Met with STEM students at Belchertown High School, researchers at the UMass Cold Spring Orchard, and discussed addiction recovery efforts with Belchertown SOARR
Received a briefing on future development at the State School property
BELCHERTOWN — Senator Eric P. Lesser embarked on a full day of meetings and site visits in Belchertown on Tuesday to learn about new initiatives and receive updates on programs he has championed with amendments to the state budget.
His first stop was a meeting with School Superintendent Karol Coffin and a joint visit to Belchertown High School’s new Science, Technology, Math and Engineering (STEM) and Robotics Classroom, made possible through an amendment filed by Sen. Lesser to the 2016 Economic Development Bond Bill.
Sen. Lesser worked with the administration to release the $100,000 in bond funding for the program last year.
“Right now, there are thousands of vacancies in high-tech manufacturing jobs right here in Western Mass, and there will be thousands more in the future. Training our young people for the jobs of the future is vital to providing opportunities for the future. Vocational training programs like the STEM and robotics program at Belchertown High School are showing us what’s possible, and this program is serving as a model for the state in providing a high-quality educational program,” said Sen. Lesser.
Teachers are busy installing 3D printers, robotics kits, laser-powered etching machines, new computers and design software, and other materials to get the STEM classroom ready for students by end of the school year. The school has used nearly all of the grant money on this equipment, with about $300 to $600 remaining for additional robotics equipment.
Next, Sen. Lesser visited Cold Spring Orchard, a research and education facility of UMass Amherst. The research has focused on finding better ways to grow fruit in Massachusetts, including the testing of new varieties, the evaluation of more efficient cultivation techniques and the development of more environmentally friendly management approaches.
Jon Clements and Joe Shoenfeld, educators at the orchard, gave Sen. Lesser a tour and explained how they have been been able to grow new types of apples and reduce pests.
In the afternoon, Kendall Cardwell, Chief Engineer for the State School project, provided Sen. Lesser a brief overview of the project’s future development and then conducted a tour of the property.
“There is no better symbol of this town’s resurgence than the redevelopment of the State School property, which will provide local job opportunities, expand residential housing options, and ultimately find a purpose for 25 acres of land that can be put to good use,” said Sen. Lesser. “This project is one of the most transformative and exciting developments happening in our entire region right now.”
The day ended with a meeting at the “Nest,” a substance abuse resource center for the community. Sen. Lesser met with members of Belchertown SOARR (Speaking Out About Addiction & Recovery), the Quabog Hills Substance Abuse Coalition, and residents and providers from Honest Beginnings, a sober living facility.
“We have made a lot of progress in combating the opioid epidemic, but there is much more that needs to be done. Sober living homes are key to the progress we will be able to make, and we have consistently requested more state funding for treatment beds in facilities like Honest Beginnings. It was good to be able to meet with some of the residents and let them know that we are with them and we are working to help them recover and live the life that’s waiting for them,” said Sen. Lesser.