Good Afternoon Students, Parents, and Community Members:
On Thursday, we welcomed our community into our Commencement Ceremony for the Class of 2017 (see pictures below). It was a beautiful ceremony held inside the Bristol Aggie Gymnasium and it was a night to remember. We appreciate everyone who assisted to ensure our graduates had the proper send off. 106 students graduated on Thursday and we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. They will forever be a part of the Bristol Aggie legacy.
Late Bus: On Wednesday, June 14th will be our last late bus which leaves at 5:00 pm. If students need to stay after to make up work, please make arrangements accordingly.
Admissions: We are still working hard to finalize the incoming Freshman class! This weekend we are hosting our final round of Placement Testing. That will take place in the Auditorium this Sunday, June 11th.
We will also be welcoming the Mattapoisett Tails 'n' Trails 4-H Club this Saturday, June 10th. They will be touring our beautiful campus and learning about the educational opportunities here at Bristol Aggie!
Taunton Daily Gazette Article: Bristol Aggie superintendent retiring after 34 years of rescuing piglets ... and a whole lot more
Retiring Bristol County Agricultural High School Superintendent Stephen Dempsey holds “Little Stevie” on the day last spring he helped save the piglet. (Courtesy of Taunton Daily Gazette)
DIGHTON – It would be an understatement to say being superintendent of Bristol County Agricultural High School isn’t just a desk job.
Take for example the time Superintendent Stephen Dempsey, who is retiring in July after more than 30 years at the school, helped save a baby pig.
Dempsey was walking past the pig barn one day last spring just as a crazed 1000-pound sow was attacking the piglets she’d just given birth to. One piglet in particular lay shivering and bleeding in the corner.
“One of our incredibly brave young animal science teachers, Rachel Keating, jumped the rail into the pen, grabbed the piglet and tossed him over the corral to me before being charged by the sow” and leaping back over the fence just in time to avoid being attacked, Dempsey recalled.
Dempsey, who fed the piglet and nestled him under his coat to warm him up, is proud to report “Little Stevie” – as the students affectionately named him - grew up to be a very healthy animal.
And Dempsey’s even prouder to report that Bristol Aggie is the kind of place that teaches kids they can do hard things – there on the banks of the Taunton River, amid the fresh air and beautiful rolling fields of Dighton – whether it be climbing a 70-foot high tree while wielding a chain saw, leading a 1,500 pound horse, canoeing out onto the river to release baby turtles or, yes, saving a piglet.
“It’s not just learning a skill to make a living but gaining the confidence to do anything,” said Dempsey, who lives in Bridgewater.
“They’ll say, ‘I can’t climb trees. I’m afraid of heights.’ But once they get over that, you can see that confidence transfer to other things. They didn’t think they could do algebra, but now they think they can figure it out,” Dempsey said.
“I think that’s the real value of vocational education. We’re teaching kids they can do things they didn’t think they could and that stays with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Dempsey, who came to Bristol Aggie in 1983 to teach arboriculture, has always made a point of trying to see both the forest and the trees.
He never wanted to leave the classroom, but when an assistant principal’s position opened up about a decade ago, he decided to give it a try.
“I had a very strong sense of what the school should be and the direction it should take and I knew if I didn’t do it someone else would,” Dempsey said.
That vision is of an agricultural school that’s true to its roots, a place that grows things, a place where kids get dirt under their nails, but also a place that is academically rigorous and prepares students to do anything they want in life.
Bristol Aggie students have gone on to work at NASA. They are veterinarians, geologists and agricultural entrepreneurs. They go into the military, the work force and, the large majority, to college.
Dempsey recently got a message from a 1984 Bristol Aggie graduate who said “No one will probably remember me” – but Dempsey did. This floriculture major went on to say she had been a nurse and was now a full professor of public health at the University of Hawaii.
“She said, ‘Tell the kids they can do anything’,” Dempsey said.
There was a time when many people associated vocational schools with low expectations and parents threatened to send them there if they didn’t shape up, he said.
But those days are over, Dempsey said.
Bristol Aggie – which has students from all 20 cities and towns in Bristol County as well as outside of the county, including Bridgewater and Middleboro - has a waiting list and high expectations when it comes to academics but also behavior, he said.
And it’s working.
Dempsey said he can’t remember the last time the school had to suspend a student because of a fight.
Students love the school so much many of them come back to teach there, he said.
