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For Hands-On Learners, The “Wright” Choice

Every student has their own style of learning.

Nick Mathias is a hands-on guy. Last year at Staples High School, he loved Mike Sansur’s Technology Education class. They built things in what was once called “wood shop.”

Recognizing Nick’s passion for doing and touching, guidance counselor Vicki Capozzi suggested he look into J.M. Wright. He was intrigued.

The Stamford school — one of 15 in Connecticut’s technical education and career system — offers 9 career education programs: automotive, carpentry, culinary arts, digital media, electrical, health technology, information technology, plumbing and heating, and tourism, hospitality and guest services management.

Students alternate one week learning jobs of the future, and another week of academics. They come from 8 Fairfield County towns. In 17 years at Staples, Capozzi had never sent one from Westport.

“Kudos to Nick’s parents,” Capozzi says. “They wanted to learn more.”

Nick Mathias

The usual path to Wright Tech begins with an application in 8th grade. Accepted students spend freshman year rotating through all 9 trades, then select one to concentrate on beginning as sophomores.

Nick applied during his freshman fall. His first choice was carpentry, but there were no openings. There was a spot in plumbing and heating though. He took it, and entered Wright Tech as a rare midyear transfer.

It was a big decision — but a great move.

Nick — a Star Scout with Boy Scout Troop 36, and an active member of his Saugatuck Congregational Church youth group — is thriving, both academically and socially.

He has learned all about commercial plumbing. Now he’s studying residential plumbing. He’s learning how to install sinks, showers, boilers and sewage pumps.

“You can’t outsource plumbing,” he says of his future trade. “I’m really passionate about this.”

His teachers combine theory with practice. They let students work at their own pace.

Just as importantly, they prepare teenagers to work independently, and solve problems, in the workplaces they’ll soon join.

“They treat us like they’re our bosses,” Nick explains. “They make everything realistic, so when we go to a job site we can function on our own.”

His teachers’ mantra: “Do a job the same way you’d want it done at your house.”

JM Wright Technical School.

Capozzi is thrilled to hear Nick’s feedback. She says that Wright Tech is an excellent place for “kids who like to tinker. Not everyone wants to sit in a classroom all day.”

Nick notes that Wright Tech encourages students to consider college. But, he says, “if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to. You’ve already got the skills you need to have a good job.”

She urges middle schoolers who may be interested to begin the process in 8th grade. Bedford, Coleytown and Staples guidance departments and school administrators will do all they can to help.

Nick is still only a sophomore. He’s unsure what he’ll do 2 1/2 years from now.

“I may go into engineering,” he says. “College would be important to learn how to manage a job site, or a full construction job. I may start out at a community college. I don’t know yet.”

He has plenty of time to figure that out. In the meantime, he’s happy where he is.

Nick, his parents and the guidance staff at Staples are happy to talk to anyone who might be thinking of all that Wright Tech offers. They know there are many ways in life to learn.

And many paths to success.

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