Mario Alvarez, left, and Joe Michaud, center, seniors at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, watch as teacher Paul Bagley checks
Mario Alvarez, left, and Joe Michaud, center, seniors at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, watch as teacher Paul Bagley checks their work on changing a power-steering rack. According to the state Department of Education, enrollment is increasing statewide in vocational-technical schools. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

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'Motivating kids'

Ferreira said there is a variety of reasons for the increased interest in vocational schools.

Generally, they also have low dropout rates, high attendance rates and high graduation rates, Ferreira said.

Vocational schools have a history of high assessment rates. The Department of Education ranks schools on five levels, using graduation and dropout rates among other indicators. The highest-performing schools are rated at Level 1; the lowest performance is set at Level 5.

This year, of 26 regional vocational school districts in the state, 19 are rated as Level 1, four are Level 2, and three are Level 3. That does not include the vocational schools that are part of the public school district.

Kathy Nguyen, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, works on her video-game design project, which incorporates
Kathy Nguyen, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, works on her video-game design project, which incorporates fairy-tale characters into her story design. According to the state Department of Education, enrollment is increasing statewide in vocational-technical schools. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

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"The success, I think in a large way, is about motivating kids and teaching them why academics are important," Ferreira said, noting that students may be more interested in learning trigonometry if it can be applied to methods of cutting textiles in their manufacturing classes.

"The kids are very engaged in education because now they understand the importance of the academics," he said.

Ferreira said voke-tech students can explore fields they might want to work in, and once they graduate, they can choose to work or attend college. But before they go on, voke-tech students can put their skills to use for their communities. Students in the carpentry program at Nashoba Tech, for instance, have built or remodeled projects in all of the towns in the district, and culinary students prepare and serve meals on a regular basis for senior centers in the district.

Similarly, students in the carpentry program at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High, are currently refurbishing the Office of Emergency Management in Leominster, and students in the plumbing program are installing a new industrial kitchen in the Spanish American Center.

Ralph Rodriguez, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, makes shrimp gorgonzola during culinary class Tuesday morning.
Ralph Rodriguez, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, makes shrimp gorgonzola during culinary class Tuesday morning. According to the state Department of Education, enrollment is increasing statewide in vocational-technical schools. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

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"We are constantly giving back to the community and, thereby, justifying our existence," Fiandaca said.

Miranda Roy, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, gets help from graphics instructor Scott Hebert as she creates an
Miranda Roy, a senior at the Center for Technical Education at Leominster High School, gets help from graphics instructor Scott Hebert as she creates an advertisement in class Tuesday. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / JOHN LOVE

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