NEWPORT CITY – Sometimes an educator is more than an educator. He or she is a friend, and that was apparently the case for Shawn Sweet.
Sweet was a welding instructor at the North Country Career Center. He passed away at North Country Hospital, July 23, 2011.
Wednesday, members of what would have been his senior class unveiled a large monument to him in front of the career center.
Students used aluminum to spell out the letters NCCC for the North Country Career Center.
The students wanted a way to remember Sweet, current welding instructor Roger Wells said during the brief ceremony. Numerous community members and local businesses made donations to help the monument become a reality.
“The boys have done a very honorable job,” said Wells.
The students buried a time capsule containing personal belongings of Sweet underneath the monument.
Senior Dominic Pion called Sweet a “Great Welding Instructor” and a “Strong asset” to the career center.
“One of the very first classes I ever had with Shawn, he said ‘I’m not here to be your friend, I’m here to be your teacher and I’m here to be your foremen and I will be the toughest foremen you will ever have,'” recalled Pion. “He was half right. He was the toughest foremen I will probably ever have. He was more than a teacher. He became a friend, he became a mentor, and he wasn’t just a welding teacher either. He taught this class and me a lot of lessons about life.”
Sweet taught that a person only gets to make a first impression once, pay attention to detail, and measure twice, cut once. Those lessons obviously had an impact on the students who constructed the sign that will be up for generations to come.
Wells spoke highly of his students, the computer aided design department, Spates Construction who provided financial support, Caroll Concrete, Mike Green Contractor, Spates the Florist and the school’s green energy students.
“In the words of my beloved teacher, ‘the crazier the better,’” said Cris Govoni, a 2009 graduate of North Country, who put on a colorful protective head protector worn by welders. His fellow seniors followed suit.
Sweet’s mother, Aline, made the head protectors. Govoni, who admitted he was disrespectful in school, said he had problems with authority. “When I met Shawn, you would have thought the type of guy Shawn was we would have butt heads, but it turns out we were like two peas in a pod almost. He always knew when to back off me if he could see I was getting angry. He was much more than an instructor, he was my friend…. I can’t ever thank or repay this man for the stuff he’s done for me. He gave me more time than anybody I know…. There’s not a day goes by I don’t think about this man. When I’m laying down to weld, I know he’s looking over my shoulder saying, ‘You got it kid, you got it.’”
There was nothing lukewarm about Sweet; it was full out and faster than that, said Rich Hoffman, NCCC director.
“It was our idea,” said senior Charles Carpenter of the five students who worked on the monument. “We all came together as a group.”
“We all worked as a team, worked very hard and put 110 percent into it,” added Zachery Lyonnais. “He wasn’t only a teacher, he was a friend and very important to a lot of people, not only the senior class.”
The project took several hours to complete and, according to the students, it was worth every minute.
“It’s in the memory of one of our friends, instructors, role models,” said Carpenter. “We respected him greatly, the talent he had and how he could actually bring us together as a class.”
Sweet’s brother, Jessee Sweet, said Shawn would have been proud of the students’ work and how they showed attention to detail.