon, a student in the school’s Machine Technology program, said he wrote the poem for an assignment in English teacher Alyssa Kelley’s class and she encouraged him to enter the contest. He said the poem was about his opinion about love.

“I didn’t expect to win,” Amidon said. “I was surprised. I usually don’t write poetry. I think I’m going to just be a one hit wonder.”

Baranoski, who is in the school’s Plumbing and Heating program, said his poem was the first he’s ever written and he wasn’t expecting to win, but it was “kind of cool” that he did.

“The poem was about my love for cars, but also about my relationship with my dad,” he said.

The two won a $20 gift certificate to World Eye Bookstore, a booklet of the poems in the contest, and coffee mugs.

Kelley said 40 poems were submitted to the contest from FCTS students out of 250 from all categories. She said she was proud of her students and pleased that they found a hidden talent.

“I like when students surprise even themselves,” Kelley said. “I encourage all of my students to submit poems to this contest every year.”

Since 1991, The Friends of the Greenfield Public Library has sponsored the Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest. The competition was created in honor of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, the poet for whom “Poet’s Seat” was named. Tuckerman, who lived in Greenfield from 1847 until his death in 1873, was considered a talented poet by contemporaries Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Alfred Tennyson.

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