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Program shows students career opportunity

David Hartman knows wood. As a matter of fact it was ingrained in him at a very young age.

Hartman, who graduated from Greenville High School in 1978, now teaches others what he's learned about working with wood the past 30 years.

"I started in carpentry and construction when I was 14," said Hartman, who also coaches football and golf for the Tigers. "When I graduated high school I immediately went in to carpentry."

After some years in the carpentry field, Hartman got a phone call from former GHS principal Jimmy Lawrence who offered him the job of carpentry instructor at his alma matter.

The program now, compared to what it was then, is much different, Hartman says.

"Back then it was a dumping ground," Hartman said, referring to students being placed in the program who could not function anyplace else in the system. "The equipment was old and outdated too."

Things have changed now for the program, which is indicative of their new surroundings at GHS and the students who now excel in the program.

"Our career tech director, John Autrey, has helped pump a lot of money into the program," Hartman said. "But we also lost some shop space when we moved from the old school, so it's got its pros and cons."

Through the years, many of Hartman's students go on to receive scholarships from schools such as Trenholm State Technical College in Montgomery.

"One student that really stands out is Taveta Thompson," Hartman said. "She was a three-year student and is graduating this fall in carpentry and cabinet making."

Several of Hartman's students this year have also received scholarships to attend Trenholm, including Mason Rich and Jarret Smith. Both received $500 scholarships from the Home Builders Association to go along with their $6,800 scholarships to attend Trenholm.

"I saw (carpentry) on the schedule when I was in ninth grade and decided to give it a try," said Rich, his face covered in sawdust from cutting wood in the shop. "Hopefully one day I'll be able to have my own shop."

Like Hartman, Smith grew up around sawdust and "toted lumber" as a youngster for family members who were in the construction business.

"This class gives you a good way to continue your education after high school," said Smith, who will be working this summer for a construction crew out of Luverne using the skills Hartman taught him. "I really didn't know a lot about furniture and cabinet making when I started, but Mr. Hartman brought me a long way."

The carpentry program was also recently recognized for the second time with a Business and Industry Certification.

"The state department of education and the Association of General Contractors came in and reviewed my program and made sure I'm teaching the state curriculum," Hartman said. "The AGC makes sure I'm teaching employability skills for the construction industry. Safety is also a big issue so they make sure we're operating safely."

Hartman said the biggest kick he gets out of what he does is seeing his students make something with their hands, using their minds to do it.

"The most satisfying thing to me is seeing what they can accomplish," he said. "It's a good class to build self-confidence."