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February 8, 2013

Lawrence, Methuen get grants for career academies

Lawrence, Methuen and Haverhill are among about a dozen cities to receive education grants for career and English language programs totaling about $3.4 million statewide, the governor’s office said.

The grants are designed for Gateway Cities to cut away at the educational achievement gap between them and the state as a whole, and focus on English language learners and career academies.

Lawrence and Methuen are set to receive $40,000 each in grants for career academies, which are designed to expose students to jobs in different fields, both in class and outside school. The academies bring in professionals from businesses in certain industries to talk to kids in the classroom, and can establish apprenticeships and internships with the goal of pointing them toward higher education and employment opportunities they may not have considered.

Methuen’s grant will go toward developing a biotech/engineering career academy, with the school working with Lucent Technologies, Pfizer, Lahey Clinic, Jean D’Arc Credit Union and Northern Essex Community College. High school science teacher Melissa Tobin began developing a biotech program several years ago and watched it grow to 120 students.

She and associate principal Maria McLaughlin have been working to expand it into a career program that would involve Boston area biotechnology professionals from companies like Pfizer and Lucent Technologies.

“It’s having professionals come in and teach different topics based on how real life works, how they do it in industry,” Tobin said. “It’s teaching how they actually do it. That was our application, making it real for the kids.”

Massachusetts is an obvious place for a high school vocational biotechnology program, with the range biotech companies in Boston, Cambridge, Waltham and along the 128-corridor, she said.

Lawrence’s academy will focus on careers in manufacturing, health and human services, and innovation/entrepreneurship for small businesses, and partner with the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lupoli Companies, Northern Essex Community College, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

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