Archived Story

Students building support for Elbow Lake community

Published 10:58am Tuesday, April 2, 2013

At West Central Area High School, students are getting the chance to hone their skills in carpentry and shop work while making an impact on their local community.

In John Kreft’s Community Projects class, the school has sent students to work on area projects, including updates at Thorson Memorial Library in Elbow Lake and the remodeling of the Barrett Pavilion.

“There are no losers with this, everyone is a winner and it’s a great deal,” said Kreft. “There are projects we’ve done that wouldn’t have been if it wasn’t for the students.”

With free and high quality labor going to the community, the school has found another outlet to orient its students’ focus on the community and to engage kids in the world around them.

In his 20th year as a teacher, Kreft said that the class goes beyond just giving a students that opportunity to better their skills with carpentry, woodwork and other construction skills, but instills the idea of community involvement for the students with each project.

“It goes beyond a grade,” said Kreft. “I always tell people it’s intuitive to students. You’re born with this innate idea that you want to help others and students get that through these projects. It’s a real connection that unfortunately has been lost in education.”

Residents, too, not only see the benefits from their tax dollars at work, but what students are able to contribute to their community as well.

“The citizenry sees that we’re doing good things and is helpful with spotting projects and lining things up,” Kreft said.

Kreft’s favorite project over the years has been the complete remodeling of the Barret Pavilion, what he considers as a “rags to riches” story. After organizers planned to flip the pavilion from its rundown state for the community to use again, Kreft had six years of classes working on the update of the cherished landmark.

“It was really on its last leg and a group of citizens started it as a project,” Kreft said.

The class has also worked on the Elbow Lake Courthouse and does something in the town’s library each year. The current class project will be to build a picnic shelter at Fairhaven beach and the group is coordinating the effort with the Elbow Lake Lions club.

With each project the class does, Kreft said students have something around town that they can take pride in.

“These are things that can stick with them, that they can cherish later and think back to the part they had in getting it done,” Kreft said.

While the class usual attracts those interested in careers like carpentry and construction, the class has had a wide variety of appeal over the years and includes many students who go on to use the experience in the future.

“I’ve had at least, thinking right now off the top of my head, a half a dozen, and I’m sure there are more,” said Kreft. “They’ve gone on to be things like architects, draftsmen and other types of work like that.”

For principal Nels Onstad, the class highlights the district’s emphasis on involvement, but is also a way to make sure that students and staff are recognized for doing the things that they are passionate about.

“Mr. Kreft should be recognized for taking this initiative, not only to provide this type of service to the community, but the on-going process between his commitment to the school and the community,” said Onstad. “We’re very proud of that group and what they do. It’s a great chance to let our students shine and that’s what we’re all about.”

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