Saluting graduates as they leave the safety of high school behind, President Barack Obama held up a revitalized technical school in New England on Wednesday as a model for the United States as the nation works to prepare youngsters for a global workforce that's more competitive than ever.
At Worcester Technical High School, Obama praised students and teachers alike for giving more than just "lip service" to the idea of skills-based education. He said the graduates were finishing senior year knowing how to run a restaurant, fix a computer or manage a household - skills that he said would let them begin their careers right away.
"I want the entire nation to learn from Worcester Tech," the president said.
Sixteen years ago, the Worcester campus was so outdated it was nearly shut down. Obama touted the school's remarkable transformation into a school with a demographic and educational profile that makes it a model of achievement.
"If it can happen in Worcester, it can happen in any place," Obama said.
Obama has been putting a spotlight on his education policies this week, drawing attention to efforts to lower student debt. But he also has been eager to showcase programs that break from the traditional classroom format or that are designed to improve the nation's science and technology workforce.
The Worcester school stands as an example of a triumph against the odds.
Six out of 10 students at the high school are underprivileged and qualify for free or reduced meals; 2 out of 10 have special needs. Yet, two years ago it was one of five schools nationally to win an award for student growth in high poverty areas. Last year, it was one of the Education Department's 286 national blue ribbon schools. And this year, its principal was named the Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Following his address at the school, Obama was to attend a fundraiser for the Senate campaign arm of the Democratic Party.