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By Meghan Godby

When you have a good thing going, it makes sense to keep that ball rolling as long as possible. Such is the case for the Career Explore Construction Pathways class at Wheat Ridge High School, which began in late 2016.

The program was started to help students explore careers in a variety of fields, including construction, healthcare and hospitality. It’s a wonderful opportunity for participants to discover different career paths through internships and make connections with professionals in their field of choice.

The class, led by Jane Johnson, has been hard at work building 15 wooden benches. The sturdy, quality pieces are to be auctioned off at the Wheat Ridge Carnation Festival, which takes place Aug. 10 through 12 in Anderson Park (44th and Field). Sound familiar? It should - similar tables were also auctioned off last year. However, things are a little different this time around.

“This year we have a new design for the bench,” explained Chad Meyers. “[it] converts into a picnic table. There will [also] be a plaque on each bench identifying which school designed [it].”

Chad is a Program Specialist for the School to Work Alliance Program (SWAP), a statewide initiative that helps make employment possible and maintainable for youth throughout Colorado. He has played a vital role in the Career Explore program and was instrumental in bringing it to fruition. He’s proud of the students and proud of the progress they have made.

“This year, Jane had a strong group of builders,” he notes. “[They] all completed industry standard certification and most completed internships at many different construction locations.”

And the best part?

“Some of the intern locations are hiring the students right after graduation,” Chad shared.

The benches are special in their own right, but Wheat Ridge schools have taken it a step further. After being coated with a layer of protective paint, the benches are painted by school art departments in the Wheat Ridge area. Each one is as unique as the students who built and created it. Better yet, the proceeds go to a great cause - right back to the art programs of the schools.

The Career Explore program is a rewarding experience for students and professionals alike, and it is expected to grow. Next year, staff members hope to add an Information Technology and computer science pathway.

The pride that went into each piece is evident and the hope is that the students’ efforts will translate into valuable funds for Wheat Ridge schools. So even if you can't afford to bid, you’ll still enjoy this presentation of colorful and symbolic artwork. Who knows, you may even be inspired to start something yourself!