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A project carried out by Bedford Science and Technology Center (BSTC) students at the end of last year served two purposes.
A low concrete wall in front of Washington Street Baptist Church, between the sidewalk and the church building, had deteriorated. The BSTC students replaced it, building the new wall out of split-face concrete masonry units, that emulate stone. The church provided the material, which they got at a discount from Masonry Mart. The students, all in their second year of the school's masonry program, provided the skilled labor.
"It's really nice to give them a real mortar project," commented Neil Rommel, who teaches the masonry program.
Rommel said that the students ran into a few glitches as they got into the project, which is exactly why Rommel seeks out these real-world projects for his students. It gave them a situational experience in which they had to adapt and make it work. He said that they encountered a slope that they hadn't anticipated.
"They are going to have to find a way to make it work," Rommel said, noting what masons must do on the job.
Seven students spent two weeks on the job. The length of time was due to the fact that they had less than two hours each day to work before they had to go back to school.
Along with giving students a real mortar project, with the sort of surprises they will encounter on the job, the project served a community service. It helped out a church with historic significance. The congregation was founded shortly after the War Between the States by people who had been slaves just a few years earlier. It has been at its current location for more than a century.
"This provides a safety feature," said the Rev. Henry Henderson, the church's pastor.
He said that it will prevent an out-of-control car from going through the church.
"It also adds to beautifying the property," he added.
The crumbling condition of the old wall had become a safety hazard. Henderson said that a lot of elderly church members liked to sit on the wall after Bible studies. People who have gone to the Shepherd's Table for a meal often come and sit on the wall after a meal.
Rommel is always on the lookout for projects for his second year students to do. The time constraint he must work under means that he's limited to work within the city.
BSTC's masonry program has built up a good reputation with local masonry contractors, according to Rommel. He said he has several outlets for students to get masonry jobs upon graduation.
"I've had McGann Masonry hire kids right in class," he said.
In addition to buying the material for the project, the church made a $150 donation to the BSTC masonry program.