Fort Mill Times

Hammering away in Fort Mill's construction class

Construction students Nicholas McClane, 17, of Fort Mill High School, holds a piece of wood as Nation Ford High School's Luke Hoover, 16, saws.
Construction students Nicholas McClane, 17, of Fort Mill High School, holds a piece of wood as Nation Ford High School's Luke Hoover, 16, saws.

Swinging a hammer is second nature for Shiquisha Watts. The Nation High School senior is putting the finishing touches on a nightstand for her bedroom, but she's equally comfortable measuring wood before it's sawed.

"I like to build houses and do construction work," Watts, 18, said. "I like all the noise."

The teen, who also shoots hoops for her school's basketball team, can't see her life without a hammer.

"If you can do a jump shot, you can hammer a nail," she said.

Watts is among 124 high school students in Fort Mill who are learning their way around tape measures, safety goggles and various saws thanks to a construction class offered at Fort Mill High School, instructor Chuck Stegall said.

"It's a popular class for the kids, especially those whose families work in construction," Stegall said. "It's a stress reliever. They don't have to come in here and pull out a book everyday."

Instead, they learn to work with hammers and nails to build and restore items.

"They get to express themselves by making nightstands, bookcases or a picture frame," he said. "The get to do what they enjoy doing."

And in the process comes hands on knowledge.

"They're learning a trade," Stegall said.

Last year, about 115 students enrolled in the course, which is anchored at Fort Mill High but is open to students at both of the district's high schools.

"The students are learning basic construction skills that they can use throughout their lives," Assistant Principal Charity Young said. "The class teaches students to learn their way around both large and small home projects."

And it breaks up the monotony of a traditional school or work day.

"I don't like desk jobs," said Robert Collins, a 16-year-old junior. "I don't like sitting down. Construction is one of those jobs where you don't sit down. You'll always working with your hands."

The Nation Ford High student hasn't decided what career he'd like to pursue, but he is sure of one thing.

"Construction just clicks in my mind," he said. "If feels right."

And it's also the right move for Luke Hoover.

"My uncle and grandpa do construction," Hoover, 16, a junior at Nation Ford High, said. "It's in my genes."

Hoover plans to work with his uncle before becoming an architect. In the meantime, he's perfecting his skills in the construction class.

"It's helping me to put my skills to work by doing hands on jobs," he said. "I like it. It's fun."

Katelyn Webb is no stranger to construction. The 16-year-old Fort Mill High student doesn't and mind the saw dust that comes with building.

"I'm used to it," said Webb whose father, Clifford, is a construction superintendent. "I've been around it all my life. I enjoy working with wood and building things."

Fort Mill High senior Stephen Halstensgard also favors construction so much so that he started his own Tega Cay-based business.

"I'm like a handyman," Halstensgard, 17, said. "I build anything. Plumbing. Electrical. Outside. Inside."

He credits the class for his success and work ethics.

"It gave me direction," he said. "This class taught me things that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. It taught me how to do everything perfect."

And getting the job done right on a deadline is a mandated must, he said.

"Time is important on the construction site," he said. "If you're wasting time, you're losing money."

Students will be able to choose a career in the construction industry, thanks to the class.

"Not all of these students will have an opportunity to go to college," Stegall said. "I've been able to place students in construction, cabinet or furniture [fields] because of the skills they've learned in this class."