Shawsheen’s Eli Ober receives Inaugural LGBTQ Leadership Award at State House
Shawsheen senior is first vocational student in the state recognized with this honor
Shawsheen Valley Technical School senior Eli Ober was awarded the inaugural Jeff Perrotti LGBTQ Leadership Award at the State House on Thursday April 27. Eli is the first and only vocational student in Massachusetts to receive this honor. Ober is in the culinary arts program at Shawsheen, is the President of Shawsheen’s Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA), is part of the student cabinet, and is one of two student liaisons to report to Shawsheen’s School Committee.
Eli Ober (they/them) was one of five award recipients and received a $1000 scholarship, along with a certificate of distinction. Eli was recognized for being an agent of change, and someone who positively impacts school climate. Jeff Perrotti praised Eli in a speech for exuding “kindness, curiosity, and joy.”
Jeff Perrotti is the founding Director of the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ students, a joint initiative between the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. The Jeff Perrotti LGBTQ Leadership Award was established this year “in recognition of Perrotti’s 30 years of impactful and continued leadership, and in celebration of The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth’s 30th anniversary.”
Ober has been a consistent face and voice of support to all around them, and they have made positive changes in the Shawsheen community.
Eli shared their most memorable experience advocating for positive change, was when they presented Principal Cook and Superintendent Jackson (retired) with the Progressive Pride Flag last June. “For the first time ever, Shawsheen flew the Pride Flag in front of our school for the whole month. The openness and support they gave was the best feeling ever.”
GSA co-advisors Stacy LaBella and Kristy McNeal were thrilled to learn Eli was chosen to receive the award. “We were elated to hear the news, and are very proud of Eli,” said Stacy. “They are an amazing leader with a bright future ahead.”
McNeal accompanied Eli to the statehouse for the award ceremony, which was part of a larger program presented by The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. The ceremony included budget recommendations, the swearing in of new Commission members, and presentations of various awards to organizations and individuals who made outstanding contributions to LGBTQ youth this year.
“The ceremony was well done and inspirational. Listening to the stories of acceptance from the LGBTQ community and hearing from prominent voices on the urgency and importance of supporting LGBTQ youth was unforgettable; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house,” remarked McNeal.
Eli said, “The award ceremony was an amazing experience. My favorite part though, was who there with me. I am grateful Mrs. McNeal could chaperone my attendance and that my friends Ash Harris and Ash Analambidakis were there. Having the support of my advisors and friends was so important to me.”
The program included speeches from The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth co-chair Noemi Uribe and Executive Director Shaplaie Brooks, as well as remarks from Senators Jo Comerford and Julian Cyr, and more.
State Representative Rodney Elliot said, “Congratulations to all community organizations, educators, and student leaders who were honored with awards.”
With only three weeks until graduation, Eli’s commitments and school projects are dwindling, however Principal Cook shared that Eli has been given an additional assignment. “As the senior Student Representative to the School Committee,” said Ms. Cook, “Eli will be introducing Superintendent-Director Tony McIntosh during the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2023. Eli has served as one of two Student Representatives to the School Committee for the 2022-23 school year and is an active member of the student cabinet; they were the fitting choice to uphold this role.”
In the fall, Eli plans to attend Westfield State University to pursue a degree in Secondary Education.
About Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational School District
Established in 1965, Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District (SVRVTSD) is a student-centered public institution serving the five member towns of Billerica, Bedford, Burlington, Tewksbury, and Wilmington. Shawsheen Valley Technical High School serves more than 1,300 students in grades 9-12 and is “Dedicated to Excellence in Education”, integrating academics with more than 20-vocational-technical career pathways.
Shawsheen is located in Billerica, MA on a sprawling 100-acre campus. The school building features state-of-the-art facilities and athletic fields, twenty-four varsity sports, and dozens of extra-curricular clubs and activities. All of Shawsheen’s faculty and staff are committed to the mission “to provide a positive learning experience in a safe educational environment that encourages all students to reach their full potential, emphasizes the value of a strong work ethic, and prepares them for adult life in a competitive world.”
Shawsheen Valley Regional Vocational Technical School District also provides high-quality educational programming for youths and adults through Adult Education, Afterschool Exploratory Programs, Community Events, and Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs. Shawsheen is consistently working to increase its rich and varied programming opportunities for the community, which supports its mission that education is a lifelong, continuous process with many paths to living a successful and fulfilling life.