WORCESTER – Worcester Technical High School on Tuesday invited city and UMass Medical School officials to a luncheon to thank them for an $875,000 donation the university made to the school’s biotechnology and life sciences programs five years ago.

That gift, which the school is in the final stages of spending this year, has opened up career opportunities that students said they wouldn’t have otherwise had.

"Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do the lab work we’ve been able to do since I got here," Josephine Essuman, a sophomore in the biotechnology program, told UMass Medical School representatives at Tuesday’s event.

Announced in 2013, UMass’ donation was part of a total $1.6 million investment in city services the medical school pledged at the time. The other $700,000 portion of that award helped the public library open four new branches across the city. Worcester Tech had to spend its portion on its burgeoning biomedical and health programs, but otherwise had no strings attached, according to school principal Kyle Brenner, who said the money has been used to buy a wide range of materials and equipment over the past four years.

"Not all of it’s glitzy," he said, mentioning that some of the money went to buy things like microscopes and tables and chairs.

But Ms. Essuman, who hopes to leverage her studies in the biotechnology program into a career as a doctor, pointed out it’s often the little things that make a school significantly better. Without the columns paid for with the UMass money, for instance, "we wouldn’t be able to purify our GFP proteins from our bacteria."

"My favorite lab is tissue culture, and we wouldn’t be able to get all the things we needed for that lab if it weren’t for the money," she added, citing as an example the lab's counting slides that cost $1.92 apiece. "We ran through a lot of them, and that costs a ton of money."

The other four students who spoke at Tuesday’s luncheon – three current and one former – spoke more generally about how UMass’ investment helped make Worcester Tech’s program more advanced than expected for a high school program.

"After talking to some of my peers, I heard some of the equipment we have here is the same equipment used in bigger institutions," said Marielys Rodriguez, a junior in the biotechnology program. "To think about it, a young biotechnologist coming out of this program is walking into labs at college mentally and academically prepared to encounter high-tech equipment that many people don’t deal with until their second year of college."

The donation even benefited students at other high schools in the system. Mr. Brenner said it helped Worcester Tech buy a shuttle van that this year has carried students from North High School and Doherty Memorial High School to Worcester Tech to participate in a new after-school biotechnology program.

The data reflecting the donation’s impact, meanwhile, such as how many more students it has allowed to come into and graduate from the biotechnology and life sciences programs, was not immediately available from the school Tuesday. But the biotechnology program, which according to Mr. Brenner is "extremely popular" at the school, maintains a 100 percent college placement rate, he said.

Based on test scores, the open enrollment-based Worcester Tech has a relatively strong STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program overall.

On last year’s MCAS, for instance, 81 percent of 10th-graders at the school scored proficient or above on the math portion of the test, and 82 percent did so on the science and technology/engineering portion – both are the highest rates out of the city’s seven high schools. The performance on the science test in particular is up since 2013 when just 59 percent of Worcester Tech's sophomores scored proficient or higher.