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June 16, 2020 • Facilities

UCT’s Student-Built Wellness Center Gives Greater Bang for the Buck

On-the-job learning lies at the heart of the Upper Cape Cod Regional Vocational Technical High School. It’s the reason the school promotes off-campus cooperative apprenticeship programs in specific trades that students participate in. It’s the same reason why the school has culinary students make up the daily lunch menus. It’s why the school looked to its students to help with campus expansions. 

So when the school decided to build a brand-new wellness center and athletic trainer’s room, UCT turned, once again, to its student apprentices. 

“The students drew up the plans and devised everything that was submitted to the school committee and superintendent for approval,” Josh Greeley, the school’s technical supervisor of the construction cluster, said. “Our horticulture program leveled the land. The carpentry program made the structure. Our plumbing and electrical students set up all of our utilities, and our new HVAC program installed the heating and cooling system.

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Photo: Wesley Sykes / Great American Media Services

“We did subcontract out for the roof, but other than that it was all done by our students,” Greeley added.

The result is a roughly 4,800-square foot, single-level, dual-winged wellness center, and athletic trainer’s room that can be used by faculty members and students alike. The approximately $730,000 project, funded partially through a state grant, was completed in a single year’s time. According to Upper Cape Tech superintendent Dr. Bob Dutch, the support from the student helped produce the equivalent of a $1.5 million project for half the cost — without cutting any corners along the way. 

Previously UCT — which is a regional high school pulling students from five neighboring towns in Bourne, Massachusetts — bussed student-athletes to a nearby public gym to conduct team workouts and weight training. In addition to the added cost of transportation to and from the gym, the voluntary off-campus agreement with the public gym presented other problems. 

“[It] caused all sorts of logistical problems,” Ben Rabinovitch, UCT’s athletic director said. “In the 50 years of the school, we never had a weight room. A couple of years ago we had to stop kids from building their own squat racks.” 

With a brand-new facility in their backyard, the Rams’ athletic program outfitted the wellness center with an array of new equipment. On the left wing of the building is the cardio room — equipped with eight treadmills, six ellipticals, four upright bikes, four recumbent bikes, two concept rowers, and assault bikes. Users can sync up their smartphones or devices to the cardio equipment and build workout plans and goals, or they can fire up Netflix or ESPN while they work up a sweat. The only catch is users have to be operating the cardio machines to access the entertainment apps. 

The weight room resides in the right wing of the building and is a strength coach’s dream; featuring four power racks with safety squat bars, eight different bench bars that are split between 35 and 45-pound weights, free weights ranging from 1-pound to 75-pound sets, curling bars ranging from 20 to 100 pounds, a full array of resistance bands, battle ropes, kettlebell sets, a cable crossover machine, and a corner devoted to mobility and stretching with foam rollers, yoga mats, and medicine balls.

But it’s the center of the facility that operates as the heart of the wellness center — the athletic trainer’s/educational room. As a vocational school with a blossoming health sciences program, UCT has recently begun exploratory classes for students interested in athletic training, physical therapy, and personal training. The space blends a classic educational setting with an in-the-field feel that features two exam tables, two tables specifically devoted to taping stations, a Game Ready cryotherapy machine, a Hydrocollator heating unit, a theragun, and an extremity whirlpool. 

The Rams’ athletic trainer, Ross Talpey, ATC, LAT, now has a space to properly treat student-athletes, but also give hands-on learning experiences to potential future trainers. 

“Going from a janitor’s closet at the side of the gym to a beautiful training room and an area where the kids can work out, and not only have access to physical fitness but a rehabilitative process, is phenomenal,” Talpey said. “My door is always open to [students who are interested in health sciences]. They can shadow me after school to see what I’m doing. I’m all for them getting a better understanding of what they might want to do moving forward. A lot of these health science students are already getting a CNA and will have a massive leg up on the competition in whatever healthcare field they decide to enter.

Photo: Wesley Sykes / Great American Media Services

“Any type of health career students can expose themselves to something other than stereotypical emergency meds. There is this other niche world with athletics and orthopedics, physical therapies, chiropractors, etc. The kids go into thinking they want to be a nurse or surgeon, and then they see this other side of the healthcare field,” Talpey added. 

While offering its students and faculty a top-notch wellness center to utilize, the space also is a unifying sign of the UCT community. 

“Kids can get together in the offseason and build that camaraderie in the weight room,” Rabinovitch said. “The kids can learn from their teachers and see what teachers are doing to stay healthy as well — which is good to see students, teachers, and coaches operating in a different setting.”

“We are an application-based school, where our students learn through doing rather than being passive. They did all the work in building that space. It creates a big sense of pride for them when they’re in there working out themselves,” Dutch said. “These are obviously experiences you can’t replicate in a classroom, even in a technical classroom, there’s nothing like learning in a real situation where the equipment and space is used by real people.”