By Patricia Beech
Teaching young people the importance of “giving back” has always been a goal of the public education system.
Horace Mann, the Father of American Education, once said “Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
It’s an idea that students and teachers at the Ohio Valley Career and Technical School recently took to heart when they turned out for a day of volunteer community service during Skills USA’s National Week of Service.
Partnering with GE Aviation in Peebles, the entire student body and staff at the OVCTC on Monday, May 9 held their first Community Day.
“We created a day that is gauged around giving back to the community, and showcasing the good work being done by our students, and we hope, bring attention to career and technical education,” said CTC Director Jason Vesey.
Principal Vesey credits his students and two of his teachers for the success of the school’s Community Day project.
“Our CTC Government teacher, Alan Crump, our Guidance Counselor, Steve White, and CTC students John Hayslip, Erica Beam, Maranda Henderson, Shane Meyer, and Makayla Crothers were instrumental in putting this Skills USA program together successfully,” he said. “Last October they formed an organizing committee and began developing ideas for our community service project.”
Skills USA is a nation-wide organization supporting vocational education. The organization holds an annual National Week of Service competition each year. The week long campaign promotes community volunteerism in vocational schools across the U.S. The CTC organizing committee reached out to GE Aviation in Peebles for project support, and according to Vesey, the company’s participation, “took the idea to the next level.”
“I can’t say enough about GE, and in particular, LeAnn Puckett and Debbie Ryan, they did a lot to help organize today’s event,” said Director Vesey. “Not only did they provide T-shirts for all the students and staff, but the employees were at each location with our students, and it was a great opportunity for our students to create relationships with them.”
Peebles’ GE Aviation employees work 160,000 volunteer hours a year. According to Alicia Hammersmith, General Manager of Materials at GE, the CTC students working with GE employees contributed 1,000 of those hours during the Community Day project. “We sent our staff out from the Peebles GE facility to prepare each location for the volunteer event,” said GE Plant Leader, Brian DeBruin. “The students were bused in and we spent the entire day working together.” Three hundred CTC students were divided into groups and spent the day cleaning, repairing, and landscaping several facilities throughout the community.
Before assigning the students work each organization gave a briefing describing the community work they do.
CTC Nursing students spent their day at Venture Productions; the Culinary Arts class volunteered at Eagle Creek Nursing Home and the Senior Citizens Center; Automotive and Engineering students pitched in at Lynx Prairie; Pharmaceutical students worked at the Interfaith House and with Blessings in a Backpack; Cosmetology students volunteered at the Homeless Shelter; Students from the Masonry, Ag Mechanics, and Ag Business programs put their time in at the Fairgrounds; Carpentry students volunteered at Shade Tree Park; Machine Shop students worked at Wilson’s Children’s Home; and Information Technology students landscaped at the Courthouse.
Masonry and Ag students working at the fairgrounds painted the administration building, cleaned and made repairs in the cow, rabbit, and chicken barns, did ground maintenance, and tore down a brick structure.
Senior Matthew Young, who worked in the cow barn, said it felt good helping out, “It’s nice to have everything in good shape,” he said, adding, “I used to show animals, and it was nice to go back and do this work for others, I’m proud of what we accomplished today.”
Liz Lafferty, President of the Adams County Agricultural Society and Director of Venture Productions said, “It was a nice coordination of efforts today with GE employees and the CTC coming together to give back to the community by volunteering.”
Approximately 24 volunteers from GE and the CTC’s Automotive and Engineering programs spent the day at Lynx Prairie clearing wood debris from the site. Edge of Appalachia preserve manager, Richard McCarty said it was a positive experience for both the volunteers and his organization, “The CTC and GE volunteers who came out to our site worked very aggressively and accomplished a lot in a short time,” McCarty said. “And we got the opportunity to share with them what we do here, and why we do it. We would look forward to doing it again if the CTC has interest.”
The Information Technology (IT) students spent their day landscaping the court house grounds. “We cut branches from trees, weeded flower beds, put in new plants and mulched,” said eleventh-grader Tony Fernandez. “It looked really good when we finished, I was really proud of what we accomplished, and it was nice getting acknowledgment for our work from Judge Spencer.”
Spencer praised the students efforts, calling them young leaders and said, “They took on the promise to do a little bit more, and that’s what they’ve done.”
Senior Edward Troxell was among the Culinary Arts students who volunteered their time at the Eagle Creek Nursing Home. They leveled bricks around flower beds, planted flowers, and mulched. “We had flowers left over so we gave them to the residents and it really brightened their day up,” said Troxell. “It was a good experience helping out in the community.”
The culinary students also worked at the Interfaith House stocking shelves and cleaning up the parking area. Director Joe-Ann Weber said,“It was great to have them here. I think it was a good experience for them and us.”
Machine shop students volunteering at the Children’s Home mowed, spread gravel, spruced up the picnic area, and washed the building. The Cosmetology class did landscaping at the Homeless Shelter, Nursing students volunteered at Venture Productions, and at Shade Tree Park carpentry students cleaned out a garage, put up bench plaques, and mulched.
“Educating our students from the aspect of giving back to the community is a way we can connect our school and our community,” said OVSD Superintendent Richard Seas. “When you think of school and community you have to think of partnerships, and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with GE,” he added. “If our kids are going to be successful in life, we have to form these partnerships that help to support and educate them.”
Director Vesey said he believed Community Day was a great experience for the the school and for Adams County as well.
“I think the students at the CTC are often overlooked, and an event like this gives them the opportunity to show their work ethic and strength of character,” he said. “I just appreciate their willingness to take on a new challenge and make it a success.”
“This has been a great day,” Assistant Principal Frankie Stephens agreed. “We’ve got a lot of great feedback from the people we served today, and from everyone involved, it’s been outstanding.”