Kevin Kenyon realized late last fall that insurance wasn’t going to bring back the $80,000 bulldozer taken out of commission when the Schoharie Creek swept into the village of Schoharie.
But the veteran contractor, who teaches students how to use heavy machinery at the Capital Region BOCES Career & Technical School in Schoharie, didn’t have to look far for some help to get the school’s stock of equipment back up to par.
He told the story to an acquaintance at the YMCA in Guilderland, and that man turned out to be a member of the board at the Faith Takes Family Foundation. Not long afterward, the foundation drafted a check for $17,000 to help buy another bulldozer.
“Without it, we would have really been in a deficit,” Kenyon said Friday as a group of students, educators and officials gathered around the John Deere 550 bulldozer purchased as a replacement.
The Career & Technical School campus itself was spared from Tropical Storm Irene’s damage, but the bulldozer was on loan to Schoharie Central School, closer to the creek — and it wound up under eight feet of muddy floodwater.
The gift helps put a teaching tool back in the hands of students while supporting a program that will continue contributing to students for years, said Faith Takes, who spent weekends after the disaster helping her relatives in the Schoharie Valley.
“It seemed so surreal to me,” she said of the flooding’s toll on the valley.
“I wanted to do something,” said Takes, who owns the Austin School of Spa Technology and its sister school, Mildred Elley.
The Schoharie BOCES campus brings hands-on lessons to 183 students eyeing careers in areas including construction and heavy equipment operation, automotive services and culinary arts. They attend a few hours of school at the Schoharie campus and head back to their high schools for core classes like English and math.
Coincidentally, students studying commercial and residential construction and heavy equipment operation are learning how to grade landscapes and clear construction sites.
The critical nature of that work came into the spotlight in the wake of tropical storms Irene and Lee, when contractors and government workers toiled to put roads, bridges and locks back together.
“We prepare them for real work,” said Kenyon, who said students have to delve into the study of watershed analysis before embarking on projects like building dykes and dams and grading land.
Then they have to learn the different tricks and techniques unique to various machines, like excavators, bulldozers and tractors.
“It’s not like the old days, it’s fairly intricate now,” Kenyon said.
Using a farm tractor was a breeze for student Jack Boone, 17, of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo Central School District — he grew up on his parents’ beef farm in Westerlo, where a tractor is part of everyday life. But he said the gear available at BOCES gives him lessons he can’t get on the farm, and equipment used nowadays keeps getting more sophisticated.
“Over the years, things change,” said Boone, who is considering helping to run the family farm when he completes school.
He said help the foundation provided to replace the bulldozer was “very generous.”
After the storm, he said, “We were kind of disappointed, it was one less machine, one less seat.”
With practical, hands-on work always on the schedule for construction and heavy equipment students, the bulldozer’s replacement will also mean help for the village of Schoharie, Mayor John Borst said.
BOCES students will be rebuilding Fox Creek Park and constructing a new recreational trail planned for the shores of the Schoharie Creek.
These gifts and signs of support, Borst said, help people in the stricken community realize “they’re not in here alone.”
“This community … we’d be dead if we didn’t have all the volunteers,” he said.
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Categories: Schenectady County