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Nipmuc Hosts 21st Century Learning Conference

Nipmuc History Teacher Matthew Merten (center) moderates the breakout session "Do What You Love; Love What You Do," during the November 9 "21st Century Learning Conference." Speakers for the session included Detective Nick Palmeri from the Upton Police Department, Liz Harkins, Member Services Coordinator for Milford TV, and Daniel Taccini, Owner of DWT Woodworking.

Nipmuc Regional High School hosted their inaugural "21st Century Learning Conference" last week, an event that was aimed to support their mission of providing students with college, career, and community readiness.

Over 80 business professionals and district faculty members volunteered to act as speakers, moderators, and resources for the three-hour conference that was held at the school on November 9. The students were asked to come ready to learn and to "dress for success" as part of the professional learning experience.

Modeled after a professional business conference, the students were given a list of breakout topics prior to the event and encouraged to sign up for two different 50-minute breakout sessions that peaked their interest. Breakout topics were numerous and varied including "Tackling the College Essay," "What's your Job Search Strategy," "Ace the Interview," "From College Athletics to the Real World," "Conquering Stress," and "Are you Smart About Money."

Presenters for the breakout sessions included faculty from the district was well as a number of professionals from outside businesses such as Natick Labs, Milton CAT, Workforce Central,; Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., UniBank, Dean Bank, Milford TV, Upton Police Department, Metso Automation, and more. On hand as resources for the students were also representatives from a number local colleges and universities.

Along with the two breakout sessions, students participated in one keynote/endnote session to kick-off or end their day. The keynote session started off with a presentation by Memorial Elementary School Teachers Leah Hagen and Kimberly Lopes, who spoke to the students about the conference's theme – the growth mindset – a belief that person's most important abilities like intelligence or talent can be developed through hard work and dedication.

"Your mindset can influence your success," said Lopes to the freshmen and sophomore students during their keynote address in the auditorium. "You must believe with resilience and effort you can make a difference," she said.

The keynote session also included a panel of professionals who spoke about their own career paths and gave practical advice to the students by encouraging them to explore different avenues and take risks in order to find their true passion.

"Take every experience possible because you never know where each experience will take you," said panelist Mike McGuiness, Executive Director for "Find something that you are passionate about, but find it by trying everything possible."

Bringing these professionals to the school to speak with the students about college and career readiness was one of the first orders of business for Elizabeth Hennessy, Nipmuc's new Community and Career Coordinator who was hired this summer. "The goal of the conference was to put the 21st century skills that we are trying to teach the students into give them the knowledge, skills and preparedness to be ready for college and careers," she said.

Hennessy said that the conference was a huge success, and that the feedback they have received from the students and faculty has been "overwhelmingly positive." Hoping that this "inaugural" event will become an annual one for Nipmuc, Hennessy said that she is grateful for the support from the industry professionals and staff at Nipmuc. "The faculty stepped up for this like you couldn't believe. We have terrific resources here," she said.

Nipmuc's Principal John Clements was also pleased with the event and with the reactions of the students. "Based on their feedback, I know they appreciated the variety of options that were available to them and the strong emphasis on job and life skills," he said. "There's an 'if you build it, they will come' mentality with our students. When we provide them with these programs, they make the most it."


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