Skip to main content

Intermediate South student laughs during program
The joy of construction: An Intermediate South student laughs while practicing his nailing technique as a High School South mentor holds down blocks of wood. 

Nov. 14, 2022-- September ushered in Year 2 of the district's Bridge to the Future (B2F) program, an implementation of the NJDOE-funded Middle Grades Career Awareness and Exploration three-year grant. The mission of this initiative is all in the name: expose middle schoolers to potential careers, spark their interest, and set them on the path toward success.

So, the district figured, if the plan is to introduce intermediate students to CTE, what better way to do that than through the most popular CTE program we have to offer? And that's why Project SPEAR-IT teacher Tim O'Leary (right) and his High School South students visited Intermediate South before fall break to talk-- and, of course, DO-- construction.

Many of the participating students had never before swung a hammer, and radiated enthusiasm as they quickly learned this new skill. One student in particular was excited to develop skills to bring to his father’s construction business, and to help others still learning. The high school mentors bravely led the middle schoolers through the learning experience and gently guided them to improve their swing. The ultimate goal set by O’Leary: drive the nail into the wood with the minimum number of swings.

In addition to pounding nails, students donned safety gear, worked side by side to pull apart beams, and learned what it would be like to be a student in the SPEAR-IT program, which was recently re-approved for three years of continued funding from the United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and which has plans to expand to High School North next year. This experience technically combined three district grants, as the site of this exercise was the TR Take Apart Lab, an OceanFirst Foundation Model Classroom grant earned by teacher Abigail Stolowski in 2018.

Project SPEAR-IT is a pre-apprenticeship program connecting students to mentors in trade fields such as technology, manufacturing and construction. Students are provided with authentic learning experiences both on and off site to determine their affinity for and skills needed for success in those careers. Technical training includes the ability to interpret engineering drawings, design for fabrication, basic electrical and HVAC, roofing, and safe practices to work with machinery and peers in a shop environment.

Students are also provided with training in transferable soft skills such as effective communication, timeliness, commitment, hygiene, and professional demeanor. Students participating in this program will be identified as eligible in eighth grade, and enter the program through an application process. From there, they participate in SkillsUSA clubs and competitions, earn the industry-recognized NOCTI Job Ready Carpentry credential through completion of a written and practical exam, and forge a seamless pathway, if interested, to spend their junior year at Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools Construction Trades Program.

If you are or know of a student who might be interested in taking part in Project SPEAR-IT, contact your school's guidance counselor. If the excitement portrayed in the photos here and below are any indication, courses will fill up fast! 

Tim O'Leary exhibits nailing technique
Intermediate South student with Project Spear It
middle schoolers hammering away
middle schoolers hammering away 2