Bristol Aggie has students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, from inner city neighborhoods in Taunton, Fall River, New Bedford and Attleboro to affluent neighborhoods in Rehoboth and Raynham – and they all work and learn side-by-side as proud students of Bristol Aggie, he said.
Part of it is a school culture that says, “It’s not cool to be a jerk here,” he said.
But also, it’s the camaraderie that develops doing a hard job together with a common purpose, he said.
Each freshman has to try out every major, partly to help them figure out what truly interests them but also so they will know what everyone else is going through.
“Everyone knows what it’s like to shovel cow manure. They all do it together and bond,” Dempsey said.
Dempsey studied forestry in the first place because of his love of nature and when he was an arboriculture teacher one of his great joys was awakening that sense of wonder in his students.
“I would bring the kids into the woods and say, ‘Stop and don’t say anything’ just to get them to appreciate what nature does for you. It’s not just to go out and make a dollar. You want to appreciate the beauty of nature,” Dempsey said.
One of the highlights of his career was just such a moment.
One day he grabbed about a dozen students and a bunch of welding helmets to protect their eyes and they climbed a 70 or 80-foot beech tree and watched a solar eclipse together.
That’s the kind of thing you never forget, he said.
That tree stood just outside his window in the historic Standish House on the Bristol Aggie grounds, an early 19th century farmhouse belonging to a shipbuilding descendent of Myles Standish that now houses the superintendent’s office.
Last year, that beautiful old purple-leaf beech, that tree that was so full of memories, got sick and had to come down, he said.
As much as he loved the tree, as a nature lover, he understood even wonderful things must one day come to an end.
“It broke my heart to see it go. We did everything we could to save it, but trees have a limited lifetime,” Dempsey said.
Bristol Aggie has posted the superintendent’s position but not yet filled it, said Dempsey whose last day on the job is July 31.
He hopes it will be someone with agricultural experience as well as administrative. After all, Bristol Aggie is a school but it is also a working 24-7 farm. And you have to understand agriculture to oversee a school that teaches it, he said.
Retiring from Bristol Aggie will be bittersweet. Dempsey, 62, will miss reporting for duty every day to the school that has been part of the fabric of Bristol County for more than a century.
But he leaves with a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for having the privilege of working at a place that has helped so many students thrive and be successful in life, not just in their careers, he said.
Besides, Dempsey will stay active at Bristol Aggie through a non-profit educational foundation recently formed to benefit the school, he said.
“I’m not ready to put my feet up yet,” Dempsey said.
Natural Resource Management (NRM):
Habitat and Rain Garden Restoration with The Nature Conservancy
On June 6, 2017 the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Department again teamed up with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) of New England. We met on the Mill River in Taunton to improve a rain garden (i.e., bioretention pond). We assisted TNC staff in removing exotic, invasive plants from the rain garden. This was phase one of the restoration project. Phase two will focus on planting species of flowering plants that are both native to New England and beneficial to native pollinating insects. The results of this work will be an island of terrestrial habitat along the Mill River (itself home to several aquatic endangered species) in an urban sea, and provide the beautiful recreation space for the residents of Taunton.
TNC is a leading conservation organization that works to protect ecosystems for both wildlife and people. It has protected 119 million acres of land and thousands of miles of river. This was the second, and hopefully not the last, cooperative effort between Bristol Aggie NRM and The Nature Conservancy of New England.
Mill River Rain Garden upon our arrival.
Removing highly invasive Japanese Knotweed.
The Mill River rain garden as we left it at the end of phase one restoration.
That’s one big pile of dead, invasive plants.
NRM 2017 Achieves 100% Matriculation
All of the 2017 Natural Resource Management (NRM) graduates have matriculated into two or four year college programs. 72% of them will enter an NRM-related program in September. The achievement of this year’s class is very admirable, but not unique. 96% of the NRM graduates have matriculated into an institution of higher education between 2013 and 2017 and 63% pursued a degree related to natural resource management.
Bristol Aggie NRM class of 2017
- Senior Breakfast:
Floriculture Students Preparing the Stage for Graduation
- Junior Flori Class completes the 2017 stage for graduation! Congratulations to our senior class!
Article in the Taunton Daily Gazette: Bristol Aggie grads say learning has sown seeds for success. Please visit the Taunton Daily Gazette for the full story with pictures
DIGHTON — Over the past four years, students at the Bristol County Agricultural High have spent time unearthing their passions, have had guidance from their mentors and teachers to help them blossom and grow, and have already planted their roots for success.
