Student building program wins state award for excellence in practice

Story and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor

The Michigan Department of Education, Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE) has given the AAPS’ Ann Arbor Student Building and Industry Program the “Career and Technical Education Outstanding Program Excellence in Practice Award.”

This award recognizes a “successful, exemplary, state-approved, career and technical education (CTE) program that demonstrates outstanding outcomes, produces measurable results, and leads to documented success in employment or postsecondary education/training.”

Instructor Mark Valchine says it’s an honor to be recognized for all the hard work and exemplary programming AAPS has set in place and continues to improve upon.

“As we know here in Ann Arbor, our Home Building Program is truly a viable option for students and prepares them for a career and/or college,” he says. “Our program has continued to be a state-wide leader in educating our students in the construction trades and the related fields since 1970’s.  This award is a nice reminder that we are doing what is best for kids.”

Student Connor Hirth says the program is very underrated.

“It’s a very prestigious award-winning program and deserves more acknowledgment,” says Hirth, who plans on continuing in the construction industry, and plans to renovate or build a home for his own family one day. “I have gotten many things out of this program—more things than I would have learned from a regular classroom.  The things I have gotten out of this program vary from tools that I will need to build/repair a home to building character and being responsible for my actions.”

Valchine says a key to the program’s success is the close relationship with the building industry made possible through partnerships such as that with the Builders & Remodelers Association of Greater Ann Arbor (BRAG).

The Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program is a 503c that is governed by a committee of 25 people. This committee is made up of representatives from area banks, title companies, small and large construction companies, realtors, plumbing and mechanical contractors, alumni of the program, and BRAG.

Instructor Mark Valchine and two of his students see what needs to be done next on the Scio Township house under construction.

The 503c owns the land, building materials, and tools. The Ann Arbor School District pays the salaries of all the teaching personnel and owns the construction trailer. This board meets monthly and is very involved in the program regarding skills, equipment, employment demands, budget and the progress of the students.

The class operates similarly to a job site. The class is divided into four teams that change periodically through the year. The instructor chooses a “foreman” for each team. The instructor meets every morning with the foremen to go over the tasks/goals for the day. The foremen choose which tasks the group will perform that day and at the end of each day, the team evaluates how well they performed.

The person acting as the foreman changes periodically throughout the year.

The students are completing their second home in The Kirkway  Scio Township subdivision.  The program owns six more in-fill lots in this subdivision.

This year’s student project is the same model as last year’s.  The home is 3400 square feet with five bedrooms and 3.5 baths, and features nine-foot ceilings, a corner fireplace, granite counter tops, cherry and maple cabinets, large first-floor laundry/mud room, daylight basement, hardwood floors throughout the first floor, and a two-car attached garage.

CTE Department Chair Karen Eisley says she has seen this program literally keep kids from dropping out of school.

“We have received many contacts from parents stating that their students were on the verge of dropping out of school until they found this program,” she said.

Logan “Alan” Reina says he’s been a STEM-oriented type of guy since he was little and would stare at infrastructure in awe, wondering how it all had been put together.

“The Ann Arbor Student Building Industry Program is the place to go if you looking for a foundation in the construction industry,” he said. “This program has given me the understanding of the infrastructure I have so craved my whole life and the empowerment to take more projects into my own hands. I plan on attending Michigan State University to study mathematics and engineering, but I certainly won’t forget what I have learned here as it has given me invaluable experience in the professional world and a newfound aptitude for the construction of all things.”




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