By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Shrewsbury – Nowadays, it’s not only important to learn in a classroom; real-life experience is also a critical component to success. Luckily for the 12 Shrewsbury High School students in the Mobile On-Site Vocational Exploration (M.O.V.E.) program, they have champions at two local hotels – The Courtyard by Marriot and Best Western Royal Plaza – who are willing to put in the time and resources to help them succeed. And for these students, that has made a world of difference, not only giving them real work-experience but also boosting their confidence and self-esteem.
The students in this program, which is an elective daily class, join it at the recommendation of their teachers. Traditionally they are students who need direction in the areas of social/personal behavior, classroom achievement and/or appropriate attendance levels. Each day the students are bussed to one of the two hotels where they obtain practical vocational skills in the hotels’ kitchens and restaurants, laundries, or business offices. Under the supervision of the hotels”; staffs and SHS teachers, they learn valuable work and interpersonal skills.
On April 12 the students hosted their annual luncheon, titled “A Recipe for Success” at the Courtyard by Marriott for their families and Shrewsbury school faculty members. Guests enjoyed a delicious lunch of hearty sandwiches, homemade soup and Greek salad, followed by miniature parfaits.
The M.O.V.E. program began 10 years ago as a partnership between SHS and the two hotels. Since then, Mary Simone, the Courtyard by Marriott’s General Manager, has been a constant and enthusiastic supporter of the program. In remarks made at the luncheon, she noted how proud she was of the students who had thrived working in the hotels.
“Keep learning…you are doing amazing things and making everyone here proud,” she said.
She also offered praise for her staff as well, who she said “totally supported” working with the students.
Simone said that Executive Chef Noah Gagnon had only been with the hotel for three months. But in that time, he had made a significant positive impact as he worked with the M.O.V.E. students.
“During his interview I asked him how felt about working with students,” she recalled. “He was all on board with it.”
Gagnon, himself a father of three, said working with the students was “fun as I get to teach them new things.”
“You can see how proud they are to show their parents today,” he added, gesturing to the full room.
Three of the senior students also addressed the audience briefly at the luncheon, graciously thanking their teachers and hotel staff for their support.
“This has really been an amazing program,” Wayne said, “that has taught me about teamwork and friendships.”
Wayne has done so well in the program, he was actually hired for a part-time weekend job.
Shahinaz noted she was “shy before starting,” but had gained confidence after participating.
During the school year, the students also do other activities including preparing food for the Senior 5-Day breakfast, faculty meeting snacks, a pre-graduation VIP reception, Senior Greeters’ Holiday Luncheon, and an annual gingerbread house display.
Dr. Joseph Sawyer, the Shrewsbury Public Schools superintendent, congratulated the students, adding that “these skills you learn here as part of M.O.V.E. will help you no matter what you do in life.”
He also thanked Cathy LaRoche, the director of special education at SHS who after overseeing the program since its inception, will be retiring at the end of this school year.
Sawyer also praised Simone and her staff, who he noted had rightfully been honored as a “Champion of Education” from the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce for their support.
“Mary always talks about our great students and this is a great collaboration,” he said.
“I hope we can build additional and stronger partnerships with other businesses as well,” he added.