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Resident chosen as CTEC student of the year

Date: 3/29/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM — Agawam resident Cathy Verbetsky was chosen as "The Outstanding Vocational Student of the Year" at Lower Pioneer Valley Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) for 2013.

According to John Michaels, coordinator of the Guidance department, Verbetsky is a senior in the Health Assisting program at CTEC who plans to pursue a nursing degree at Elms College in Chicopee this fall. She currently works at Heritage Woods, an assisted living facility in Agawam.

"I'm pretty excited about the award," Verbetsky said. "I didn't think it would happen to me."

Verbetsky said she has gained independence and maturity from her experience at CTEC

She credited her mother and older brother as inspiration for her work ethic.

"I wanted to become like my older brother who is a nurse — he inspired me," Verbetsky said. " My mom has always encouraged me to take the necessary steps for a good future."

She also said that encouragement from her teachers, classmates and friends has helped her remain focused. She encouraged others to take things one task at a time and not to skip school — two ways she has found success.

"If my heart is set on it, I will succeed," Verbetsky stated, adding that she knew upon entering high school that she wanted to go into the medical field.

During her first year at CTEC, she was able to put the skills she learned in class into practical application by assisting her ailing grandmother Olga with daily activities.

Michaels said, "During her many years in the program Cathy, a three-time 'student of the month' award winner, has excelled in her ability to acquire numerous clinical skills and has proven to be a leader among her peers and co-workers."

He continued, "What stood out is how well-rounded she is. Along with being an honors student Cathy has managed to find the time to run track for her high school and is heavily active as both a Sunday school teacher and youth choral director."

Don Jarvis, principal and director of Occupational Education, said that CTEC has participated in the selection of an outstanding student since 1995. He explained that each of the vocational schools from the Commonwealth choose a winner annually.

"This year four students were nominated," Jarvis said. "The teachers submit the names and the winner is chosen based upon specific criteria."

Michaels stated the selection was based upon the student's shop grades; academic grades; attendance; participation in CTEC-related organizations; participation in extracurricular activities such as sports and music; and civic involvement.

CTEC serves students from the Agawam, East Longmeadow, Hampden-Wilbraham Regional, Longmeadow, Ludlow, Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional and West Springfield school districts. CTEC offers 12 programs of studies ranging from Fashion Technology to Landscaping Technology and Horticulture.

"Our graduates go on to top schools all around the country. The students have the opportunity to excel in mechanical studies and academics simultaneously," Michaels noted.

"They get job training in addition to preparing for college," Jarvis added. "They have experience and know what they want. We're exposing them to more options than they would have normally, teaching them the relationship between academics and the real world." He cited the use of geometry in the skill of carpentry as an example.

Other features of CTEC are its "One Day One Shop" exploratory program where freshman sample courses before choosing a major and the dedication to teach students about the concepts of technology, safety, entrepreneurship and employability.

Verbetsky, along with 42 other vocational students from Massachusetts, will be honored at the 27th Annual Outstanding Vocational Technical High School Students Awards Dinner at Mechanics Hall in Worchester on April 4 at 5:30 p.m.

For more information about CTEC, visit