October 6, 2022

Camp helps Torrington-area kids explore career choices

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TORRINGTON — Middle school students from area towns got an opportunity to explore a variety of trades through a hands-on workshop camp at Oliver Wolcott Technical School, a collaborative effort by the school and the Torrington Police Activities League.

The camp was designed to expose sixth- through eighth-grade students to the trades as their families contemplate high school choices.

About 15 students took part in the camp Aug. 15-19. On one day, students paired off behind computer screens and constructed towers about two feet tall from ice pop sticks and glue guns, supplied by Ray Tanguay, head of the mechanical design and engineering technology department.

“They learned very quickly,” Tanguay said. “They sketched out their towers, and now they’re building their towers.”

Seated next to one another, Gene Daily and Royce Bell, both 13 and from Harwinton, collaborated on a tower. Gene layered the ice pop sticks, and Royce applied the glue. The tower rose quickly.

At another table, OWTS freshman Logan Violette of Terryville helped Harwinton student Jackson DePaolo and Avon student Rory Alexe, both 11, construct their tower.

Stephanie Seitlinger, dean of students, said OWTS plumbing department head Dean Pergola, who works with Torrington PAL, suggested the weeklong program. “Each day this week, they’re going to a different trade. They’re just jumping in, and they’re doing exactly what our freshmen do,” Seitlinger said.

Chris Smedick, Torrington PAL executive director, said his board members long have been wanting to start a program to spark interest in the trades among young people.

“Ray Oneglia from O&G has been talking to me for years about the need for laborers and the need for carpenters, electricians in the trades,” Smedick said. “He’s kind of encouraged us to do something in cooperation with OWTS, and we were able to put it together this year.”

He said Torrington PAL has worked with OWTS in past years. “We’ve run a lot of programs here. Our partnership with OWTS has been outstanding. We’ve run athletic programs here, volleyball camps. Dean Pergola is our athletic director for PAL,” Smedick said.

Seitlinger said it’s good to expose kids to the trades. “It can help them choose where to go to high school, so they already know what it’s like,” she said.

Assistant Principal Gail Duffy said students during the weeklong camp also learned about carpentry, electrical work, collision repair, and plumbing, heating and cooling.

“It’s been amazing,” Duffy said. “I was surprised Monday when I went into the carpentry shop how much the kids already knew. They were answering questions. They were involved. I spoke to the carpentry instructor after school, and he said it was a great experience. He said the kids were really enthusiastic.”

Originally named Police Athletics League by National PAL founder Captain John Sweeney of the New York City Police Department in 1910, the acronym now stands for Police Activities League, according to National PAL’s website. A statement from Torrington PAL says, “The Torrington Police Activities League promotes character development and self esteem while building positive relationships among children, our police officers, and the community. Our program works in partnership with the Torrington Police Department providing children with alternatives to crime, violence and substance abuse.”

Smedick said, “A lot of people equate PAL to sports, and we have all kinds of kids in the community that may not be interested in sports. This year we did a culinary program, we did an art program, and we did this trade program. We’re interested in starting a music program next year. Athletics is still the biggest part of our program, but we also recognize, especially after COVID, the need for kids to get out and do different things. Some kids just aren’t interested in sports, and that’s OK.”



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