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Building Skills While Building Literacy

What does carpentry have to do with early literacy? For this local SkillsUSA service project, the two joined together like the perfect frame.
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Photo courtesy of Somerset County Vocational-Technical High School.

SkillsUSA students from Somerset County Vocational-Technical High School (SCVTHS) in Bridgewater, N.J., took part in a community service project to support local children while honing their carpentry skills.

SCVTHS seniors Erik Bielanski-Ziminski and Tyler Caulfield took the lead on the project, designed to create a wheelchair-accessible puppet theater and interactive playhouse for the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey’s Bridgewater branch. The ultimate  goal was to support early literacy by providing local children the opportunity to engage with each other in a library setting. With help from SCVTHS carpentry instructor Gerald Mazzetta, the students who participated also strengthened their carpentry skills by learning how to integrate the concept of inclusivity into their work through, for example,  the implementation of wheelchair accessibility.

“This project was not only trying to be creative but to be useful and safe for small kids that visit the library every day,” said Mazzetta. “The students had a great learning experience from this project; it showed them what it takes to make a building safe and fun for kids. This project also showed them that they had to be open to changes and adapt their build to make it work for all ages and their community.”

Due to COVID-19 delays, the project took over 4 weeks to complete. SCVTHS students helped with design, measuring, cutting, routing, assembling, and painting the structure in the school’s workshop. Once it was complete, the students helped deliver it to the library, where it’s currently being enjoyed by local children and their families.

Pictured left to right are Adonis Gomez, SCVTHS senior; Gerald Mazzetta, SCVTHS carpentry teacher; Meredith Hoyer, youth services department supervisor; and Katie Salerno, youth services librarian, posing with the puppet theater. Photo Courtesy of Somerset County Library System of New Jersey.

Thanks to SkillsUSA supporter Lowe’s, SCVTHS received a chapter grant to help sponsor and fund the project. The grant seeks out local community service projects where students can reinforce their CTE experience while learning helpful skill sets in their trade each year. To learn more about applying for a Lowe’s grant for your chapter, visit our website.  

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