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Enquirer photo/Rebekah Martin Front from left) Clay Burns, Andrew Ekema, Bailey Buckner, Tacoma Smiley, (back from left) JJ Miller, Chandler Richards, Wyatt Wright, Jonathan Carnes and Scot Otley show off the fruits of their labor, a completed ramp for Hartselle neighbors in need.

Building confidence

Hartselle students construct ramp for elderly couple  

James Lacy has a bad knee that makes climbing the stairs outside his home on Rock Street a disaster waiting to happen. That’s a problem the staff of Corum’s Building Center and Kyle Woodard’s building construction class at Hartselle High School teamed up to solve last week.  

With tools and lumber donated by Corum’s, Woodard’s students built a wheelchairaccessible ramp for James and his wife Merle.  

Woodard said the idea originated with Reggie and Kevin Corum.  

“Basically, Reggie came to us and asked if the project would be something we’d be interested in doing, and it worked out well because it’s so close to the school and right here in town,” Woodard said. “They donated everything, from the lumber to the toolbelts the guys are wearing. They’ve really been good to us.”  

In its first year, Woodard’s class has 10 students enrolled. “Some of them are interested in doing this as a career, and some of them are just trying to figure it out,” he said.  

Enquirer photo/Rebekah Martin James and Merle Lacy are the beneficiaries of the Hartselle students’ hard work.

Building the ramp, Woodard said, came with multiple benefits for his students. 

“It’s kind of a volunteer project … It’s a charity deal to help these people out, but it’s also a good learning experience for them. It’s one thing to talk about it, and it’s a completely different thing to actually get out here and do it,” he explained. “We do some of this stuff in class but not really to this scale, so it’s a great opportunity for these boys to learn more about the industry.”  

In addition to the beneficial career aspects the project involves, Woodard said his students are also building confidence and character.  

“They know this project is a way to help (the Lacys) out, too – that this will help them get out and about and get to church and around town,” he said. “When they take on a project like this, it really instills confidence in them, and they think, ‘Hey, I can really do this. When these guys ride up and down the road, they’ll always be able to look at it and say, ‘I helped build that.’”  

By taking on the construction project, Woodard said his students “learned more here in two days than I could have taught them all semester in a classroom, and because they’re actually doing it, they’re building this ramp, but they’re also building confidence and character within themselves.” 

The hands-on experience doesn’t begin and end with the actual labor of the project, either.  

Enquirer photo/Rebekah Martin
Scot Otley nails a final board to the ramp.

Woodard said his building construction class will prepare his students for not only working in the industry but maybe owning their own businesses one day.  

“There have been a lot of teachable moments through this project,” he said. “They had to calculate building materials, figure out what we needed, call and order it – all of that.”  

Merle and James, who have been married for 62 years, said they both are very appreciative of everyone involved in making the project a reality.  

“He stumbles trying to get down the steps, and he can do it, but I’m so afraid he’s going to fall and hurt himself. He’s not in a wheelchair right now, but he’s 83 and I’m 82, so it’s kind of hard for him,” Merle said. “He doesn’t get out much, but this will sure help us when he does.  

We appreciate it so much. I know he’ll enjoy it, and I may find myself going up and down it occasionally,” Merle said.  

“I like it. It looks really nice and professional-looking,” James added. 

Enquirer photo/Rebekah Martin
Wyatt Wright and Jonathan Carnes work together to build the ramp.

Merle said she also thinks the project is extra special because working on their new ramp is teaching younger people valuable skills they can use later in life.  

“Everyone wants the corner office these days,” Merle said, but you know, someone has got to build that corner office, and someone has got to do the dirty work.”