Greater Lawrence Technical School Partnership
ACT values its collaboration with the GLTS that provides education and training for high school students in the construction trades, including carpentry, electrical, and plumbing. We are grateful to be working with these skilled collaborators.
In addition to increasing the number of affordable units built in Andover, ACT has the opportunity to offer students real-life work experiences through our partnership with the Greater Lawrence Technical School (GLTS) construction program.
In 1995, ACT began a conversation with Marcia McDonough, GLTS superintendent, and John LaVoie, construction manager at that time, about a partnership to build ACT houses. GLTS students, under the supervision of their faculty, have built a house almost every year for the past 30 years, most built for the Greater Lawrence Revolving Fund. These houses were market rate, and the revolving fund used the difference between the cost of the house and the sale price to provide loans to first-time homebuyers.
When ACT was ready to begin construction of its first home, both Frank Vacirca and the GLTS school committee supported the partnership between the school and ACT. Andover Community Trust completed its first permanently affordable owner-occupied home on land donated by local developer Bill Perkins on Haverhill Street in January 2002, in partnership with GLTS.
GLTS students, under the supervision of their teachers, also built ACT’s second home on Heather Drive, completed in 2006. With Bill Berard leading the coordination and supervision, the students again built a quality home. Berard went far beyond the normal expectations of the workday to prove oversight for the project. His attention to detail and willingness to volunteer his own time on weekends and evenings are in large part responsible for the quality of this home that GLTS students and instructors built.
In 2013 the GLTS students completed their third home for ACT. The students had these comments about the Andover Street building experience:
As a vocational school, we hear a lot of talk that we’re less than a regular public school. In reality we’re equal or more than. Here at Greater Lawrence Tech, we have many opportunities that add to our academics. Working at the school house project is one of them. The last two years, working at the school house project, has brought many challenges. It has been an essential part of my high school years.
The school house means more than just building a house. Along with learning the field of carpentry, working at the jobsite has taught me to have a strong work ethic. I learned that laziness is not accepted anywhere. I understand that if you want good results in life, you need to put in effective effort. While we build this house for someone, I have learned that giving back is good, but giving back with all your effort is better. As my skills as a carpenter increase and develop, my mind becomes more open to becoming a better person and a better employee. Learning how to lay out, frame and roof add to my carpentry skills. Putting these skills to work with critical thinking and effective effort is an even greater gain. This is what makes the school house project mean something. It gives us, especially me, the opportunity to embrace the knowledge that has been instilled in me.
The building of the Andover Community Trust house building project on Andover Street has taught me more than anything in my life. From my exploits at the house, I have learned craftsmanship. In my time there, I have also developed leadership qualities bestowed to me by my instructors and fellow students. The accuracy of my work has improved greatly. My skills have flourished. In the two years I have spent on the project, I have developed confidence in myself and my work. These skills coincide with the more powerful work ethic that I have developed. I strive to complete the tasks I have been given. If you do not give it your best, the job will never look good. I have made mistakes personally, as well as in my field. I have learned much from these mistakes. I am trying to truly become a better person. Every day spent on the house was a day I looked forward to. It gave me the chance to build something that would better someone else’s life.
Working on the Andover Street house has meant many things to me, such as gaining experience in the workforce. Working on the house has taught me many things. An example of this is how I have improved in my ability to measure, cut and fasten construction materials. Another example is how I have improved in properly cutting drywall and fastening it to the walls. Old and new friendships have been strengthened and cultured inside the Andover Street house. I will treasure this experience for the remainder of my life.
I have crossed many stepping stones in my life during the construction of the ACT house. This experience has made me a better worker and an even a better person. The house project has prepared me for the working world that awaits in my future, with skills and attention to detail I never knew I was capable of possessing. Thanks to the time I spent on the house project, I now know that I would like to pursue an education and career in construction. I have also made many memories with my classmates while building that house. Working with them had to be the most cherished time of my high school career. You could say that we became a family through carpentry with all the laughs, mistakes and hard work. Leaving them will be hard, but I wish much success to each and every one of them. We have all worked so diligently to make it to this point in our lives to obtain the skills needed to reach our goals. When you ask me what the house has meant to me, all I can say is that it is the place that my carpentry family grew up. It's now the part of my life that I'm ready to move on from to do bigger and better things.
Thank you for acknowledging my hard work on the ACT project. It has been a real rewarding experience. I am very grateful that I have been selected to get this award and I just want to let you know that you will not regret your choice.
Working on the Andover Community Trust house has meant many things to me, including learning and furthering my own skills. Working on the house, I was able to learn how it truly feels to work on a real construction site. I was able to get a real feel of starting a house building project and following it to the end. This project gave me the opportunity to evaluate my strengths, which are measuring and fastening. I was able to work on the skills that I was lacking, such as using a level and fitting in stair treads. I can proudly say I grew as a carpenter during the construction of the Andover Community Trust house. I also grew as a person.
Constructing the Andover house has meant many things to me, such as gaining experience in the workforce and proper house construction. I have learned many things along the way. I have learned to work to my fullest potential until the task is complete. Going to the school house has shown me what the job site will be like in the future. Over the course of the years working at the school house, I have improved my carpentry skills and learned to be reliable, dependable and predictable. That is what working at the Andover house has meant to me.
“The current Andover Street home has been our best experience to date, thanks to John Lavoie and Rob Fairbanks, the construction instructor/supervisor,” said Susan Stott, ACT director. “The culture in the GLTS building is amazing,” said LaVoie, who graduated in 1968 from the school and taught there for 23 years. He was assistant superintendent for curriculum at Greater Lowell Technical School before he became GLTS superintendent in 2010. “The students are respectful to their teachers, administrators and the building. It’s a tribute to the students how much they care about each other.” Seventy-five percent of the GLTS student body comes from Lawrence, 22 percent from Methuen and 3 percent from Andover and North Andover. The 60 percent increase in applications for admission to GLTS is the second highest increase of all technical schools in the Commonwealth. There is a demand for vocational education, and all vocational schools have waiting lists for admission, according to LaVoie. “The MCAS exam was a godsend to vocational education, because it meant that vocational students had to meet the same standards as other high school students,” he said. “It forced technical schools to improve academics. Vocational success carries over into academics. Students need strong skills in math, writing, and science to have greater opportunities for jobs.” “I am looking forward to many years of association with ACT,” LaVoie concluded. “I am grateful to have the opportunity to let students work on skills in a real world setting that they can’t get in a classroom.”
In 2014, the Andover street home provided training for a new GLTS venture – solar installation.