Continuity and Change

February 6, 2023
Sarah Turner



On February 8, our NBSS community will celebrate Founder’s Day, an occasion to recognize the history and spirit of our School while honoring our founder (and her birthday!), Pauline Agassiz Shaw. 

As we celebrate our past, NBSS also works toward our future. It’s a balancing act that the School has done well over its 140 years: staying true to our mission, while expanding our reach. So, I’m taking note of the ways that NBSS is balancing our change and growth with endurance and continuity. I’d love to hear your examples—whether that’s from an NBSS perspective as an alum, faculty member, or volunteer, or from your work in other places. Change is always around us, and how we fold change into lasting efforts is dynamic and energizing work. 

There are echoes of our current efforts in our NBSS history. Some of the best examples come from our Career Training programs, as they adapt to student needs and new tools. For example, in the first years of the School’s founding, Pauline experimented with ‘pre-vocational training’ for young students to help them prepare for the academic work of grammar school. Now, with the increase of online and digital content, our Carpentry program is able to offer students ‘pre-program’ work: preparatory online learning material that will help beginning carpenters. 

We also see this in our community-facing efforts, another enduring focus for our School. In its early days, North Bennet Street Industrial School (as it was known then), saw such a rise in popularity of recreational activities—from neighborhood holiday events to summer outings and field trips—that it required a dedicated team and expansion of the School. In that, I see the echoes of our recent Winter Market, our Community Education program, and our Cabinet & Furniture program’s recent field trip to Autodesk. New links and connections, with today’s community members and their needs in mind. 

NBSS has been such a dynamic place over many years and yet, it has also been unflagging in its commitment to giving people skills and opportunity. It is exciting to celebrate this strong foundation as we plan ways to reach more people, expand our offerings and engage new partners. 

I’d love to hear examples of the ways you’re working now that are adaptations of what you learned or experienced at NBSS, or how your efforts are built on what came before. On Founder’s Day, we celebrate our history with our newest community members—our students—and in that, we see both continuity and change all around us.


Sarah Turner, President