GRAD Academy in Holyoke Hosts Black & Gold Night

On October 9th, Dean Technical High School, a GRAD Academy in Holyoke, MA, didn’t host just any ordinary Open House night. “We took your traditional Open house,” explained Principal Barry Bacom, “where parents and students shuffle from class to class and listen to a 15 minute overview from every teacher – we took that idea and threw it away. We wanted an inclusive, dynamic community event.”

And that is exactly what Black and Gold Night turned out to be. Students, parents, alums, community members, and local leadership made a combined effort to meet Superintendent Sergio Paéz’s challenge: 100% participation. By this he didn’t mean that every member of the Dean Tech community would show up to the school’s open house; rather, he meant that every Dean Student would do their best to get the message out in different ways to promote the best attendance possible. Between 300-400 people attended the event, marking a record high for a Dean Tech open house.

As families entered the front doors of the school, they were directed to the cafeteria, which had been cleared of chairs and tables to allow for a trade show setup exhibiting all of Dean Tech’s offerings. Each tech program and each academic department had its own booth that displayed information about their technical or academic expertise, samples of student projects, and promotional materials. During a half hour meet-and-greet over refreshments, families listened as Mayor Alex Morse and Superintendent Paéz shared encouraging words about Dean Tech’s recent transformation. Principal Bacom then took stage, announcing the night’s main event – a scavenger hunt.

Each family was given a copy of its student’s schedule, which listed all the related items to search for during the scavenger hunt. The lists were long – find each of the student’s teachers, the student’s classrooms, the main office, the College and Career Access center, administrators – and for every item successfully found on the list, the family received one ticket for a raffle that would take place at the end of the night. The more scavenger items families found, the better their chances of winning!

While families were zealously searching, Principal Bacom and staff were transforming the trade show room back into a cafeteria. The students in the Culinary lab had prepared a traditional Puerto Rican meal for all of the guests and, for dessert, one of the Culinary instructors baked a gigantic birthday cake to celebrate 100 years of Dean Tech. The raffle was done over dinner, and many families left donning Golden Hawk t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hat prizes.

One of the many highlights of the night was a NASCAR photo-op provided by the Universal Technical Institute (UTI), one of Dean Tech’s post-secondary partners. UTI is one of the nation’s leading providers for students seeking careers as professionals in the automotive world. UTI brought an actual NASCAR racecar to the Dean Tech campus and allowed students and families to learn about the intricacies of a racecar, sit in the driver’s seat, and leave with a fun photo memory.

Black and Gold Night was a huge success. Apart from setting a new attendance record, veteran teachers who have served over 20 years at the school noted its uniqueness. Principal Bacom hopes to continue hosting unique events, making each bigger and better than those of the past. Some previews as to what these events might look like: a Shop Night to showcase each of the technical areas and a Float in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Priority number one as of right now, explains Principal Bacom, is recruitment for next year. We can expect a number of recruiting events within the next few months targeting students from local feeder schools.

Whether these events are for recruiting, showcasing, or celebrating, we look forward to the creative spark that Dean Tech will surely bring to each.