April 16, 2014 2:30PM
Last year, around this time, students in Pittsburg State University’s School of Construction teamed with the local Hearts and Hammers group to perform maintenance and repair work on a family’s home in Pittsburg.
The project, which took place in conjunction with regional members of the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), was the first of its kind at Pitt State.
“Several community service projects came before that one, but that was the first time our Women in Construction students teamed with NAWIC and Hearts and Hammers,” said Jenny McCool-O’Dell, instructor in the School of Construction. “It was a wonderful experience for everyone involved, and it opened a lot of our students’ eyes.”
It also caught the eyes of regional industry professionals. The community service project recently received Construction Industry Community Benefit Award, which recognizes the top community service project performed by NAWIC members. The group received the award earlier this month at the NAWIC Region 6 Spring Forum in Kansas City.
“That was an incredible honor for our group,” McCool-O’Dell said. “That project not only helped a local family, but it also helped launch our mentoring program that teams our Women in Construction students with industry professionals in NAWIC. To have it recognized by our peers in the industry means a lot.”
But the accolades didn’t end there. Also at the Spring Forum, McCool-O’Dell received the Region 6 Rising Star Award. The honor recognizes NAWIC members who have been in the group for three years or less and who have gone “above and beyond” in their service to the construction profession.
“I was shocked to receive that award,” McCool-O’Dell said. “So many members give back in many ways to their community. This isn’t just my award. Any success I’ve had is directly related to the effort our students have put in. This is their award, too.”
The momentum and excitement surrounding last spring’s project has built in the past year, and now the group is preparing for an enhanced repeat of the effort.
Last Saturday, in conjunction with NAWIC, Hearts and Hammers and Pitt State’s Big Event community service project, the student WIC group performed repair and maintenance work on 10 houses throughout the Pittsburg community.
McCool-O’Dell, who was recently named the executive director of Hearts and Hammers, said the community service experience is as rewarding as it is educational.
“Our students learn a lot during these projects, because it’s actual, real-life work,” she said. “This isn’t a simulation or a practice. We are working on people’s homes. That’s a great responsibility, but it’s also a pleasure. To know we are helping the homeowners complete a project that maybe they haven’t been able to brings us joy and pride.”
And it’s not just PSU students who were out swinging hammers.
“Almost all of the faculty in our School of Construction were out there, too,” McCool-O’Dell said. “So it’s just wonderful to see faculty and students working hard right next to each other. There is a bond and respect that is formed in those moments. It’s a neat thing to experience.”