Donna High School’s Construction Technology Class is learning valuable skills and putting them to good use across the school district.

Teacher Juan Garza said his students completed their latest project at Caceres Elementary. He said it was brought to their attention that some benches placed in front of the campus were in bad shape. They were rotted and unsafe to sit on. Realizing the concern, Garza volunteered himself and his students to help replace them. “What they had there was material that was regular yellow pine,” Garza said. “It was not treated for outdoor weather. So, we purchased treated lumber that could sustain rain, wind and heat.”

Bench Before

In less than three days, Garza’s 25 students and some staff members built seven new benches of different sizes and installed them in front of the school. Garza said these kinds of projects require the use of good math and safety skills. They especially help prepare students for the real world, including careers in architect and designing. “I have students who come back and say thank you sir,” Garza said. “Now I know what you are talking about being on time, being professional, and being respectful, things of that nature.”

Garza said it makes him proud to have taught these young men and women. “I have students out there making $25 an hour being semi foremen or foremen because of how they presented themselves as professionals,” Garza said. “They come down and they are ecstatic saying they didn’t know things could be this good. I tell them it’s good and it will get better just continue doing what you’re doing.”

DHS student Ruben Orozco said he’s learned a lot from being a part of the class. “I was never really a fan of construction but after enrolling in construction technology I have come to realize that it’s a lot more useful than I comprehended,” Orozco said.  “I learned many things such as how to work a table saw, a chop saw, a power saw and other equipment. The most important thing is that I now apply my construction technology knowledge in everyday life.”

For instance, Orozco said he’s able to fix things around the house. “If something in my household breaks, I will be able to repair it after accessing it,” Orozco said. “I know that construction might not be something I pursue career-wise but it will always be in the back of my mind ready for use.”  

Bench After

Garza said the lessons learned go beyond using their skills and constructing a project. “”In my class I like to let my students feel that what they’re doing has a purpose,” Garza said. “Those benches are going to be there maybe someday for their kids. They are going to drop off their kids at that elementary and their kids will say ‘you know what, dad or mom helped install or took part in the construction of these benches.’ This gives them a sense of ownership.”

The Director of the Donna ISD Career and Technical Education (CTE) Department said he could not be more proud. “This type of activity is a win-win situation for the students and the Donna ISD community,” David Moreno said. “Our DHS students get to practice and sharpen their skills in preparation for their SkillsUSA State Competition, plus they provide a service that is beneficial to our elementary students.” The competition is set for Feb. 24 and 25 of next year in the Rio Grande Valley.

The useable wood left over from the old benches will be made into new benches to be auctioned off at this year’s Donna ISD Showcase Parade and Festival Saturday, Dec. 10.