The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 13, 2009


Minuteman High School – another path to college and career

Think a technical high school education leads only to the machine shop or auto bay? Senior Irene Karafotias believes her education at Minuteman Career and Technical High School (MMCTHS), Carlisle’s alternative to Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS), has prepared her for college and the world beyond. On Tuesday, Krafotias joined me and Mariellen Perugini, Carlisle Representative to the Minuteman School District, for lunch at the Fife and Drum Restaurant, located on the school campus and run by Minuteman students. A culinary arts major, Karafotias is applying to Newbury College, Southern New Hampshire College and Johnson and Wales and hopes to soon be among the college-bound who found their calling at Minuteman.

Irene Karafotias prepares a culinary treat at Minuteman’s Fife and Drum Restaurant. (Photo by Cecile Sandwen)


As a student waitress took our orders, Karafotias explained that a childhood interest in baking was re-awakened when she started her freshman year at Minuteman. Students are required to do a “Freshman Exploratory” in which they work for two days in each of the school’s career areas. In addition to the traditional automotive, cosmetology and construction trades, Minuteman offers programs in 20 other majors, including bio-science, engineering, business, information technology, environmental technology and culinary arts. A full list is available at

Perugini ventured that her son, who is also a Minuteman student, found the Freshman Exploratories “a wonderful way to think about careers.” During Exploratories, he had the opportunity to build and wire a lamp and also developed an interest in welding. The school used to allow boys to opt out of areas such as cosmetology and childcare, but changed their policy, and now, says Perugini, the boys really enjoy playing with the children (no word on what they think of doing nails).

Karafotias admits she was drawn to technical education because she found traditional classes hard to focus on. “I can’t do book work all the time,” she says, and Minuteman teachers seem to know how to get through to her. “It’s definitely more interesting. Everything is hands-on.” In addition to food preparation in the school restaurant and bakery, she works extensively with computers, which she loves. Minuteman requires credits in English, math, science, social studies and health/physical education, in addition to technical study and career exploration.

“Most students don’t learn best with the lecture/take notes method,” says Perugini. “At Minuteman they really focus on multi-modal learning.” Because of this, she believes Minuteman teachers are able to inspire students who did not have success in standard classrooms. Karafotias says she is interested in her English class where the teacher is using a book about the future to help students explore ideas about the need for human connection.

Our lunches of broiled swordfish, curried chicken and meatloaf were served. We took a few moments to savor our dishes, which were attractive, delicious and garnished with fresh vegetables. As we chatted, Karafotias shared her dream of one day opening a café or bakery. Her Minuteman education has prepared her for both the culinary and business sides of restaurant ownership, including financing considerations and OSHA requirements. For the senior project required of all students she will submit a business plan for her restaurant.

Karafotias believes Minuteman was the right choice for her. “I needed a fresh start, and ended up learning so much.” She says more Carlisle eighth-graders should consider a Minuteman education, but many worry about losing long-time friends. “If you make the effort, you can keep them,” she advises. She notes that some students opt to attend part time through a program in which the school day is spent half at Minuteman and half at CCHS.

In an earlier phone conversation, Minuteman Superintendent Ed Bouquillan expressed similar thoughts. “My great frustration is that people think of vocational education in an outdated way.” He says even college-track students can benefit from a program that is hands-on, student-centered and career-oriented. Sixty-five percent of MMCTHS students pursue post-secondary education, says Bouquillon, and Minuteman points to students accepted at some of the top colleges in the country, including Harvard and MIT. Those who choose to immediately pursue careers also find success, with some starting at salaries of $40,000.

As Perugini and I lingered over a “Brownie Tower” and coffee, Karafotias apologized for rushing to class. A busy student, she plays tennis, is captain of the soccer team and was recently elected to National Honor Society. She also takes part in Skills USA in which students compete to produce culinary masterpieces.

Karafotias hopes to hear from colleges soon. Wherever she ends up, she is likely to be well-prepared for higher-level coursework. Bouquillon observes that the college completion rate for students entering from Minuteman is twice the national average. “When our kids go to college, they’re successful,” he concludes.

Open House November 15

The public is invited to a Community Open House Sunday, November 15, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Minuteman Career and Technical High School, located on Route 2A on the Concord/Lexington line. There will be demonstrations in all education areas and staff members and student ambassadors will be available to answer questions.

The bakery and Fife and Drum Restaurant will be open, as well as the Mall Store, and cosmetology lab, where complimentary manicures will be offered. For more information, call 1-781-861-6500 Ext. 217 or visit ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito