Dawson Construction is doing more than build a school at Sehome High. They are going the extra mile by involving Sehome students and staff.
Landon North, a senior at Sehome, spent his afternoons watching the ongoing construction at Sehome last year. He was there so often that Assistant Principal Mike Couto surprised him one day with a chair and a soda so he could sit comfortably as he watched the construction progress. Seeing Landon’s interest, Principal Michelle Kuss-Cybula worked with Jack Cunningham, one of the Dawson site foremans and Landon’s mother to arrange a surprise visit to the Sehome site. After meeting Landon, Cunningham said they may have some work for him to do. Working through Work Source, Dawson was able to hire Landon to work on site up to four hours per day during the week.
Landon has been interested in construction his whole life and said his dream is to be an operator. He wants to operate excavators or forklifts.
“I feel like you can’t grow a passion. You’re born with it,” said Landon. He said he hopes to continue working with Dawson as long as possible.
In addition to Landon’s involvement at the site, every two weeks students from the journalism/yearbook class come down to the site to take pictures and interview crew members. From that class came Yolanda Bazante, a junior at Sehome.
Principal Kuss-Cybula said Yolanda showed a special interest in construction, so she reached out to Cunningham about getting Yolanda more involved. They were able to find an opening for her in the Dawson office where she will help after school with communications projects such as their newsletter and website.
“I really enjoyed meeting everyone,” said Yolanda. “I’m really excited to start working there!”
Executive Director of Capital Projects and School Facilities Ron Cowan said that often you hear there are challenges associated with building a school on an occupied site, but there can also be many learning opportunities.
Ken Kuiken, Dawson superintendent, said he wants to educate students on the many career opportunities that construction provides. Students who are interested in vocational careers can meet with crew on site, whether they specialize in plumbing, electrical or other areas, to learn more about their trade. Kuiken also said as a team that Dawson adopted The Bellingham Promise. The mission of The Bellingham Promise states: All students will be exceptional in their own way, with strong character, a passion for learning, and ready for the widest range of educational and vocational options to support a diversity of life choices.
“Part of adopting The Promise was to bring students and staff into the process,” said Kuiken. “The knowledge level is higher here than it might be for other jobs because we are reaching out to students to get them involved and enhance their education by sharing what is happening right next door.”
Principal Kuss-Cybula echoed Kuiken and said one of the best things about working with Dawson is their ability to take time out of their busy schedule to give back to the school and community.
“Not only do they want to give back, but they want to build a school that everyone is proud to be a part of,” said Principal Kuss-Cybula. “They include students along the way, so they aren’t just standing behind the fence watching, they are involved in some aspect of the school build and I think that could be called the Dawson promise.”
The Sehome project has special meaning for many of the Dawson crew. Cunningham and his son were both Sehome graduates and so was Cory Ayers, the project engineer.
“After studying architecture and seeing the design for the new school it is really, really exciting,” Ayers said.
Ayers who is passionate about interior design, architecture and construction is working with career and technical education teacher Jenny Styer on an architecture class that will be offered next semester. Ayers also plans to coordinate with Dykeman, which is the project architect.
As the Sehome High School rebuild continues, there may be more opportunities for students to be involved and to learn more about possible careers in the construction field.
“I’ve often described Dawson as a company exhibiting competence and character,” said Cowan. “This is yet another example of their character by partnering with us to deliver on The Bellingham Promise.”