Carpentry Students Renovate Benches for Local Rehab Center

Carpentry Students Renovate Benches for Local Rehab Center

What were once drab, weather-beaten pieces of outdoor furniture on the grounds of The Grove, a Valhalla-based rehabilitation and nursing care center, are now looking like new park benches, thanks to the efforts of a group of special needs students in Richie Thomas’ carpentry classroom at the SWBOCES Center for Career Services.

The students have been working on the special work-based learning initiative, a partnership between the BOCES Work-Based Learning Program and the rehab center, since September.

They first sanded the benches, many of them weathered and dark with age, and finally applied a couple of coats of an oil-based polyurethane on top to give them a more polished look.

During a recent morning class, Isaiah La Brew of Port Chester High School and Kyle Fitzpatrick of New Rochelle High School were sanding the last few benches out of about 18 that the class received from the center.

Following the sanding process, Isaiah took a dry cloth and meticulously wiped the bench several times before applying the stain. Mr. Thomas said his students know that if they don’t properly dry the surface before applying the finish, the dust will rise to the top.

“Isaiah has done an enormous amount of work,” said Mr. Thomas. “In fact, all of them have,” he said, referring to the morning and afternoon students who have been involved in the work experience initiative.

BOCES Work-Based Learning Coordinator Evangelo Michas, who is coordinating with The Grove on a number of other work-based experiences for students in the Culinary Arts and Electrical Construction programs, said the project is a natural fit for the students.    

Mr. Thomas agreed, adding that the repetitive nature of the task is what his students most enjoy. The students have refurbished so many benches that they are now quite skilled, he added.

“The value of these types of projects for our students is that it reinforces employability skills concepts such as teamwork, time management and customer service skills,” said Mr. Michas. “And it also helps the students to apply carpentry skills that have been taught to them by Mr. Thomas.”