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TORRINGTON – For decades, the CIAC has asked Connecticut public schools to select the top male and female scholar/athlete.
Wolcott Tech’s Kevin Hills is exactly the kind of guy you’d imagine.
Like any other scholar-athlete, he checks the boxes for sports and academics: He’s a four-year varsity football player, leading the team the past two years. He is ranked fourth academically in his class.
But tech schools across the state offer their scholar-athletes a built-in advantage in hard-to-define boxes.
The biggest, perhaps, is the early maturity required to attend tech school.
The entire program is designed to prepare people with or without college degrees for specific careers. Most eighth graders are not ready to make such a decision. High school and college are waiting ahead, they have a lot of time.
“Ninety percent of the kids who go to Wolcott Tech go into a specific field,” Hills said. “I knew I wanted to go into the technology field in middle school. Back then I was thinking computer game development or architecture.
This leads to a second unpublished CIAC box called a leader with or without a follower.
Many eighth graders may aspire to tech jobs or other fields, but at that age, what’s more important than fitting in and trying to be cool?
Like many of his athletic peers, Kevin Hills has been playing football at Torrington since he was four years old.
“He’s a gym rat — he’s always working out,” said athletic director and engineering teacher Ray Tanguy.
By any standards, at any school, Hills is just as good.
Across the street and in the sports fields of most public schools, tech schools are not considered good.
Wolcott Tech’s athletic programs, with the exception of the women’s and men’s volleyball programs, are usually considered competitive only in the Connecticut Technical League (CTC), a school that often serves many surrounding towns with in-class internship programs and after-hours transportation issues.
Most of the school’s academic programs are related to non-college careers, making it easier for parents and children to believe in the traditional college prep career path through public or private high schools.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding. They don’t realize what comes out of tech schools,” says Hills. He decided to find out with the support of his parents.
In eighth grade, determined to pursue a career in computer technology, Hills visited two Wolcott Tech open houses.
“I knew I still wanted to play football, but I also knew I wanted a career,” he said.
Wolcott Tech offers an early jump on both, but it’s not the kind of jump many eighth graders are equipped to make.
Since then, Hills Computer’s focus has narrowed to cyber security. He received a scholarship to UConn to major in mechanical design and engineering. He co-captained a 14-man soccer team that scored nine goals last season with six or eight freshmen, many of whom had never played before or hadn’t played in years.
And thanks in part to Wolverine Tech, he grew even more like his body.
“There are many different cities represented here. I’ve met a lot of new kids, so I’m used to meeting new people,” Hills said. “When I went to UConn orientation recently, I was the only one talking.”
At DI UConn, Hills plans to continue playing soccer in one of the soccer clubs or intramurals.
“I’m just going to have fun,” he says.
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