SALEM, N.H. — A round of applause rang through Salem High’s television studio. Senior Valerie Sacco had just tapped her first big interview with New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan. It was a team effort, with about a dozen of her fellow television and media production students helping produce the segment in the studio.
The Democrat stopped in for an interview after touring the school's newly renovated Career Technical Education Center (CTE) spaces.
“I learned how important it is to have a variety of opportunities for young people to really try on different learning and work experiences,” Hassan said. “So this new facility does so many things so well.”
Many of Salem’s programs have been around for years. The $75 million school renovation that was completed in fall 2018 updated CTE classrooms and laboratories, and added the cosmetology and biomedical science programs. Friday was Hassan’s first time visiting since the school was completed.
Sacco along with fellow journalism-focused students Brooklynn Leonard and Grace Lumley followed the senator as she toured the school, snapping photos of her meeting students and teachers who filled Hassan in on happenings at the high school.
Typically the students have a week to tape interviews and build one show, but they finished this one in day. It will include Sacco's interview with Hassan as well as footage of the senator touring the school.
“We had to run and do stuff at a fast pace and think of questions on the spot, which is what we will be doing in the field,” Lumley said.
Students enrolled in the various CTE programs are able to do hands-on work daily.
For example, students in the automotive technology program work on teachers' cars, while students in the culinary arts program cook food for the school’s restaurant, The Three Seasons.
“We keep students involved in this, because it's all for them,” said Chris Dodge, director of Salem’s CTE program, while touring through the school.
Hassan saw the spaces for all of Salem’s 13 CTE programs, speaking with students and teachers along the way.
“It doesn’t feel like the old shop” class, Hassan said while passing through the carpentry and engineering spaces where students are building projects.
While in the teacher preparation classroom, the program coordinator Jim Slobig told Hassan his program is making some “dynamite” future teachers, “we are really doing a service to these (students) so they can learn something useful,” Slobig said.
Hassan agreed, praising the programs’ connection to further education programs, like the cosmetology program where students can earn up to 300 clinical hours for their licensure, and programs like teacher preparation that offer college credit.
“What I heard them (students) talking about was how important it was for them to learn skills they could use in the workplace immediately,” Hassan said. “Also that they thought (the district) was preparing (them) for college well, ... which in this day in age, with the cost of college, can make a real difference in a young person’s life.”
In the interview, Sacco asked about the senator’s support for educational programs like Salem’s.
Drawing from her experience talking with business owners, Hassan said, “We need a workforce with skills, not just in technology, but with people knowing how to operate in the workplace and be good colleagues.”
Hassan thinks Salem’s programs do that, and do that particularly well.
“I was thinking a lot about how important this resource is to our business community and economy, because I hear from business leaders all the time they can’t find workers with the right skills,” Hassan said.“The integration of the high school and CTE here is a really important model as we think about ways to drive career and technical education in 21st century learning.”
While walking the senator out of the school, Sacco confessed she was nervous, and thanked Hassan for the opportunity.
“You did a really good job,” Hassan told Sacco, adding that interviews get easier with time and practice.
Throughout her tour, Hassan was impressed with students’ work. She told the them it was important to find something they are passionate about, and that they should take those opportunities.
Sacco’s interview with the Senator can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=PJKirrrEJgo.