WAYNESBURG – Thanks to a group of nine kids who attended a unique camp at Greene County Career and Technology Center this summer, needy dogs in Greene County will stay a little cooler on hot days, warmer on cold ones and drier when it rains. The camp offered through Southwest Training Services Inc. of Washington gave them a glimpse into construction as they each designed and completed a dog box.
At the end of camp, boxes were donated to Greene County Humane Society. Campers attended the five-day program free thanks to a donation from Walsh Construction of Canonsburg.
Colby Simkovic, 12, of Waynesburg was the youngest of the group.
“I’d do it again,” said Simkovic enthusiastically. Colby’s parents, Jerry and Carrie Bedilion Simkovic, said their son has two loves – building things and dogs.
“This camp brought his two loves together,” Carrie said. “He came home from school one day toward the end of the year and said, ‘Mom, I want to do this building and construction camp. I asked how much it was going to cost and couldn’t believe it when I found out it was free.”
The Simkovics said Colby has such a soft spot for dogs that last winter he asked to be driven around the area on really cold days looking for canines in need of shelter.
“He even put a roof overhang on the side of the box he built so the dog could get out of the rain,” Carrie said. “He said he was building it a side porch.”
This was not Colby’s first foray into building. From the time he could hold a hammer, he has built bird houses, benches and such with his father and grandfathers.
“We cut the wood ourselves, hammered and drilled,” Colby said.
Mark Krupa is the instructor of the camp and the building and construction occupation (BCO) program at the GCCTC. He gave campers measurements but they could decide the pitch style of the roof and design.
Krupa said he has overseen the camp for two years, but it started with his predecessor at GCCTC. Krupa said he was impressed by Colby’s skills and work ethic, especially since he was the youngest kid to attend the camp.
“He is a very talented young man. At that age to be able to work like he does is something,” Krupa said, noting he provided them with examples of roofs and door openings but in the end it was all them.
The camp has traditionally run for 10 days but this year it was cut to five.
“The kids worked really hard to get them done,” Krupa said.
Only in his second year teaching the camp, Krupa was thrilled enrollment nearly double from last year.
Krupa said he encourages the kids to have “their own take” on their individual design.
“Logan (referring to one of the students) learned how to splatter paint in his art class in his sending school,” and he chose to do that on the outside of his box. “Another student covered his in handprints.”
Greene County Humane Society Director Jane Gapen said Logan’s box was very creative, with “a Jackson Pollock feel to it,” making reference to the famous abstract expressionist painter known for his drip painting style.
Gapen, like Krupa, said the attention to detail in the boxes showed how much pride students put into their work.
The camp has added benefits of teaching problem-solving techniques, mathematical calculations, and how to do things like hammer a nail, something surprisingly few kids learn these days with the discontinuation of shop classes in many schools, Krupa said.
The camp also exposed students to what is offered in the BCO program at GCCTC. Krupa said Karen Pflugh, the administrative director at GCCTC, is open to programs such as the camp.
“She knows what it does as far as bringing students into the program. This year, my enrollment for BCO is maxed out,” he said.
Cindy Derrico, vice president of Southwest Training, shares the philosophy that the more students and parents are exposed to what high school career and technology schools have to offer, the better.
“We offer several different camps where the purpose of the camps is to expose kids to different industries,” Derrico said. “These may be programs they never thought about (career-wise).” She noted, there are different kinds of companies all over the area that a CTC education would open doors at for its graduates.
Derrico said a big goal of Southwest Training is to get parents to give these schools a second look.
“This is not the vo-tech they remember from when they were in school. These kids are going right out of the CTC and to work,” she said.
Although he is still a little young to choose a career path, Colby said he would definitely consider something construction-related. With that, the camp achieved the goals of Pflugh, Krupa and Derrico of planting that seed.
As for Gapen, the continued success of the camp ensures that kids like Colby will be helping provide shelter for outside dogs for years to come. And, for that, the Humane Society is “extremely appreciative,” she said.
For information on how to obtain a dog box for a dog in need, contact Greene County Humane Society at 724-627-9988.