Austintown Fitch Wood Shop Builds New Arbors for 9/11 Memorial

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio — Board members of the Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial Park were at a loss when they saw that the arbors at the local memorial had become severely run down, said Sam Swoger III, chairman.

Arbors are archway-like structures with latticework for vines and branches. The two at the park located at 1055 S. Raccoon Road were in serious need of repairs, Swoger said. Planning for the memorial began shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and features a pentagon shaped gazebo and several other artifacts, including remnants of beams from the World Trade Center. 

With the hope of getting students involved, Swoger said he brought the arbors to the Fitch High School to see if any students were interested in doing the repairs.

Swoger was referred to James Fisher, an Army veteran and the school’s wood shop and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) instructor. After taking a look at the arbors, Fisher knew they were beyond repair, he said.

Students from the Austintown Fitch skill trades class built two arbors for the Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial Park.

In lieu of repairing the existing arbors, Fisher offered to have his pre-apprenticeship wood shop class build two new arbors for the memorial. The 9/11 Memorial board agreed to pay for all the building materials.

“Austintown Fitch is a great school system,” Swoger said. “They’re involved with everything in the community and I really mean that. The band [and] the concert choir does stuff for us at the memorial. They do stuff for Memorial Day. The [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] program is going to be helping out at the memorial…they’re great kids.”

Students who worked on the project were Ian Teeters, Konnor Hood, Josiah Parks, Joshua Fitzgerald, Gunner Maleszewski, Nathan Dykes, Vincent Pether, Trent Pregi and Brayden Medley.

Fisher has 38 students in the skill trades class and teaches a total of 127 this semester. Next semester that number will increase to 225 students, he said.

“It’s real world skills that you’re going to use,” said Fisher. “That’s what this is all about. Getting tools in their hands and then getting them to work.”

Through the project, Fisher was able to teach students more than just the skills to build the arbors. He’s has gotten a lot of positive feedback from students in the memorial project, and they are in the process of taking on more projects for the Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial, he said.

“They love it.” Fisher said. “It’s taking care of other people, doing things without any expectation of payment.”

Ian Teeters, a junior at Fitch, said he knew he wanted to work in the trades since he was in third grade. This year, when Teeter found that a pre-apprenticeship program was available on his schedule, he did not hesitate to sign up.

“I always wanted to be in the trades,” Teeters said. “I always wanted to be an operation engineer specifically. And this class opened up not long ago and I thought it would be the prefect opportunity to really advance my career.”

The two-year pre-apprenticeship program is offered through a partnership with the Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio. Upon completion of the program, graduating seniors earn up to 24 industry-recognized credential points through the Regional Council of Carpenters’ Career Connections curriculum.

Classes are assigned both individual and group projects, and focus on STEM-based skills that will prepare them for an apprenticeship program after they complete high school. Teeter said his class is one of two within the school, each made up of around 20 to 25 students. 

Teeters said not everyone in the classes are dedicated to pursuing trade careers after they graduate, but the life-skills they learn in the class are “valuable” nonetheless. 

“We are just trying to do little stuff to make this school a better place and do some community events, as well,” he said. “[The arbors were] pretty broken down and we just wanted to revamp it and make it better.”

Pictured at top: On hand for the unveiling of the Mahoning Valley 9/11 Memorial Park arbors were Austintown Fitch students Ian Teeters, Gunner Maleszewski, Konnor Hood, STEM instructor James Fisher, and students Josiah Parks, Brayden Medley and Joshua Fitzgerald.

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