It’s not exactly stop-the-presses news: Westport is a town of high expectations.
Parents expect that their kids will go to college — the more prestigious, the better. Kids expect that they’ll spend time in high school polishing their transcripts and resumes.
Everyone expects the “college process” to be a stressful time. They’re right.
There seem to be few options for young Westporters who want a different path. Fortunately for Shane Lozyniak, he found his own.
His family has lived in Westport for generations. Shane went to Greens Farms Elementary School, Bedford Middle and then Staples High. From a young age he loved using his hands. Motors, old electronics — if he could mess around with them, he did.
At high school he was not involved in extracurricular activities. He did not have to be. He had Mike Sansur.
Shane had heard about the Technology Education class from his older brother. As a freshman, he took TechEd 1. Sansur’s course introduced him to things he’d never had a chance to do in school. He turned a lamp on a lathe, and built a shelf.
Shane took Sansur’s classes every year. During free periods and other extra time, he headed back to the lab.
When Shane’s school counselor, Christine Talerico, mentioned to her colleague Victoria Capozzi that Shane looked her in the eye, and said he was not interested in a traditional 4-year college — he preferred something more hands-on — both women took note.
That’s rare at Staples. It’s also important, and refreshing.
Capozzi — who calls herself “a hands-on girl” — asked Shane to take the lead role in building a mobile cart. The department uses it around the school, as a “branch office.” It’s a hit with everyone.
Capozzi notes that she and her fellow counselors sometimes hear Staples graduates say they’re leaving college to pursue a trade, enter a certificate program or do other work.
“Having a kid like Shane know in advance of his desire to learn a trade and work is very refreshing,” she says.
(In fact, last week the guidance department held a post-secondary school planning meeting for parents of juniors. “We told them there are lots of pathways that don’t involve a 4-year college,” Capozzi says.)
Shane was particularly fascinated by electronics. It was “sparked” when Sansur — whose Tech Ed program caters to a diverse population of students and interests — introduced Shane’s class to electrical theory and schematics. They create and test a variety of circuits commonly found in homes.
The chance to work hard at something, then see it all come together — literally lighting up a room — was very satisfying.
Shane eagerly and adeptly turned electrical theories into reality. He designed and fabricated a steam generator that set a school record for greatest voltage produced.
He also tore down and rebuilt a small gas engine. He then used that knowledge to repair mowers that other students brought in.
For his senior internship, Shane spent a month with Yankee Electric. It was a way to see if that’s what he really wanted for a career.
It was. He liked the experience so much, near the end he asked about an apprenticeship. They were delighted to have him.
Several months into the 4-year process, Shane says he’s “really learning the basics of the trade. There are a lot of basics.”
At night, he’s taking a class at Lincoln Tech in Shelton. He’s been helped by a Mike Rowe Scholarship.
The Rowe Foundation’s mission is to “help close the skills gap by challenging the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing the millions of available jobs. We’re redefining the definition of a good education and a good job, because we don’t think a 4-year degree is the best path for the most people.”
Shane heard about the fund when a Lincoln Tech rep came to Staples. As part of the application process, he had to make a video.
“I’m not a big talker,” Shane says. But Capozzi convinced him to do it. He was chosen as one of 182 recipients nationwide.
The class he’s taking — after a full day of work — does not leave much time for anything else.
That’s fine with Shane. He’s pursuing something he loves.
In a town of high expectations, Shane Lozyniak is already well on the path to success.