Students at Wilcox in Meriden share school with community through ‘Tech or Treat’

Students at Wilcox in Meriden share school with community through ‘Tech or Treat’



MERIDEN — Over a 10 minute period at Wilcox Tech Saturday morning two ninjas, two princesses, two Spidermans, a Batman, a couple of Buzz Lightyears, Strawberry Shortcake, and Wonder Woman showed up to collect Halloween treats.

For the second year, students and faculty welcomed the community into the school for “Tech or Treat,” an opportunity for children in the neighborhood to get dressed up and celebrate Halloween in a safe environment. Over 30,000 pieces of candy were procured for the Disney-themed event and in the first hour, over 400 parents and kids showed up to grab their sugary haul from costumed high school students.

“It’s super cute. I love all the effort the kids put in,” said Tracy Laferriere, a Meriden resident who brought her two small daughters to the event. “It’s a good way to expose them to the high school and the older kids, so they see what they can do when they are older.”

That’s exactly one of the reasons Wilcox Tech teachers proposed the event in the first place.  

“It has been really fun so far,” said science teacher Kara Papa, event coordinator. “I love seeing all the little kids with their costumes and their smiles. The day makes all the planning and worrying and double checking worth it.”

The big kids were as excited to be there as the little ones. Papa said since the beginning of the planning process in September over 40 kids showed up at every meeting, many of whom were not kids who are normally joiners. “Our kids are career driven. They have the soft skills you need. They are responsible, respectful and kind,” Papa said. 

Freshman Chelsea Fitzgerald was totally into it, staying in character as Belle, the heroine in the film “Beauty and the Beast.” For a moment or two, she created an illusion for the very smallest children who thought they were in the presence of a screen character come to life. “Because I love to read so much, I thought I would make friends with Belle for the day,” Fitzgerald said. 

Aaron Fontanez-Lucier, a senior, handled the technical sound requirements for the event, making sure that the Disney music and spooky sounds were balanced and running properly. “It’s mood noise. I’ll make up a term for it,” he said. 

Fontanez-Lucier only tolerates children, he said. He’s there for a different reason. “I believe in the technical high school system … this is an event that will bring people in to understand what we do,” said Fontanez-Lucier, who already has a job lined up installing communications systems. 

First year principal Stacy Butkus learned something important about her new school — they believe in each other and what they are collectively trying to accomplish. “They are dedicated and excited to share their school with the community. We do great things every day,”  Butkus said. 

Wilcox Tech is a place where students like Fontanez-Lucier can learn one of 13 trades, as well as the important, though less tangible skills needed to succeed in the workforce while tackling the academic subject matter offered in an ordinary high school experience. The school is becoming an increasingly popular option for students with over 500 applications submitted for 225 freshman slots, she said. “They have viable career options with no college debt,” Butkus said. 

Serious subjects were far away on Saturday morning. Just the prospects of candy and a bit of a gentle scare were on everyone’s mind. “I hope this is a really good high school memory,” Papa said. 

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Chelsea Fitzgerald, “Belle,” of Wallingford, gives out candy to trick-or-treater Liz Peed, 3, during the second annual Tech or Treat event at H.C. Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2019. Emily J. Tilley, special to the Record-Journal.
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