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Hammering Home Their Skills Through Service

SkillsUSA members donate their burgeoning carpentry skills to restore a much-loved gazebo in the center of their town.
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Photo courtesy of Tri-County RVTHS

The gazebo in the town common in Wrentham, Mass., is undergoing a complete renovation courtesy of two classes of junior and senior carpentry students (all SkillsUSA members) from Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School in nearby Franklin.

Students started work on the structure in early 2021 by replacing the roof and the rafters. The students will finish the project this year, starting with removal of the old trim and making sure the gazebo is structurally sound before replacing the trim with white PVC trim board.

Jeremy Barstow, the Tri-County carpentry instructor overseeing the renovation, says the project is a win-win for everyone. “The work the kids do is amazing, and it’s wonderful when we get to do things for the communities that send kids to our school,” Barstow says. “Our students absolutely get more out of projects when they are doing a real project out in the community. Those are some of the best projects and the ones the kids enjoy the most, because there is usually some sort of connection with them.”

Chad Lovett, Director of Facilities and Capital in Wrentham, originally reached out to the vocational school in hopes the students could take on the project. “These kids are good, and we have a lot of pride in what they do,” says Lovett, who estimates the town is saving close to $10,000 in labor costs by utilizing Tri-County to renovate the gazebo.

Although the Tri-County carpentry program was recently approved to perform residential work, projects are primarily selected based on two criteria: how the project will help the students improve their skills and what opportunities the project will provide to give back to the community. Last year alone, the program received nearly 80 project requests, a testimony to the program’s stellar reputation for professionalism and excellence.

“I enjoy seeing when students have that lightbulb go off, realizing how good they have become at something, and they really grow as a person,” Barstow says. “Watching them turn into confident young people, because of whatever it is they are passionate about, is celebrated here, it’s encouraged here, and the opportunities are tremendous. Tri-County is an awesome school. There is something here for every type of student, and it’s wonderful to be a part of making that happen.”

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