STAMFORD, Conn. -- John Telesco graduated from J.M. Wright Technical High School in 1967 and had fond memories of a Stamford school that had high standards.
"It was a good school. It was tough to get into, I had to go to summer school to get in,'' Telesco said after the school's opening ceremony Wednesday morning.
"I am glad that it reopened. It should never have closed," he said.
The school was shuttered in 2009, after 90 years in operation in Stamford, due to a state budget shortfall and declining enrollment.
However, local and state lobbying efforts led to the decision to reopen the regional technical high school, which serves students from Stamford, Norwalk, Easton, Fairfield, Weston, Wilton, Westport, New Canaan, Greenwich and Bridgeport.
Telesco said the education system was top down when he attended high school with students who were required to have haircuts and wear ties.
"There wasn't any talking like they do right now," he said with a laugh about the school that had students study academics one week and work at their trade the following week.
On Wednesday, 145 students attended the reopening ceremony on the first day of school, and they had high hopes for their future.
Ella Nilsen, 15, Jorge Sanchez, 14, Shahym Ranero, 14, and Duny Nova, 15, all of Stamford, were dressed more informally in gray T-shirts than Telesco was in his student days. But they are proud members of the school's first class.
Sanchez said he wants to study carpentry but also wants to study architecture in the future. Wright Tech will give him the training for both, he said.
"This really opens new opportunities for us," he said. "If we do apply for college or our job, we will be able to write down that we had three or four years of real experience and real hands-on activity."
He believes Wright Tech gives them an advantage.
"Many schools they just sit and read a book and take tests about it where we are actually sitting, reading a book but we are also practicing it."
Nilsen agrees with Sanchez's upbeat view.
"It's a great experience and a great opportunity. We get to learn about real life things," said Nilsen, who said she plans on studying health technology.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District), Gov. Dan Malloy, and Stamford Mayor David Martin all turned out to tour the high school on its opening day.