Obama addresses graduates at turnaround school

Associated Press
President Barack Obama stands on stage with class Valedictorian Naomi Desilets, left, and student body President Reginald Sarpong prior to delivering the commencement address for Worcester Technical High School, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in Worcester, Mass. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) — President Barack Obama is delivering the commencement address at a Massachusetts high school that once was so outdated it nearly shut down.

He says he wants the rest of America to learn from Worcester (WUS'-tur) Technical High School.

Obama says the Class of 2014 has learned how to take engines apart and put them back together, run a restaurant, build a house and fix computers. He says in addition to a great education, the graduates are leaving with the skills they need to start their careers.

He says those skills will also help make America stronger.

Obama says the graduates are an example of what's possible when leaders stop talking about giving young people opportunity and actually provide them with what they need to get ahead in life.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Sixteen years ago, Worcester Technical High School was so outdated it nearly shut down.

In a salute to a remarkable turnaround, President Barack Obama will deliver the school's commencement address Wednesday, the latest in a string of honors for a school whose demographic and educational profiles make it a model of achievement.

Obama has been putting a spotlight on his education policies this week, drawing attention to efforts to lower student debt. But Obama has also been eager to showcase programs that break from the traditional classroom format or that are designed to improve the nation's science and technology workforce.

The Worcester, Mass., school stands as an example of a triumph against the odds.

Six out of 10 students at the high school are underprivileged and qualify for free or reduced meals; two out of 10 have special needs. Yet, two years ago it was one of five schools nationally to win an award for student growth in high poverty areas. Last year, it was one of the Education Department's 286 national blue ribbon schools. And this year, its principal was named the Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

The school's rebirth came after the Worcester community decided, with the help of state and federal grants, to build a new, $90 million school that opened in 2006. The school has built relationships with businesses and universities, including a partnership with the Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine, that provide students with real-life experiences through internships and cooperative education jobs.

It's an idea Obama has promoted himself. During an interview Tuesday on Tumblr, the social media site, Obama praised schools that "give young people in high school more hands-on experience, more apprenticeships, more training."

"High school should be a time in which young people have a greater exposure to actual careers, as opposed to just classroom study," he said.

Following his address at the school, Obama will attend a fundraiser for the Senate arm of the Democratic Party.

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