Recent graduates of Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Tech-nical High School and community activists are demanding that school administrators reverse their decision to eliminate the successful Fashion Design program.
“The fashion industry has such a major impact on our economic structure. Fashion and apparel related industries employ about 1.9 million people in the United States alone. More than 200 schools across the country offer fashion-related programs to prepare students for jobs in the industry. These programs build skills that are marketable not only in fashion but across many other industries,” said Abigail Rego, a 2014 GNBRVT graduate who credits her enrollment in the school’s Fashion Design program for her subsequent academic and career success.
The GNBRVT administration notified Fashion Design instructors on April 15 that their program was being discarded.
“The Fashion Design program is not only excellent at preparing students for future scholarship and employment, but it is a popular program for women and students of color. It would be discriminatory to narrow the school’s offerings, and in turn alter the diversity of the composition of the student body at GNBRVT,” said Save Our Shops activist Sue Chouinard, owner of Dartmouth Tailoring Studio.
Chouinard is also chairperson of the Fashion Design Advisory Board. She said the Fashion Design program, while successful for an array of students, has been a viable path for many talented students whose abilities may otherwise go unrecognized because they are socially or economically disadvantaged.
Several graduates of the Fashion Design program have written testismonials for the Save Our Shops campaign, explaining how they have thrived in both academic and business settings.
Diana Matos, a 2018 GNBRVT graduate, for example, praised the Fashion Design program for the professional experience she received and career opportunities it opens.
“The fashion industry is split into four main fields: design, manufacturing, marketing/promotion and retail sales,” she said. “Within these fields are hundreds of positions, and our high-school program allowed us to explore our options and prepared us for whichever career path we chose.”
Ashley Clark, who graduated last year from Fashion Design, credited the program for allowing her to stay on track in college.
“During this current pandemic I am finishing my college courses online, and without my background knowledge from my four years at Voc Tech, I truly believe I would be struggling, if not falling behind, right now,” she said.
Save Our Shops activists point out that Fashion Design prepares students for a dynamic and growing field that has strong roots in the Southcoast region.
• UMass Dartmouth recently launched a bachelor’s degree program for Fashion Design, underscoring the value of this field of study within our region.
• During the COVID-19 crisis, local manufacturers such as Merrow Manufacturing in Fall River and Joseph Abboud Manufacturing in New Bedford have been producing medical masks and gowns for health care workers and for members of vulnerable populations.
• GNBVRT educators produced a video explaining how people at home can produce their own protective masks for stemming the spread of COVID-19.
“Leadership at GNBRVT is robbing our students of valuable opportunities by eliminating and cutting programs that clearly prepare them for bright futures,” said SOS activist Rosemary Heath. •••
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