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Huot Center reaches broad spectrum of students



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Gilford High School senior Kyle Nelson brushes up on his technology skills in the multi-media communications studio and practices some filming techniques. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
January 13, 2010
The Huot Technical Center has run in conjunction with surrounding Lakes Region schools for over 25 years, and now that their programs are expanding at the center, so are student numbers.

The Huot Center, located in Laconia, offers elective programs and college credits to students interested in health science technology, early childhood education, culinary arts, multimedia communications, automotive technology, and more. Not only are students becoming more receptive to these "practical" programs, but the school districts are as well.

Scott Davis, the Huot Center's career and technical education director, suggested that student numbers have also increased because of local school sizes, where it makes sense for students in smaller schools to branch out to the center for a broader array of programs.

"We have definitely seen an increase in numbers," said Davis. "We have expanded our programs, and there are more options now. We have a great relationship with guidance staff (at local high schools), and administration."

The Gilford School District, as well as Belmont, Winnisquam, Franklin, and Inter-Lakes, has seen an increased number of students participating in these career-focused classes. Davis, along with members of the Laconia School District, made a presentation about the Huot Center last month at a Gilford School Board meeting, and found the board to be supportive of their programs.

Davis told the board he is looking to "modernize" the facility even more, and perhaps perform some renovations, to meet the needs of surrounding school districts. If the center sees renovations, the extended community may benefit even more so, said Davis.

Although school board member Kurt Weber said he would like to see a few more IT classes developed, board member Sue Allen said the culinary program at the Huot Center supported her daughter in her future career at Johnson & Wales University.

Davis told the board he planned to meet with every local school district to present on the future of the Huot Center, and said he was always open to new projects. Gilford Superintendent Paul DeMinico suggested that Gilford students, enrolled in the construction, plumbing and heating program, help with the old library/SAU office renovations in the near future.

Although the project is still undecided, Davis said a community project such as this is not unheard of, and could be attainable, considering the students are always out on the field.

"We have done projects for schools, although they have been relatively minor. We certainly could do some work for different schools," said Davis. "Two or three years ago, the plumbing and heating program worked on the Gilford Historical Society's meeting building. We have worked on the Rowe house. Depending on the scope, we can do a lot of renovation work.

Davis said applying what has been learned at the center, out in the community, is a favorite project among the students.

"The kids really like when they are doing outside work. It's the real deal. Students respond very well to that," said Davis. "It's not just the classroom piece, but real life. It gives them a different sense of community."

Davis pointed out that 20 or so years ago, there was a much more direct path between high school and employment. He said times have changed, and the Huot Center has helped some students realize this path is not "terminal," and that college or military opportunities exist after high school.

"A lot of kids here are looking at the next level. We have found kids in all programs have a leg up. It makes a difference," said Davis. "We want kids to get experience they might not get otherwise. It's not a classroom simulation. We hope the experience they get out of being with us meets goals for the real world."

Davis explained that students from the construction program are currently working on a house, located on Gilford Avenue, owned by Habitat and Humanity. Students are rebuilding the entire house, while health and science students are out on field sites, and early childhood students visit an onsite preschool.

Davis said as long as students complete their program with a sense for a future career, new interests or academic paths, the Huot Center faculty will feel they have achieved their job.

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