The conditions could not have been better for the YouthBuild Carpentry Challenge, an annual competition that tests students’ building accuracy, safety, and efficiency while allowing them the opportunity to give back to their community.
When it was first held in 1996, the event attracted only four programs, all from Massachusetts. The 2013 competition brought together over 200 youth from thirteen YouthBuild sites across New England, along with their teachers, program directors and community representatives. “It’s our most popular event every year,” said MYBC Director Terry Moran, “it’s a fun competition that gives our students the opportunity to show all the hard work they’ve put into their education – both in the classroom and on the construction site.”
The main objective for each six-student team was to frame three intersecting walls complete with window and door openings – a project that requires more than just basic construction knowledge. “It’s more than simply ‘go out and put up three walls,’” Moran explained. “You have to know your team’s strengths, and you need use the blueprint we provide to think up a strategy and execute it quickly and accurately, or else you’re going to get penalized.” Penalties were assessed for things like poor safety precautions, incorrect measurements, and improper technique; and each resulted in a deduction of points from a program’s total.
Win or lose, students were thrilled to be a part of this year's event. “We’re just thankful for the opportunity to be here. It’s always great to get together with our YouthBuild brothers and sisters from around Massachusetts," said Khalil Ayoud, a student from Fall River. As the competition portion came to a close around noon, it became clear that Khalil wasn't the only one who felt this way. Students moved from their construction pits over toward the DJ, and at this point, if you, like I, assumed they were all too tired from working three hours on their project to dance in unison to the "Cha Cha Slide", you were proven wrong. Even the staff got in on the fun (yellow shirts).
While judges from Home Depot examined each pit, other student volunteers were engaged in a service project done in collaboration with the Lawrence/Methuen Community Coalition (LMCC) and Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that benefited handicapped military vets. YouthBuilders from each program worked together to complete several handicap accessible planters that will be donated to local organizations whose seniors expressed interest in the opportunity to garden. “As an organization that supports youth who have been unsuccessful in traditional high schools, we try to engage our students and give back to our communities in non-traditional ways like the Carpentry Challenge,” said Nicole Rioux, Case Manager at YouthBuild Fall River.
When it came time to declare the winner, students yet again expressed their gratitude: “The opportunity to do something like this is fun to be together as friends. To see people not arguing, not fighting, seeing how they come together as a team, it’s sportsmanship. I’m glad to be here and having fun.” said Jorge Rodriguez, a student whose team just missed finishing in the top three.
The team with the highest point total after the judges were through deliberating was YouthBuild New Bedford, who narrowly edged out YouthBuilds Boston and Brockton for the win.
And although only one team was declared victor, every program was able to erect all three of their walls accurately and safely. "I would let any one of these groups build my house," said one Home Depot judge after the competition.
With the help of Bank of America, who awarded the MYBC with a $15,000 grant for the purpose of holding the competition, and The Home Depot, who generously offered materials, space, and volunteers, the 16th Annual YouthBuild Carpentry Challenge was a great success for all involved.
Pictures from the event below: