Visitors to local parks will notice some eye-catching enhancements this summer, thanks to the work of Roane-Jackson Technical Center’s students and staff in partnership with community leaders and local businesses.

Since being awarded a $50,000 Economic Projects Impacting Communities (EPIC) Grant through the West Virginia Department of Education’s Division of Technical Education and Governor’s Economic Initiatives this past December, Roane-Jackson Technical Center students have been working to effect positive change in their communities.

RJTC’s grant projects, collectively titled Our Parks: Made Better by Students, center on community service and were designed to address specific needs in local parks and other recreational facilities in both Jackson and Roane counties. As this school year comes to a close, the first phase of the projects, including all improvements slated for locations in Jackson County, as well as the construction of several items for locations in Roane County, is now complete. The remaining work planned for Roane County sites will be accomplished in the upcoming school year.

“We are pleased to have completed the first phase of our EPIC community service grant,” said Ben Cummings, director of Roane-Jackson Technical Center. “Students from many different programs at Roane-Jackson have worked diligently to complete these improvements.”

Indeed, the work accomplished so far has been extensive. In Ravenswood, students installed two large commercial shade structures at the Ravenswood City Pool. These structures will provide patrons of all ages with welcome relief from the sun during sweltering hot summer days. In addition, students fabricated and painted 10 metal trash receptacles to be placed throughout Ravenswood’s parks.

“The City of Ravenswood is truly grateful for these new, healthy, and sun-safe shelters,” said Katrena Ramsey, Ravenswood’s superintendent of parks and recreation. “The student-made trash receptacles will provide attractive park upgrades as well. I enjoyed watching the students during their grant presentation, and working with them during installation. They are a first-class group who have bright futures ahead of them, and I thank them for choosing to contribute to our community.”

For Ripley City Park, students fabricated and painted 12 metal benches and 10 metal trash receptacles, and also built 15 wooden picnic tables to be utilized throughout the park. To complement the park’s fresh new look, students also created colorful new park signage. In addition, several students participated in a community service cleanup day for Ripley City Park and West Ripley’s Whiting Park that included cleaning, painting, mowing, and trimming, as well as placing many of the newly constructed grant items.

Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader expressed appreciation for the work done by RJTC’s students, and how it enhanced and energized the City of Ripley’s efforts to renovate Ripley City Park.

“To begin with, renovating Ripley City Park was a good project, but when RJTC became involved, it became a wonderful project!” she said. “Our park is going to be inviting, and it’s going to be exciting. It will be a destination for many, many students this summer, and people are going to feel comfortable there, thanks in large part to Roane-Jackson Technical Center.”

As for work to benefit Roane County, the initial phase of the projects included fabricating and painting six metal benches and six trash receptacles, as well as constructing 15 wooden picnic tables for the City of Spencer’s parks. To date, those items have all been completed, but not yet installed.

Future work scheduled for Roane County in the second phase of the projects (to take place during the 2019-2020 school year) includes a complete replacement of the 4-H council circle seating at Camp Sheppard in Gandeeville. Additional community service cleanup days will also be scheduled next school year.

Students from multiple program areas and simulated workplaces within RJTC are collaborating to complete work for the EPIC projects. Programs represented include Welding Technology, Carpentry, Collision Repair, Drafting, Law and Public Safety, Cosmetology, ProStart Restaurant Management, Automotive Technology, and Forestry. Students involved work alongside their instructors throughout the projects with support from administrators, community leaders, local businesses, municipal employees, and volunteers.