NBSS Blog

A Good Life, Built by Hand.
A Good Life, Built by Hand.
Carpentry students at work

There is no doubt that North Bennet Street School is a special place, but how would you describe it? Over the years there have been several attempts to capture the spirit of what the School offers and convey it to the public in an immediate and memorable phrase that describes just what it is that we do.

"An Education in Craftsmanship" was coined as a tagline in the late 1980s, when North Bennet Street School transitioned from a social service center with short-term, afternoon classes to a professional institution focused exclusively on full-time, highly skilled training in traditional trades. The phrase conveys the importance of skill and authorship, and the School's belief in the intrinsic value of good work. It says that anything worth doing is worth doing well. "An education in craftsmanship" describes what makes our School unique, and we still make use of the tagline today.

It does not, however, tell the full story of the School. It did not reflect the sense of pride and commitment that characterizes our students, many of whom found new meaning in their lives after deciding to work with their hands.

The majority of students interviewed for a 2008 marketing study described themselves as pursuing a passion. To quote the study's summary statement, "solving complex problems in three dimensions with your hands—while simultaneously making something functional, beautiful, and graceful—challenges every aspect of your being, and satisfies your soul."

"Do What You Love Every Day" emerged as a new tagline that seemed to better express the positive energy of the School and the experience of many of the students. It certainly summed up my own experience as a student. The phrase reflected the value of using one's gifts, and the joy that can be found when your work is an expression of your passion.

In the last few years however, our awareness changed. "Do What You Love Everyday" seemed unresponsive to the realities of many students we hoped to reach. For them, mastery of traditional skills is a means to an end, with an ultimate goal of being gainfully employed to better support both themselves and their families.

This past year we commissioned a marketing study to explore the current attitudes of prospective students. While 15% of respondents answered "making a life change" and 24% listed "mastering a craft" as their primary goals, the majority of students (45%) responded that "acquiring a skill to earn a living" was their reason to enroll.


"Do What You Love Every Day" emerged as a new tagline that seemed to better express the positive energy of the School and the experience of many of the students. The phrase reflected the value of using one's gifts, and the joy that can be found when your work is an expression of your passion.


This makes sense in an uncertain job market and a changed economy, and from its inception the School's mission has been to prepare its students for gainful employment. However, a desire for self-fulfillment and a meaningful life is the goal of many at the School, and remains at the heart of our educational philosophy.

1915 Seal

To simply and directly convey the ethos of the School and the ambition of its students, we have developed a new tagline: "A Good Life, Built by Hand."

The phrase expresses the intrinsic value of skill and good work and the passion in finding a meaningful career. It's an ideal combination of the historic mission and the contemporary spirit of NBSS: "Hand and Mind Lead to Life" was the School's first tagline, originally coined in 1915.

"A Good Life, Built by Hand" builds upon our legacy, reflecting both the enduring core values of NBSS and the ambitions of our students. It acknowledges the importance of finding meaning in one's life through work as well as the sense of individual competence and authorship embedded in something made by hand. I believe it will serve us well in the coming years, and continue to inspire our talented community.

- Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez CF '99, President


This article is from our 2017 Annual Report. See all the stories here, or download a pdf of the entire report.


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