By Kelly Blanchard
Special To The Tribune
CLAYTON — Hatley Construction & Repair, a leading Clayton-based firm, sponsored a Student Appreciation Luncheon for students participating in the CORE, Carpentry 1, and Carpentry 2 programs at Clayton High School on May 12. Annually, these programs engage approximately 250 students, providing them with vital, practical skills in construction and repair.
“The trade industry is a vital cornerstone of our society, one that is often overlooked, especially on the educational level; the industry’s artistry, work ethic, and leadership are slipping away,” owner Jeremy Hatley said. “Alongside my colleagues, we all feel truly blessed for the opportunity to give back to the community through such an effective program. For many, vocational classrooms give these students a path to success, creating avenues to excel in their studies.”
Students are immersed in a diverse range of projects, fostering the development of a comprehensive skill set. From the precision required to craft birdhouses and cutting boards to the structural understanding and team collaboration needed to build extensions for the school's workout rooms, lockers, and baseball and softball concession stands, students are given a real-world experience of the construction industry.
These programs also significantly contribute to the school's key events, showcasing the students' abilities on a larger scale. For instance, the construction of the graduation stage and the football tunnel are monumental tasks that require planning, resource management, and applying various carpentry techniques.
Moreover, these classes also welcome students from the Occupational Course of Study, Exceptional Children, and Life Skills programs, ensuring an inclusive learning environment that encourages every student to participate and contribute to these projects. This inclusive approach allows students of all abilities to learn and apply valuable practical skills while fostering a sense of community and shared accomplishment.
"I teach the students what you put into it, you get back," said Troy Lee Jr., Clayton High CT, Trades and Industrial teacher. "All students enter my class with an A. It's their responsibility to work hard to maintain that grade or face the reality of the grade they've earned."
In the past 20 years, roughly 70% of students have pursued higher education in related fields or have entered the workforce. “Institutions such as Nash Community College's Lineman School and East Carolina University's Turf Management program have welcomed our alumni,” Lee said.
Beyond technical skills, the program focuses on developing life skills, fostering local internship opportunities, and instilling an understanding of integrity and self-worth in students.
Clayton High senior Ethan Johnson said: "These programs teach us that you don't need to go to college to have a good career. We can achieve anything we set our minds to with the skills we learn here."