By Mary Spicer
While the heat slowed many activities to a crawl, Crawford County Career and Technical Center just spent three of the hottest days of the year abuzz with the sounds of learning — fun, noisy, hands-on learning, the kind that can stick with you forever.
Approximately 50 students from Crawford County middle schools converged on the Thurston Road facility for Career Camp 2013, an annual adventure designed to introduce the facility and all that it has to offer to both potential students and their parents.
As a rising eighth-grader at Meadville Area Middle School, 13-year-old Collin Loucks knew going in that he liked working on construction-related projects around the house. Having spent Tuesday through Thursday in Building and Construction Camp, he’s sharpened a variety of skills and expanded his knowledge base to include roofing — all while helping to construct a towering outdoor playhouse that will be taken home in late August by a visitor to CCCTC’s first-ever exhibit at the Crawford County Fair.
Instructor Jeff Fobes was impressed with this year’s campers.
“The playhouse is the work of three students who haven’t done anything yet,” he said in amazement. “Think what they could do if we gave them some real training.”
Participants were offered a choice of camps. Those wanting to keep their options open were able to choose three one-day camps from a list of seven offerings including law enforcement, culinary arts, health careers and first aid, landscaping and turfgrass management, commercial art, welding and cosmetology.
Those interested in exploring a career in engineering were able to rotate through three one-day camps in precision machining, electronic technology and drafting and design technology — drafting and machining flashlights and then doing all the electronics to make them work.
Students ready to begin narrowing options were able to spend three days working on one major project — either building and construction, Lego robotics or electrical occupations.
“People complain about kids these days, but every one of these kids were here all day for six hours doing their projects and not complaining about the 90-degree heat outside,” said Camp Director Eileen Mullen, whose day job is program director of Crawford County K-12 Career Education Alliance. “It was very exciting — I’m very optimistic about the future of our workforce (after) seeing these kids here. Absolutely.”
Skills related to specific occupations weren’t the only things Career Camp participants learned.
“In the mornings, we talked about things employers want to see in employees,” Mullen said. “We talked about the soft skills. We talked about what I call the “Gimme 5” — employers want you to show up. Every day. On time. Sober. With a good attitude. The kids really get it.”
Thursday morning, kicking off the last day of camp, the discussion topic was dream jobs — and what they want to be when they grow up.
“I’ve told them that the difference between a dream and a goal is a plan,” Mullen said.
“If you have a dream and you want to make it a goal, then you have to come up with a plan,” she said. “Sometimes a really good way to plan is to think about maybe going to CCCTC as a way to reach your goal. That doesn’t mean you can’t go on to a four-year university.”
As for the playhouse, Mullen is urging everyone to come to the fair, stop by the CCCTC tent and see for what’s up at Tech.
“There will be all kinds of things to see,” she said. “Some things will be hands-on. There will be pictures from this year’s camp and information about next year’s camp.
“We really want a lot of people to visit our booth,” Mullen added. “If you’re an alum, sign the wall — write a message. I think there’s going to be a special place to leave your favorite memory. And don’t forget to sign up to win the playhouse!”
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.