WASHINGTON (AP) -- Sixteen years ago, Worcester Technical High School was so outdated it nearly shut down.
In a salute to a remarkable turnaround, President Barack Obama will deliver the school’s commencement address Wednesday, the latest in a string of honors for a school whose demographic and educational profiles make it a model of achievement.
Obama has been putting a spotlight on his education policies this week, drawing attention to efforts to lower student debt. But Obama has also been eager to showcase programs that break from the traditional classroom format or that are designed to improve the nation’s science and technology workforce.
The Worcester, Mass., school stands as an example of a triumph against the odds.
Six out of 10 students at the high school are underprivileged and qualify for free or reduced meals; two out of 10 have special needs. Yet, two years ago it was one of five schools nationally to win an award for student growth in high poverty areas. Last year, it was one of the Education Department’s 286 national blue ribbon schools. And this year, its principal was named the Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
The school’s rebirth came after the Worcester community decided, with the help of state and federal grants, to build a new, $90 million school that opened in 2006. The school has built relationships with businesses and universities, including a partnership with the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, that provide students with real-life experiences through internships and cooperative education jobs.
It’s an idea Obama has promoted himself. During an interview Tuesday on Tumblr, the social media site, Obama praised schools that "give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training."
"High school should be a time in which young people have a greater exposure to actual careers, as opposed to just classroom study," he said.
Following his address at the school, Obama will attend a fundraiser for the Senate arm of the Democratic Party.