On June 8, students from across western New York raised a whopping $103,000. Since 1998, during their class time, high school seniors enrolled in Erie 1 BOCES Building Trades program have built modular homes for auction to the public. This year, two houses were built and auctioned by Cash Cunningham to the highest bidder. Channel 7, WKBW-TV, was there to cover the auction.
The house auctioned at Potter Career & Technical Center was sold for $59,000 and the house auctioned at Harkness Career & Technical Center was auctioned for $44,000.The initial funding for the first house, built at the Harkness location 13 years ago, was provided by the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, a charitable organization of the Greater Buffalo region. Each year since, the proceeds earned from the house auction, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000, have provided the building supplies for the following year’s class.
The $103,000 raised sets a new record for the BOCES program and will enhance the educational experience for future classes. Chris Burgio, a building trades instructor at Erie 1 BOCES Harkness Career & Technical Center, believes this project to be a rewarding experience for the students.
“Students in the program are involved in every step of the building process,” said Burgio. “They are able to build a house from bottom to top, developing skills in foundation and wall framing, plumbing, electrical, exterior, and much more. The house project is so effective because the students receive the educational background on blueprints and building codes, and are then able to continue learning through this huge hands-on activity.”
While enrolled in the two-year program, students begin with smaller projects in order to learn the fundamentals of building and culminate their learning by building a house. During senior year, when the house is built from scratch, the teachers act as supervisors, by guiding the students to ensure the work is done properly.
This year, the June 8 house auction was observed by returning alumni. Vince Gulino, a graduate of Lancaster High School in 2004, credits much of his current success to the Building Trades program. After high school, Gulino attended Alfred State College and graduated with a degree in construction management engineering. Now, Gulino is a project manager at TGR Enterprises, a local construction company that installs commercial windows and doors.
“The experience you gain from this house project is like no other. It’s always most helpful to learn hands-on and the house project is entirely hands-on. That’s why I recommended the program to my brother,” said Gulino.
Gulino’s younger brother, Alessio, is currently enrolled in the Building Trades program at the Harkness Center, where he has obtained the same knowledge and skills that his older brother did eight years ago.
Jeremy Grandits, a graduate of Cheektowaga High School in 2007, says that his experience in the Building Trades program led to his achievement and operation of his own business, Grandits Enterprises.
“The house project gave me a great base to move on to college. The construction skills that I learned helped a lot post-graduation, and the teamwork techniques that I learned will help me forever,” said Grandits.
There is a high demand for people who have the type of experience offered in the Building Trades programs. Close to 50 percent of the seniors enrolled in the program at both technical centers already have full time jobs in the trade following graduation. Most of the remaining students have enrolled in area colleges to attend construction programs. Students from both locations completed short-term internships in May with local construction companies, providing students with additional experience of high value.
The experience is beneficial even to those students who choose a different career path. “The house project teaches a lot of skills that are used in everyday life. Even if you don’t go into the field of carpentry, one day when you own your own house it’s handy to have these skills,” said Steve Contrino, a 2008 graduate from the program.
About Erie 1 BOCES
As part of the public education model, Erie 1 BOCES offers more than 25 career and technical programs during the normal school day to high school students in Erie County. High school students interested in learning more about how they can participate in various regional programs such as building trades, cyber security and health careers should visit www.e1b.org/cte or speak with their high school counselor.