Aug. 4—Ronan Snell, 17, planned on going into mechanical engineering. And so, as an Andover High School student who liked to fix things, he jumped at the chance to join a pilot program that allowed students to take classes at Greater Lawrence Technical School.
Snell chose courses in metal fabrication, but instead of favoring the technical aspect of the work, he was drawn more to the artistry.
"What I like most about it is that you have the freedom to make whatever you want, without computers," he said.
The program is called "After Dark," and it allows students from Lawrence High School, Phoenix Academy, Methuen High School and Andover High School to take specialized courses after their regular school days.
There are several programs — welding and metal fabrication, machine tool technology and automotive services technology.
In his metal fabrication class, Snell started creating pieces of metal art, making designs from a miniature anchor to a rose.
"He took a flat piece of sheet metal and turned it into a rose," said Aideen Snell, his mother.
He was also able to craft a metal rod into a Celtic knot.
"I like it because you can make art," said Snell. "But most of the other people in the program are doing it to get a welding job."
"Ronan wasn't interested in art before," his mother said. "He was going to this program to do the mechanics."
Snell said he tried art when was younger but was never especially interested in it. This year he found himself opting for classes like glass blowing and carpentry.
"He wants to be able to make things with multiple materials," Aideen Snell said. "And that's what I think is great about the program, is that he discovered something he didn't even know he was interested in."
The program ran every day after school until about 5 p.m.
While Snell said he originally thought it would be difficult to balance his time, he said it worked out. Taking the after-school classes meant that he could take free periods during his regular day.
Teachers also started noticing a positive change in him.
"It was like it put a spring in his step. His grades started to go up," said Aideen Snell. "He started to see where he was using math."
He explained, "the things I would learn at school during math class, I would go after school to welding and I would actually be using it."
Snell plans to continue in the program during his senior year this fall. More students are expected to have the opportunity to join as the program expands.