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Grasso Tech's Robert Holland on track to become 'Southeastern Connecticut success story'

Growing up working on his family’s farm, Robert Holland quickly learned the lesson — outside of the classroom — about the value of hard work.

On his family’s roughly 100-acre farm in Ledyard, he helps with chores, from baling hay to tending cows.

“I definitely worked hard my whole life because I learned from a very young age that nothing is ever really handed to you,” Holland, 17, said.

The senior at Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in Groton said working hard for success made him who he is.

In his sophomore year, he transferred from Pine Point School in Stonington to Grasso Tech and pursued the electrical trade. Holland, a Preston resident, said he was nervous starting a new school where he didn’t know anyone else.

But on the first day in his shop, he already felt like he was in his “own little family,” he said. His classmates taught him how to navigate the school and what to expect, and his teachers helped guide him.

Holland said he grew over his years at Grasso Tech by seizing every opportunity offered to him, from participating in work-based learning at a small electrical company, to taking college courses. He became involved with Skills USA and won third place in the state for electrical wiring.

Holland was awarded a scholarship through Dominion and will enroll this fall at Three Rivers Community College to pursue a two-year associate degree in nuclear engineering and work toward a possible position in the nuclear field. Through the college program, he will intern at the Millstone Power Plant.

Holland said he either wants to pursue a career in nuclear engineering or the electrical trade.

Growing up, he was always fascinated by the machinery at Rocky Hill Farm, his family's farm. He remembers as a child riding on tractors and backhoes with his father, uncle and grandfather, until he learned to drive the machinery himself when he got older. He said engineering is about learning how things work and making them better than they were before, and he was always interested in learning how things work on the farm and fixing and maintaining the equipment.

Holland’s interest in the electrical trade was also piqued when he saw his uncle, an electrician, working on different projects around the house and farm. As a boy, Holland would watch him and sometimes help him and learn about different tools and the job.

His time on the farm also offered other lessons. He learned from his mom the financial side of how to properly run a business.

And since most tasks on the farm are not a one-person operation, he said he also learned about teamwork and communication, which helped him in sports.

In his junior year, he became captain of the baseball team and helped the team make it to the state playoffs for the first time in more than a decade. In his senior year, he continued as baseball captain, while also becoming captain of the soccer team and joining the rifle team.

Between schoolwork, activities and helping out on the farm, Holland finds time to help out at the Poquetanuck Fire Department, where his dad serves as deputy chief and his mom in emergency services. After observing his parents helping others, he said he wants to become a volunteer firefighter.

Kristopher Paradis, Holland’s electrical teacher in 10th grade and one of his baseball coaches, said that “Rob is a role model to his classmates and can always be counted on.”

His junior and senior shop teacher John Sylvestre said Holland took in information “like a sponge” and wants to learn. He said Holland is paving his own path and will be “one of those southeastern Connecticut success stories.”

Science teacher Yevette Lehn said Holland is very smart and athletically gifted, but also very humble. She said he is kind, patient and generous and leads by example.

“He’s one of those not only students, but people, that you hope to have met once in your life,” she said.

k.drelich@theday.com

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