Before the 107 graduating students of the Class of 2017 walked across the stage at the high school gymnasium Thursday night, to collect their diplomas, they were reminded of the people who helped get them there, urged to share their guidance and lessons with others and told that with hard work they will continue their road to success.
“These four walls, and the 240-acres surrounding them, have created lifelong relationships, have formulated dreams and above all have produced a group of young people ready to establish lives based on success,” class valedictorian Alexandra Bettencourt said to her fellow classmates at the commencement.
She reminded her classmates that hard work is something that they are all familiar with at Bristol Aggie and will continue to drive them toward success.
Bristol Aggie, which was founded in 1912 in Dighton, offers vocational, technical and agriculture specialty programs in the fields of animal science, natural resource management, landscaping floriculture, arboriculture and diesel mechanics.
“Do not lose the work ethic that has been instilled into each of you,” Bettencourt said. “You are capable, skilled, accomplished and studious. You have been given all of the tools you need to create a successful life. It is now your time to use them.”
The school’s principal, Kevin Braga, said that out of the 107 graduates, 70 percent of them are attending college or a technical school. Others are going straight to work. And three students are joining the military.
“I have been truly impressed by the independence and amount of confidence in each student,” said Braga, who was appointed as the new assistant superintendent and principal of Bristol Aggie earlier this year.
Other speakers implored the students to share the lessons they learned and support others, much as they received support during their time at the school.
Class President Kelly Johnson told her fellow students this advice by sharing a story about a man. The man saw a boy picking up starfish that had washed ashore and began throwing the starfish back into the water to save them.
When the man told the boy that there were thousands of starfish on the beach and he didn’t think the boy would be able to make much of a difference, the boy picked up another starfish tossed it into the sea and said, ‘It made a difference to that one,’ Johnson told her classmates.
Johnson looked up to her peers and said, “We are the starfish.” She explained that during their time at Bristol Aggie, they have had their share of challenges, when, as the story goes, it might have seemed like they’d been washed ashore and were incapable of making it back into the water.
“What I believe makes our high school experience special is the number of teachers, mentors, coaches, administration and other role models in our lives that are diligently standing on our shorelines,” Johnson said. “They have always been ready to toss us back to the ocean when we experienced these downs.”
“As we move on to our next chapters I hope we too can join our teachers, coaches, mentors, administration and other role models in our lives as seastar throwers,” Johnson said. “I hope we can all go into the world and not only achieve our goals, but help others achieve theirs.”
One of the mentors who has helped the students and shared in their ups and downs throughout high school is Superintendent Stephen Dempsey.
But as he spoke at the graduation, to give advice to the students, it was also a farewell. At the end of the school year, Dempsey, after 34 years at the school, is retiring.
Dempsey reminded the students the importance of relationships they make, to accept challenges and to chase their dreams.
“Your future dreams no longer seem like dreams but reality,” Dempsey said. “The dreams are an attainable reality that you can achieve.”
The guest speaker of the night was state Rep. Paul Schmid. He advised the graduates to soak in the memories they made at Bristol Aggie, to give back to the community and to always embrace opportunities that come their way.
“Know that each action you do, each word you say and each thought you say not only impacts the future of your success but it can undoubtedly impact the future of our world,” Bettencourt said. “Make sure that that is a good thing.”
And as the students walked across the stage to collect their diplomas they were equipped and ready to begin their next chapter in life.
“Congratulations, Class of 2017,” Bettencourt said. “We made it.”
- Graduation Awards:
- Principal’s Award—Dana Tripp
- STA Scholarship—Kelly Johnson
- Gordon W. Wolfe Scholarship—Anna Macomber
- Trustees Award—Anna Macomber, Dana Tripp, George Bancroft, Kelly Johnson, & Alexandra Bettencourt
- Spirit of Bristol Pennant—Alexandra Bettencourt
- Graduation Pictures
Activities and Athletics:
- Softball: The vocational state finals game scheduled for Wednesday was postponed until today, due to our field conditions. The game will still be held at Rezendes field (59 Anthony Streeet, Berkley, 02779) at 3:30 pm
Week Ahead: A Week
- Monday, June 12:
- Morning Assembly
- Board of Trustees Meeting @ 7:00 pm
- Tuesday, June 13:
- Wednesday, June 14:
- Last Day for Late Bus: Departs BA at 5:00 pm
- Thursday, June 15
- Friday, June 16