Roswell based volunteer group “Toolbox” is building a bridge to connect elementary school students to construction fundamentals with its “Young Apprentice” program.
“Things are happening so fast, that it is hard to stay on top of everything,” said Jeffrey “J” Prothero.
The concept began during the 2013-14 school year with the Roswell High School Construction Program, currently the only one in North Fulton, started by Zach Fields.
Fields enlisted help from Prothero, who observed “the students participating in the construction program could be better prepared had they been given the opportunity to develop age appropriate knowledge and skills in their earlier years,” according to the Toolbox website.
Toolbox is the “band of organized volunteers,” according to Prothero, who oversee and coordinate the programs.
The first middle school level construction program was established at Elkins Pointe in 2015 at club level.
“In the middle of the second year, Kindra Smith decided she wanted to have construction in the school, full-time,” said Prothero.
Elkins Pointe established a construction “pathway,” according to Prothero.
Soon after, Crabapple Middle School followed suite.
“Parents can designate the students to stay on the construction pathway, so students will always take the class,” he said.
Similar to funneling down from high school to middle school, Prothero expressed students could be better prepared with elementary school opportunities, thus “Young Apprentices” was initiated.
It is being offered at all 6 elementary schools that feed into the Jr. Hornets Construction program at Crabapple and Elkins Pointe Middle schools.
Construction clubs at the elementary level aim “to solidify the likelihood that the RHS Construction Program pipeline will be filled for years to come,” said a release.
“What has been built in Roswell is exactly the same as what every football or athletic program has,” said Prothero.
Students learn foundational skills early on and continue to build on them as they progress.
The name is a “play on athletics,” according to Prothero.
In Roswell at the middle school level, student athletes are “Jr. Hornets,” or in training to move up to Junior Varsity or Varsity Hornets in high school.
The same applies to “Jr. Hornets” Construction students, who are working to move up to the “Hornets,” or Roswell High School level.
Prothero attributed one reason to continue on the pathway is “when they get to high school, they will have all of the fundamentals and some high school level knowledge,” which will allow more high school time to learn true skills and work on projects.
While the students are likely to continue onto Roswell High School, “some may end up going to Milton, which is okay, because we are planning to move into other areas of Fulton county and other districts,” according to Prothero.
The program is open to all students and at no cost.
Toolbox partnered with the Association of General Contractors of Georgia, “who funds the equipment and materials, so there is no charge to the students or schools,” according to Prothero.
“We want everything to go to the kids,” said Prothero.
He noted over 30 volunteers from Roswell Rotary and three local Home Depot stores that send employees into the schools.
“We are teaching kids fundamentals, like how to measure things and precision,” said Prothero.
Volunteers or “Project Managers” have two goals, according to Prothero, “safety and to oversee the students work to make sure whatever they are doing contributes to a perfect result in quality construction.”
His goal is to “continue to look for the people who want to impact this” through donating their time.
Prothero’s focus is to expand children’s focus beyond electronic devices, to be full hands on, not just “what their thumbs can do.”
“We are teaching them a skill that might prepare them for life, even starting a life,” said Prothero, referring to the potential of a career in the field.
Prothero’s reward is the “fulfillment and change we see in these kids; the pride in what they have made.”
Above all else, Prothero said he wants “kids to be happy.”
“This is not just about creating construction workers, engineers and architects, but also to be able to take care of things on their own,” he said.
More information is available at www.toolbox.life.