CHEROKEE - Donations from Joplin Building Material Company and Kraft Tools Company will help Southeast High School students prepare for an upcoming state competition that prepares students for the workforce in areas such as masonry and woodworking.

Southeast High School of Cherokee is in its second year with a SkillsUSA chapter, but when you are a new program without the necessary equipment or supplies, it can be difficult to get students involved, let alone excited.

“We’ve been wanting to get into this Masonry contest at State SkillsUSA, and that was our issue, lack of supplies and equipment - we don’t have the money to just to go out and buy it all,” explained Jim Rockers, the SHS SkillsUSA sponsor. “We went just for Cabinet Making last year and Masonry was in the same building. As soon as our cabinet guys got done, they were just mesmerized by watching that Masonry contest, and right then a bunch of them said they wanted to try it this year.”

John Rahe of Rahe Construction in Weir suggested to Mr. Rockers that he check with Joplin Building Material Company to see if they could help out.

With the help of SHS Principal Larry Malle, Mr. Rockers prepared a needs list and asked Joplin Building Material for any help they could provide. Rockers was told they would get in touch with their tool supplier, Kraft Tool Company based in Lenexa, and see what could be done.

A few days ago, Mr. Rockers got a call back from Joplin Building Material.

“He called me the other day and said ‘there’s only two things we couldn’t get donated, so you owe me $50 and you can have everything else,’” Mr. Rockers said, adding that he picked everything up Tuesday, March 15.

“Bricks, concrete blocks, and all of the tools that we need to start this program up. Trowels, levels, rulers, all the jointers, just everything you need to lay blocks. They’re contractor - professional level quality. It’s several hundred dollars worth of stuff, probably close to $1,000 with bricks and all I would guess.”

“I can’t thank them enough,” Mr. Rockers said. “We might not have been able to do it without their help. I thanked them several times. They’re a good bunch of guys.”

Southeast planned to unpack the pallet of supplies on Thursday, March 16, then the school goes into Spring Break. When they return, students will have three weeks to prepare for the 2017 SkillsUSA Kansas State Championships to be held April 17-19 in Hutchinson.

“This is basically so that we can practice,” Mr. Rockers said. “The kids have to build a wall to certain specs. Build a wall. Tear it down. Build it. Tear it down.”

Rockers said competitors will be given a plan, materials and a set time - usually about three hours. Competitors are expected to have the tools, knowledge and skill to complete the plan.

“And they have to do neat work so they don’t have to waste a bunch of their time cleaning up their mess,” Mr. Rockers said. “It’s stressful but it’s good for them.”

Four SHS students are competing this year. Sophomore Eli Newport will compete in Cabinet Making. Junior Tanner Johnston, and sophomores Trenton Hartman and Chad Lewis, will all compete in Masonry. Last year both Hartman and Newport competed in Cabinet Making.

“We’re still just kind of getting our feet wet,” Mr. Rockers said of the upcoming competition. “The area technical schools, like out of Kansas City and Wichita, they just dominate this thing, so it’s pretty tough to crack into that, but we’re trying.”

To learn more about SkillsUSA visit http://www.skillsusa.org/ or http://www.skillsusakansas.org/.