BV Education Foundation aims for a momentous 'new' year
A BVEF field trip. Sen. Ryan Fattman was a guest speaker.
By ROD LEE
There was unmistakable pride in Jeannie Hebert’s voice when she told those in attendance at a breakfast meeting of the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce in Millbury on September 29th that “we are the only [such organization] in the U.S. to build our own education training center.”
Ms. Hebert, president and CEO of the BV Chamber, was speaking of course of “the Hub,” which recently celebrated a third anniversary. A center for workforce development situated in the Chamber’s offices in the Linwood Mill, the Hub has come far in a short time. It is now offering expanded curriculums in workforce training for high school students and adult learners, and custom retraining for Chamber members’ incumbent employees.
BVEF Outreach Director Danielle Wence says the organization is looking toward a host of new possibilities for growth in 2023.
Photo by Jonathan Rochleau
The Chamber has also forged “a new and stronger connection with the Blackstone Valley Education Foundation,” or BVEF, Ms. Hebert pointed out. This is reflected in “jointly writing grants, sharing events, supporting Innovation Pathways programs, and funding scholarships for high school students.”
No one is more excited about the role the BVEF plays than Danielle Wence, the Education Foundation’s outreach director—recently promoted to that position. She joins a growing team that includes the BVEF’s new executive director, Joscelyn Young, Associate Director Holly McNeil, Partnership Coordinator Lauren Barrett, Internship Consultant Tom Belland, Grant Administrator Annie Kerins and BV Youth Leadership Academy Instructor Chelsea Swan.
Several of these key principals are new, as is the incoming executive director of the Hub, Ashley Bregman.
Ms. Wence said during a conversation in the Chamber’s conference room on December 13th that she was hired to “do marketing last October.” That job has now turned into something more: establishing a stronger connection with schools and businesses.
“How can we reach down to teachers and families,” she said. “We already have a relationship with superintendents and principals.”
She welcomes the challenge, with obvious enthusiasm.
“I was home with children for the last seven years,” she said. “I worked in golf at Pleasant Valley and Cyprian Keyes. That was seasonal.”
A graduate of Holy Name High School in Worcester and Anna Maria College in Paxton, Ms. Wence has already witnessed what “connecting education with experience”—the BVEF’s mission—can mean in inspiring children to think about their futures.
“We did an event with FLEXcon in Spencer and we went into a second and third grade classroom in Uxbridge, to get the wheels spinning (for those children) at a young age to find a career they can enjoy,” she said.
Ms. Bregman, who began as the Hub’s executive director on January 2nd, shares Ms. Wence’s enthusiasm for the BVEF and the Hub as twin pillars.
“I have been in the education sector for many years, mainly teaching at Quinsigamond Community College,” she said on December 19th. “I trained as a biomedical engineer. I have taught in high school and I also teach online chemistry through the University of Southern New Hampshire’s global campus.”
Ms. Bregman said she was hired to do some reorganizing of the Hub and to “increase access. They’ve done a phenomenal job, it’s time to grow. I kind of have a case of ‘I love what I do,’ to break down barriers in education and I look for other than traditional avenues and this is a good fit for me in terms of workforce development.”
Lee Gaudette who succeeded his father, Gerry Gaudette, as president of Gaudette Insurance, says the growth of the Education Foundation has been “a very long road. What’s happening with the Foundation now is really exciting, but not so much change as enhancement.
“The Foundation was started by myself and Marty Green in 1999. Early on we were trying to build connections between the school community and the business community. But the overarching goal was a competitive curriculum that would prepare kids for real-life jobs.”
Mr. Gaudette said the student who complains that he doesn’t like geometry but who wants to become a carpenter and build a flight of stairs has to understand that “that’s geometry!”
“We have come a long way from classroom grants,” Mr. Gaudette said. “Back then it was twenty $250 grants for teachers. What’s that, $5000?” Today’s BVEF parcels out many thousands of dollars, a third of which come from “our public schools that sign up. The rest of our revenue comes from the state.”
Mr. Gaudette said he had been with his father’s agency “only weeks or months” when his dad informed him that “the Mendon-Upton district doesn’t have a representative so guess what?”
Tara Bennett who is interim principal at Douglas High said the Foundation has been working on a collaboration with the Chamber and the Hub to provide more opportunities “for our Valley students. Joscelyn Young has done work with the Foundation previously and is looking to expand our programs, looking to build on the great ‘Foundation’ we have with our schools and industrial partners.”
Ms. Bennett has been in education for more than twenty years and with the Foundation for the last eight or nine. She said Douglas students have benefitted and not just at the high school level; through the Leadership Academy, BV Excel programs, middle school and up, and our staff has benefitted too.”
Ms. Wence said “this year the Foundation has gained tremendous momentum with the support of Central MassHire Connective Activities program, regional business partners, and supporting organizations and private community members. We all look forward to collaborating and increasing programming with our primary partners, Ashley Bregman, executive director of the Hub for Workforce Development, and Jeannie Hebert, executive director of the Chamber, in the coming year.”
Ms. Wence said new programs such as the Internship Program and Innovation Pathways Program “are growing by leaps and bounds. We have been working with the majority of our seventeen school districts to add or grow existing programs.”
Significantly, the Foundation added three school districts as members this past fall: Auburn, Bellingham and Whitinsville Christian.
The Foundation, the MassHire Central Career Center and Connecting Activities recently announced completion of Phase 1 “of our NextGen Project. Wondering ‘where are the well-paying jobs in Central MA?’ Check out our new labor market literacy tool at https://public.tableau.com/.../WherearetheGoodJobsinCentr... It’s been soft-launched with CCR and Internship Coordinator groups. Scheduled training and demos will be available in the new year. Not to mention…work has already begun on the searchable database portion of this exciting new project.”
Two professional development series will start in January.
Also in January, on the 25th at 5:00 p.m. there will be BV Partnership Open House in the shared offices of the Foundation, Hub and Chamber. The evening will highlight the elevated partnership between the three organizations and celebrate new staff, new opportunities, new programs, new partnerships, new endeavors and new possibilities. Those interested in attending should RSVP by January 16 to Kristen at [email protected]
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.