Montrose Area High School senior Connor Roberts put his education at Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center (SCCTC) to great use this fall. With guidance from his instructors and some help from family and friends, Connor constructed a ramp for his cousin, Nathan Delmar, who relies on a wheelchair for mobility.
Nathan’s father, Joe Delmar, related that Nathan was diagnosed in August with Double Hit Lymphoma, a recently discovered B-cell lymphoma that primarily affects Nathan’s legs.
“It was very laborious for him to get in and out of the house,” Joe explained. “He had to slide down one step at a time to get to the car.”
The Delmars began looking to contractors for options and pricing on a ramp to the entrance of their home. “We have a very old house and no level ground,” Joe noted. The Delmars live in Shavertown, Luzerne County, and 26-year-old Nathan graduated from Dallas Area High School.
Medical expenses aside, the family now faced thousands of dollars in construction costs. It was Joe’s sister, Cathy Roberts, who suggested that her son might be up to the task. Connor, who has studied carpentry at SCCTC since 10th grade, approached instructors Bruce Castelli and Mark Fenton about the project and was immediately at the drawing table.
“In order to do the project, he had to research code, draw blueprints, order the materials and construct the ramp,” Cathy said of the undertaking. She gives ample credit to SCCTC and his teachers. “Without their guidance, he wouldn’t have had the knowledge and confidence to help his cousin and uncle.”
Connor also got helping on construction day from his father, Robert Roberts, and his girlfriend’s father, Warren Clark.
Connor said that the toughest part of the job was getting all of the materials assembled. Otherwise, he felt that the proposed ramp transferred pretty smoothly from blueprint to finished product.
“There were a couple of minor modifications that had to be done on the fly, but most of it came from Connor telling us what needed to be done,” Joe recalled. The ramp took about seven hours to install, with the job being completed just before nightfall.
The moment of truth came when Nathan wheeled out the door and onto the ramp. Joe described the look on his son’s face as one of “joy and satisfaction.”
Connor shared photos of the finished ramp with his teachers and said that they were impressed with the work. Otherwise, he received no grade or extra credit for the project. For Connor, the reward came from “seeing how happy Nathan was that he didn’t have to slide up and down the stairs to go somewhere.”
Outside of the time spent gathering supplies, building the ramp, and guidance from Connor’s instructors, the project came in more than 80 percent below the average estimate provided by the contractors. “The whole family was excited,” Joe remarked.
Cathy attributes the success of the endeavor to the way in which vo-tech schools prepare youths to deal with the real world. “I don’t think that the school gets enough credit for the great job it does,” Cathy said of SCCTC. “It gives kids that need that hands-on learning the tools they’ll need.”
Overall, Cathy noted, attention to the trades seems to be on the wane at the same time four-year college students are struggling to find jobs that fit their specialized degrees. “That’s especially true locally,” she remarked.
Connor is also waiting for a start date to enter a second year of apprenticeship at Procter & Gamble. Cathy hopes that the combination of the two alternative learning experiences will give her son a good sense of “what it’s like out there” and allow him to stay closer to home after graduation if that’s what Connor desires.