Project builds character

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Carroll's building trades program earns top honors

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter



HILLSVILLE — A career education program at Carroll schools has won a state recognition for excellence, a good omen for the possibility of landing a governor’s academy in the region.
The Virginia Career Education Foundation selects the three top career and technical education programs in the state for the honor.
Officials from the foundation make a site visit to the finalists to gather further information, said Mark Burnette, director of secondary education for Carroll County schools. That visit to review the building trades program happened in Hillsville on Monday.
The education foundation considers community service (like the building of the Fuller Center house), business partnerships, the number of students who passed industry certifications and more.
On their site visit, foundation representatives interviewed teachers, administrators, employers, former students and community members.
Burnette reports that the high school program was highly recommended by the visiting committee.
It has earned the Virginia Governor’s CTE Exemplary Standards Award recognition from the education foundation. An official award presentation will be forthcoming.
Burnette expects this recognition will help the school system in a couple ways. “Any time you can get your name out there as an exemplary program, that’s great,” he said.
The award is also a selling point for your program.
“People who do a good job, you like to see them recognized,” Burnette said. “It all boils back down to the teachers in the program [Rusty Warren and Vance Leggett]. Both do outstanding jobs.”
Additionally, there will be a monetary award, possibly up to $5,000. “You can buy a whole lot of lumber with that.”
But, more than those things, school systems like Carroll that are trying to land a governor’s school must have an exemplary program in place. Burnette noted that this recognition officially accomplishes that.
Educators refer to the governor’s school by an acronym of its focus areas — science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
Schools Superintendent Greg Smith said officials here knew that the building trades programs was exemplary and this visit has confirmed that.
It shows that the career and technical education program at the high school continues serving the students and the stakeholders well, he added.
“We’re very, very pleased to receive this — it will allow us to continue to pursue STEM at Carroll County High School,” Smith said.

Students tackled project themselves
Carroll High building trades students have spent most of their school year honing their craft on the area’s first Fuller Center home.
From the floor joists up to the shingles, all the nails have been driven, the wires have been pulled and the drywall hung by youth.
They’ve learned a lot during their assignment to create the modular home that a deserving family will one day occupy in the project spearheaded by the Fuller Center for Housing of the Greater Carroll County Area, says teacher Rusty Warren.
As the year winds down, the students will get close to putting up the final piece of sheetrock, he noted. Finishing the home out will fall to community volunteers over the summer.
That could include some of the students who want to see the community project through.
Apart from the initial demonstrations, Warren has let the students take up the construction tools themselves and limited himself to an advisory capacity.
They’ve put their backs into the job starting with reading blueprints to building the floor system to building the walls, locating the doors and windows, doing the wiring and plumbing and the roof system.
“We’re really grateful to the Fuller Center in working with us to build the house so we can use this as an educational opportunity as well as the community service,” Warren said. “I’ve been really pleased with the quality of the work the students have gotten done and the amount of work they’ve gotten done and the pride they’ve taken in the project.”
Carroll’s building inspector, Jim Whitten, looked at the home and gave the class his reaction.
“He was able to talk to the class about what he looks for during an inspection.”
Whitten had just come from surveying the damage a tornado wrought in Glade Spring, where four people were killed, Warren recalled. The building inspector endorsed the use of hurricane clips, like the students were doing, to secure the ceiling joists to the framed-out walls.
Houses in Glade Spring that just got “toenailed in” with nails received the most damage in the storms, the inspector shared. Those using hurricane clips held together better.
Students not only got the knowledge of how to work on a job, but how it feels, too, Warren said. That’s not something they could have gotten in the classroom.
“The other thing they’ve learned is out on a construction site it’s wet, it’s cold, it’s hot, it’s windy,” the teacher said.
The students still talk about the cool days in December when they worked to shingle the roof.
For the Fuller Center project, organizers still have not secured a place to put the house. When that time comes, the roof will fold down on hinges for the move by crane and flatbed truck, Warren said.
The local housing non-profit still needs funds to complete the house, he added. The call for community volunteers will go out soon.

For more information on the Fuller Center project, go to fullercentercarrollcountyva.org. The mailing address is P.O. Box 1822, Hillsville, Va., 24343.