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Tools for the trade

Shelton-Mason County Journal of Shelton, Washington

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Donations sustain Mary M. Knight's construction program

After being closed for about four years, Mary M. Knight's wood shop and construction programs started the school year with one working drill.

"We had to basically start again at the beginning of this year," construction and shop teacher Cris Harmia said.

That changed this month, when the school received hundreds of dollars in tools and $1,000 for the programs.

The program received the tools March 11.

"It was great. We were crying," Harmia said.

The Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, based in Kent, donated $1,000 to the school for its wood shop program and Western Partitions Inc. donated tools including a screw gun, right-angle drill, skill saw and about 20

20 small hand tools, said Bob Susee, chief operations officer for the council.

Susee said Harmia could use the $1,000 to buy whatever the class needs.

"All these guys will get framing belts and hammers this week," Harmia said March 16 of the students in his morning construction class.

Harmia said he got in touch with the union through family members.

"It was one of those networking things that just took off," he said.

Olympic Panel Products of Shel-ton and International Wood Products in Tumwater have also donated wood products to the class.

In Harmia's construction class, students learn practical skills, such as building walls and hanging drywall. Students in his wood shop class work on individual projects. »

"A lot of these kids, academically they're great, but they've never had a tool," Harmia said.

His construction class students will soon start learning how to build a deck.

"We call it the barbecue deck," Harmia said.

Harmia said about five of his students are considering careers in carpentry.

Junior Alec McGee is one of those students.

McGee's eyes lit up talking about the union's donation.

"It means everything," he said. "I was ecstatic because I want to do this type of work and now we have the tools needed to complete our projects."

Susee said the union takes every opportunity it can to work with school districts.

"There are not a lot of schools that now have shop programs, compared to the way it was 30 years ago, for example," he said.

The union might continue to work with Harmia's classes, Susee said.

"Cris and I are working together to arrange visits to our carpenter training centers," Susee said. "If it's feasible for the school to do so, we'll actually take the students ... to an actual job site and do tours."

Susee said a carpentry apprenticeship is a good alternative to college for students who are interested in pursuing the discipline.

"It's given me a 40-year career and I wouldn't be where I am without apprenticeship," he said.

The organizations' donations will help Mary M. Knight's wood shop and construction programs grow, Harmia said. So far this year, Harmia said he's had between 20 and 30 students. The Mary M. Knight School District has 180 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, he said.

"I took a poll the other day on who is coming back (next year) and it's 100 percent," he said.

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Original Publication Date: March 26, 2015

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