BILLERICA — Shaw­sheen Valley Regional Vo­cational Technical High School students have been busy spreading little signs of joy this Thanksgiving season. Hand-painted wood­­en turkeys, cornucopias and pumpkins were created and mounted on posts and placed in surrounding communities in an effort to engage residents in a Gra­titude Scavenger Hunt campaign.

The project is a collaboration amongst Shawsheen Tech educators and students, spearheaded by gui­dance counselor Angela Caira. Shawsheen Tech has approximately 1,300 students enrolled in grades 9-12 and is located on Cook Street in Billerica.

Caira said the idea first came to her as a way to fill the void of the school’s wildly successful Trunk or Treat event in October 2019 and their annual open house. Given the new COVID climate, the school was unable to organize their events and the ab­sence from their fall routine felt a bit uncomfortable.

Caira said the idea was sparked “as a way to si­multaneously promote our school and engage the community, but I also wanted to somehow illustrate the impact and un­rest that COVID-19 has had on all of us throughout the district.”

The idea is a take on other themed-campaigns which sprouted up during the COVID-19 crisis such as teddy bear hunts or signs thanking front line workers. Through the support of Shawsheen’s Di­rector of Vocational Pro­grams David Norkiewicz and Superintendent Brad Jackson, Norkiewicz and Caira planned for 20 signs “because we have 20 vocational/technical programs” at the school.

They also wanted to give the signs an autumn (Thanksgiving) theme to provide further emphasis on the significance behind the gratitude campaign. The pair agreed that each hand-crafted sign needed to have a “gratitude” message on its back-side to signify the true purpose of the project. 

20 messages were curated with the help of Caira’s aunt, and thanks to support from local officials, locations for the signs in each community were secured. Caira offered recognition for the craftsmanship that went in to making the signs, crediting staff and students.

Rich Woodlock and his carpentry students craf­ted all of the images. Wen­dy Siegel-Botti and her Design and Visual Communication students painted the signs and turned the wooden ima­ges into beautiful artis­try. Tom Struthers, Scott Hewitt, Heidi Lloyd and their Graphic Arts students, as well as substitute teacher, Kayla Joli­at, printed the messages onto the back of each sign.

“A labor of love, I as­sure you,” said Caira.

Auto Collision teachers Dennis Reppucci and Mark D’Arcangelo sealed the images after they were painted. Through the support of Brian Smith, Rich Woodlock, Larry Bradley, and their students, the signs were installed throughout the communities. 

According to Caira, “My colleagues and I really just wanted to find a way to spread positivity and cheer throughout the com­munity and we be­lieve there is no better way to do that than by reminding one another that there truly are many reasons to have (and keep) a grateful heart. We’ve all been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another, and for many of us, the holiday season is a stark reminder just how difficult it has been over the last nine months, which is why now, more than ever, we need to dig deep and reignite the spirit of gratitude that lives within each of our hearts, thus the ‘Grati­tude’ Scavenger Hunt be­gins!”

To participate in the Shawsheen Tech Grati­tude Scavenger Hunt, visit https://bit.ly/2Jh4ClH and download a form. Entries will be accepted until Dec. 6, 2020.

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