Students taking the Tupper Tech program at Sir Charles Tupper secondary are known for their ability to build things with their hands. But a lesser known fact is their ability to help build community.
The 20 Grade 12 students enrolled in the tech program at Tupper on East 24th Avenue spend every second day at school learning trades, such as carpentry, welding and mechanics, under the guidance of teacher Russ Evans.
"We work like employees. In this program we're doing hands-on work, what we really want to do in our careers in the future," said Jhunn De La Rosa, a Tupper Tech student who will be studying carpentry at BCIT starting this August.
Students put on their blue coveralls and safety glasses before "work" starts in the morning and are on a strict attendance schedule, Evans said. They have to be accepted to the program as well.
After learning the basics, the students accept requests from the community, which include odd jobs like fixing patio furniture and car repair. They also help build planter boxes for elementary schools.
Peter Woo, vice principle at Renfrew elementary school on East 22nd Avenue, heard about the service requests and asked Evans if his students could help build two planter boxes for the school's garden club-an initiative started by the school to encourage outdoor education.
"We were hoping this teacher would be able to build them, but he said he wants our kids to be hands-on," Woo said.
The two schools arranged a field trip to Tupper for four Renfrew classes, consisting of two Grade 2 classes, one special remedial education class, and a life skills class of students with learning disabilities. The Tupper students were then left in charge of directing the Renfrew students and teaching them how to drill, hammer and construct the two planter boxes from scratch. Woo said it was a complete success.
"We were basically looking for garden boxes but what we got in the end was basically a process of them learning how these things were made, which to me has lot more educational value," he said.
The Tupper students also enjoyed the projects.
"It was actually really fun working with the kids, how they could be independent and how they were offered the opportunity, unlike us when we were younger," said Tupper Tech student Jimmy Nguyen. "It felt great that we could help them."
Nguyen will be going to BCIT this August, as with many other Tupper Tech students, for electrical and computer engineering technology training.
Evans said the program would not be possible without donations from the community and service requests from schools and community members.
"Mostly I rely on donations and coming up to someone and saying, 'Hi, this is what we're doing, I need $5,000.' To date I've been totally successful. It's amazing the people who have been willing to step forward."