DANVERS — Essex Tech staff and students welcomed state legislators and other community members to campus this week as part of its ongoing effort to generate support for the Catherine Larkin Memorial Cottage Project.
On Monday, Jan. 27, a legislative breakfast served as an opportunity for school leaders to share plans to renovate the Larkin Cottage with state lawmakers, including plans to preserve the school and region’s agricultural roots, and lay the foundation for Essex Tech’s future.
The new building will replace the original cottage, which was built in 1950 to house the homemaking program on the campus of Essex County Agricultural School. Once complete, the rebuilt facility will include an agricultural museum, learning center and community function space. It will also feature historic artifacts from the school’s long history, and will include a kitchen to support various events.
Additionally, the project will serve as an unprecedented opportunity to incorporate students in all facets of the construction effort, with students from 10 career technical education programs set to contribute. Students from the arboriculture, carpentry, construction craft laborer, electrical, HVAC, landscaping, masonry, plumbing, natural resources and environmental science and sustainable horticulture programs will all be involved.
“They’re going to see as much as they can about what a real project looks like in the industry,” said Junior/Senior Carpentry Instructor Brian Borders, who will oversee the project once it gets underway. “It’s really the first time they’ll be exposed to a project from start to finish.”
The construction effort will also incorporate students who attend on a part-time basis through an existing CTE expansion partnership with schools in Gloucester, Peabody and Salem.
Borders added that the new Larkin Cottage will serve as a legacy for the students who work on it, and will serve as a reminder that’s equal parts tangible and visible of the impact of the kind of hands-on technical education that Essex Tech provides.
To help make the project a reality, Essex Tech will be seeking funding of approximately $1 million, including its own fundraising, and Monday’s breakfast allowed local legislators to see firsthand the impact Essex Tech has on students and the communities it serves.
Gov. Charlie Baker recently announced his administration’s Career Technical Initiative, which is designed to expand career technical education opportunities statewide to allow more people to access vocational education. The Career Technical Initiative will aim to train 20,000 people of all ages in skilled trades over the next four years, and the Baker-Polito Administration has proposed the allocation of $15 million in the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget to support those efforts.
“There’s such a rich history of agriculture on the North Shore and especially at this school,” said Bonnie Carr, Director of Workforce Development and Adult Education. “Students will be able to look back over the years and show their own children and grandchildren what they built. It’s an opportunity for them to use their skills and be a part of history.”
The newly built space will give Essex Tech the chance to increase its educational capacity and shorten the school’s admissions waitlist, which is currently more than 1,000 names long.
The original cottage was a gift from the family of Catherine Larkin, a graduate of the homemaking program, who went onto become a World War II nurse before she ultimately died in a plane crash in 1945 while serving her country.
Preserving the Larkin legacy, as well as the region’s agricultural roots, and creating a functional learning space are priorities shared by State Rep. Ted Speliotis, who spoke at Monday’s breakfast.
“This means a great deal, not just for the preservation of agriculture, but for the future of this school,” Speliotis said. “This isn’t just about history and the recognition of one prominent alum, this is the continued path we have to take to keep this school current.”
To learn more about the cottage project, including how to donate to the fundraising effort, click here.