Trade School Open In New Location
By Jon Giardiello
BU News Service
BOSTON – The North Bennet Street School opened its doors at its new North End location last fall.
The trade school, which teaches traditional crafts such as locksmithing, cabinet making, and bookbinding, consolidated from four separate North End sites into a single larger facility on North Street. Over 18 months, the school and its president Miguel Gomez-Ibanez raised $17 million dollars and completed construction on the school. Money was raised through faculty and alumni donations, grants, and tax credits.
“Fundraising is an involved process,” said Nancy Jenner, Director of Communications and Strategic Partnerships at the school. “You build relationships with individuals and foundations, and you slowly build a case for support. It’s a process that didn’t start nine months ago, it started years ago.”
The school also entered a trade with the city, where it paid $4.6 million and sold back its previous four buildings, which were used to expand the John Eliot K-8 School. In return, the North Bennet Street School received two vacant city-owned buildings to combine into a single new location.
The school has been in Boston for 132 years, becoming a vital part of the North End community. Students frequently work with Boston non-profits and public services to practice their crafts in service of the city. Recent projects include making the Paul Revere Memorial Association handicap-accessible, reproducing furniture for the Emily Dickinson Museum, and restoring the lantern of the First Parish Church in Dorchester. They also work regularly with Boston Public Schools in tuning instruments and the Boston Public Library, where students practice book binding.
“Many people and businesses here have memories and experience with the school,” Jenner said. “They might have gone to kindergarten here, or they might have done an after-school program, or vocational training.”
The school’s larger location will allow it to even further expand its community involvement. It recently started a woodworking program with middle school students, and thanks to its larger facilities, now has the ability to host community events.
North Bennet Street School’s student population is wildly diverse, ranging in age from 18 to 70, and hailing from all over the country. Some enroll immediately after high school, some are changing careers, and some are adding a new skill to their business or resume. What they all have in common is taking their crafts seriously.
“We’re predicated to training people for jobs,” Jenner said. “This is not a hobby. You come here because you want to learn a skill because you want to use it to make money and support yourself.”
Though the importance of higher education has been magnified more and more in recent years, much of the focus is geared toward traditional four-year universities. Places such as the North Bennet Street School offer important alternatives for anyone, not just college-aged students, to get educated and make a living.
Jenner encourages potential students to visit the school and scope out the course options, or simply take a workshop at the school to gauge their interest.