10/03/13 — The building that county students built

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The building that county students built

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 3, 2013 1:46 PM

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Southern Wayne students Elijah Pendergrass, 16, and Tommy Thompson, 16, hammer nails into the storage building that is being constructed at the fair.

Elijah Pendergrass steadied the ladder while Tommy Thompson hammered a 2-by-4 supporting the roof of a small wooden structure at the Wayne Regional Agriculture Fair.

The Southern Wayne High School classmates are part of its Construction Academy. During the week of the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair, they and students from similar programs at Eastern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock high schools join to demonstrate what they have learned by building a storage building to raffle off to raise money for the three schools' vocational programs.

They began building the 8-by-12-foot building the first night of the fair, said John Gerken, director of the academy at Southern Wayne. By week's end, the project is expected to be finished and ready to turn over to the lucky ticketholder.

This is the third year of the program at the fair, said Mike Gurley, director of the Eastern Wayne High academy.

"It started out as a (public relations) thing to showcase our program," he said.

"The students love coming out here," Gerken said. "We just ask the class and their hands go up and they're ready to go.

"It typically takes about five days, start to finish, and we're selling tickets as we're building."

Some of the work is done in advance, to help expedite things, and to allow more students to be involved in the effort, Gurley said.

"We actually built the walls at Southern Wayne and Mr. (Roger) Rhodes at Charles B. Aycock did the floor system. Mr. Gurley at Eastern Wayne, the roof trusses," Gerken said. "We decided to do this to speed the construction along so we could focus our time more this year on selling raffle tickets. Tickets are $2 and we will raffle the building off around 9 o'clock the last day of the fair."

Plenty of fairgoers notice the hammering and handful of students in safety glasses putting together the wooden building near the Education Building. But it isn't until it gets closer to completion that interest in the project picks up steam.

"As it's going up, it's easier to sell tickets. When people see it finished, boy, they really come by," Gerken said.

"A lot of people can use a storage building," Gurley said.

It doesn't hurt that the deal includes moving and delivering the building to the winner.

A different group of students helps each night.

Pendergrass and Thompson, a sophomore and junior, respectively, and Tommy Sheppard, a junior at Eastern Wayne, are not new to the construction academy, but this is their first year participating at the fair.

Thompson said he helped with last year's raffle but looked forward to being part of the construction end this year.

"It's more fun this year because I got to actually do something," he said. "I helped with the walls."

This is his third year in the construction academy, and it's proven to be a good fit.

"I would rather learn by doing it instead of reading in books or writing it down," he said. "It helps if you can be shown. It's faster."

The students all have aspirations of finding jobs in related fields -- from construction management for Sheppard to working on diesel equipment for Pendergrass.

"Ever since I was like 2 years old, I have always had a hammer and nail in my hands," Pendergrass said. "I guess I just liked it."

"I'm going to be a drafting engineer when I grow up, hopefully build some things I design," Thompson said.

For now, they are excited about watching their latest project take shape.

"I look forward to putting on the roof because I have never put on a roof," Pendergrass said.

"I'm looking forward to putting the walls up because they're so heavy," Thompson said.

The sturdy structure is unlike the typical storage shed, the instructors said. In addition to the plywood, it will also feature vinyl siding, shingles and a double door, "so you can get a good-sized lawn mower in," Gurley said.

It is built with as much precision as a house, Gerken said.

"It's not built like a storage building. We're not cutting corners on this," Gurley said. "This building will be worth at least $2,000."