Dakota Hurley, Madison Harrington and Bree Gazaille are part of the SkillsUSA officers team charged with organizing community service projects.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — SkillsUSA officers at McCann Technical School have spearheaded a variety of fundraising and community service projects this school year.
Madison Harrington, Bree Gazaille and Dakota Hurley have been busy this year as part of a 14-member SkillsUSA Officers squad finding ways to give back to the community.
"We kind of just look around the community for people that might need help even if they aren’t asking for it," Harrington, who is a junior, said. "Not everybody can have the same things as you and it kind of makes you feel good knowing you are helping someone out."
Adviser Cynthia Bishop Tinney said this is not a requirement of SkillsUSA, or even McCann, but just something students do.
This year, the school's SkillsUSA chapter focused its efforts on PopCares, a non-profit organization helping local cancer patients.
The students helped PopCares during its Christmas trees sale this holiday season and handed out hot cocoa and other treats. The officers even held their own fundraiser at the school. Students could pay $2 to wear sweat pants to class.
SkillsUSA adviser Lisa Collins said PopCares fundraising efforts will be ongoing throughout the year.
"We got in touch with them and they were thrilled to have our support we had signs made to help sell Christmas trees," she said. "Carpentry and CAD helped with that. This will be ongoing."
Gazaille, who is a sophomore, said SkillsUSA is also part of other civic endeavors such as bringing holiday cards to nursing homes.
She added that the Louison House is another target of theirs and they organized a schoolwide gift drive for the family support center.
"We collected gifts for the children at the house, and we had a tree in our main office," she said. "Everybody could pick a star that had a name of a child and ... we wrapped all of the gifts and bought them."
Harrington added that the school and larger community always heed the call.
"People may not seem like it all of the time, but they really do care about this community," she said. "They want to get involved."
Hurley, who is a junior, said the group also participated in the Buddy Walk to raise Down syndrome awareness and donated their time to the Meals on Wheels program.
She added that the community service is empowering.
"We see how much we can actually change things that need to be changed as students," she said. "We may not have a lot or be able to do certain things, but we can always give back somehow and make the change."
Harrington said SkillsUSA really jump-started her civic awareness and admitted that without SkillsUSA she may not have participated as she does now.
"I wouldn’t have felt as though I could do it or have the confidence to see if I can go in and make cards or ask if we can start a fundraising campaign," she said.
Hurley agreed and added that SkillsUSA has shown her how easy it really is to give back.
"It’s definitely a lot easier to get involved in community service then people think," she said. "You really just have to show up."
SkillsUSA is a national program for mentoring career, trades and technical students for the work force with chapters across the country.
Bishop Tinney said there is still a lot of school year left and the SkillsUSA members have been brainstorming new ideas. She said they plan to make Easter cards for the nursing home and are especially excited about walking dogs for Berkshire Humane Society.
"It’s great how happy and how eager it makes these guys doing these things," she said. "It is just wonderful. It is gratifying and ... they are pumped up to do it."