President Barack Obama, a frequent visitor to New York State in recent weeks, was in Massachusetts late Wednesday. He spoke at a high school commencement in Worcester and at a political fundraiser in suburban Boston.
President Obama held up Worcester Technical High School as a national model for preparing American students to compete in the global economy.
" I want the nation to learn from Worcester Tech."
The president spoke to an audience of 5,000 people at the graduation exercises held in the DCU Center in downtown Worcester.
He lauded the Worcester Tech class of 2014. Eighty-two percent of the class will be going to a two-year, or four-year college or university, 11 percent have jobs lined up, and three percent are going into the military.
" You sent a standard. You've set a bar. More schools can do it across the country."
The president highlighted the remarkable turnaround that has occurred at Worcester Tech. In 2006 it was one of the worst high schools in Massachusetts and now it is rated as one of the best schools in the country. Principal Sheila Harrity was named National High School Principal of the Year last month by the U.S. Education Department.
The school partnered with the local business community to come up with a rigorous academic curriculum and provide hands-on learning experiences. The Worcester school’s approach to education has drawn national interest because of concerns students are not being taught the skills needed in today’s employment market.
"Every community is different, but if Worcester can bring teachers, businesses and entire communities together for the sake of our young people than other places can too," said Mr. Obama.
The president in his speech also touched on the national debate over the cost of a college education. He noted a bill to allow refinancing of student loan debt had been blocked earlier in the day in the U.S. Senate. When a smattering of boos came from the audience, the president said, " Don't boo, just remember to vote."
The commencement program had most of the typical elements of any high school graduation including speeches by the class president and the valedictorian, salutes to retiring faculty, and remarks from the superintendent of schools. But, the keynote speaker made it an unforgettable day for the 300 graduates and their families.
Mr. Obama said he could not remember who spoke at his high school graduation.
" I have no idea who it was. I am sure I was thinking about the party after graduation. I don't remember the party either," the president said to laughter from the audience.
After being called on stage to receive their diploma each of the graduates got a handshake and in some cases a hug from the president. Graduate Lucas Giard said it is something he will never forget.
" I'll tell it to my children and grandchildren. It is something amazing"
Julio Santana who was trained at Worcester Tech to be an automobile technician said the school deserves all the attention it has received.
" I do believe this is the best school in the country. I love it."
The president spoke Wednesday evening at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Thirty people attended the dinner at a private home in Weston. Tickets to the event cost $32,400 a piece.
Mr. Obama told the donors they were crucial to the Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate in the midterm election, according to a transcript of the president’s remarks provided by the White House.