Grateful Platt Tech students give back
MILFORD >> A group of elite trade students at Platt Technical High School — who qualified to go to the recent SkillsUSA national competition in Kentucky, but didn’t have the money until donations from the community poured in after a news story — recently volunteered at Beth El Center’s soup kitchen as a way of paying it forward.
The students prepped, cooked, served and cleaned up after a meal for those in need.
“The reason we’re here today is because we received something and want to give back,” said Spencer Hopwood, who won first place in the SkillsUSA state competition in the electrons category, competing soon after losing his father.
William Bassett of Oxford, who along with his brother, Ben, won first place in robotics for the state, said, “There’s no way to put into words how thankful I am.”
Ben, who said he learned in Boy Scouts to “do a good turn daily,” said he never expected the community to give so generously.
Andre Trujillo, a senior from Bridgeport in the carpentry field who some day hopes to open a business and took first place at the state SkillsUSA, said the chance to go to Kentucky to compete is “a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Loriea Crudup, a junior from Milford who built a manufacturing part to win a first at the state, said she’s really thankful for the kindness sent students’ way.
“I think since people blessed us with money to go to the nationals, it was good to bless someone else,” she said of the volunteer time.
The students needed to raise about $10,000 to go to Kentucky with two advisers to the SkillsUSA national competition. They had about $1,200 with only a few weeks to go and wondered where the rest would come from.
After a story appeared in the Register, the donations poured in beyond their wildest dreams and totaled about $16,000, Skills U.S.A co-adviser Dave Feda said.
The donations ranged from $25 to the $5,000 from an anonymous donor.
There were many in the $100s and one manufacturing company that doesn’t even have a relationship with the school sent $1,000.
Any extra money will be put toward next year’s trip, Feda said.
“I was surprised by the response we got (from the story). It was much more than I ever expected,” Feda said.
Platt’s Skills U.S.A. co-adviser, automotive teacher Kirk Stankiewicz, said he couldn’t believe the community’s generosity, so he and Feda suggested the students going on the trip pay it forward in some way and they didn’t hesitate, he said.
Feda said the students going to nationals, who placed first in several categories at the state level, are the “movers and shakers” of the future and the national competition is a great opportunity for them to acquire important scholarships, career contacts and even jobs.
He said many donors sent notes with their check. A common theme was that they were delighted to see teenagers involved in something productive rather than getting in trouble.
Many of the students couldn’t have afforded the trip and were so grateful they wanted to take the opportunity to “keep the positive energy going,” Feda said.
They already had an “in” at Beth El, because Platt history teacher Dan Quinn has brought a group of various student volunteers with him twice a month when school was in session and once a month in summer to help for at least two years.
Quinn, who works part-time in a restaurant, said he’s served every role in that business, including cooking, so he knows how to whip a meal together out of whichever ingredients are given to him - and that’s how it works at the soup kitchen.
He’s made delectable meals such as ham with a maple/ginger glaze, sausage and peppers, homemade croutons and applesauce from scratch.
“I love it, love it,” Quinn said of his soup kitchen volunteerism. “It’s the best part of the day.” Quinn said he also “likes to model good behavior” for students.
Beth El Center’s executive director, Toni Dolan, said she is proud of the Platt partnership and grateful to Quinn.
“We rely very heavily on the support of volunteers in our soup kitchen, especially since we provide so many meals daily.
“We simply could not offer the high quality and increasing quantity of meals that we do without our volunteers,” Dolan said.
“It is so gratifying to know that these young people are so aware of the community needs and are giving of themselves so unselfishly.”
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