July 25, 2015

Nearly two dozen teenagers from Durham, N.C. had a chance to gain not only construction skills, but also some life and social skills during a DPR-sponsored camp June 25.

DPR’s summer construction camp held at the Raleigh offices drew 20 13- to 18-year-olds from the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Durham. The day was day full of tangible lessons on team dynamics and the importance of planning and communication, in addition to instruction on how to correctly swing a hammer and construct a project from start to finish.

Photo courtesy Mindy Gray

De’Lisa Stringer spearheaded the camp that highlighted DPR’s corporate mission and approach while giving the students exposure to the construction industry. “DPR not only aims to build great buildings but we aim to build great people, relationships and develop attributes that are skill-based,” Stringer commented.

“The students are at a pivotal age where their everyday observation skills can help determine the decisions that they make,” Stringer added. “They understand right and wrong; now let’s teach them how to make better decisions, critical ones.”

To further that goal, the day kicked off with an ice breaker activity that promoted observation and discussion of the people and things around them. That activity bridged into a focus on team dynamics. The teens spent the morning working on a logistics plan paired up randomly with another teen participant that they might not normally sit or talk with, with each pair devising a plan for how they would build their project. They then presented their plans to the group – the first time that some of them had been asked to make a formal presentation.

“At the end of the day we asked them what they learned, and the responses went all the way from having good team morale and communication to having effective presentation skills,” Stringer commented. “One group was having some conflicting ideas. The student told me ‘we had to step back and reevaluate and came to the conclusion it wasn’t about using my idea or her idea, we just needed to use the best idea for the project.’ That was exactly the whole intent of the activity, so that was awesome.”

In the afternoon, teams of five students each built four picnic tables, which were all donated back to the Boys & Girls Club campus. A high volunteer to student ratio meant that every student had a chance for hands-on involvement and learning, and no one was left on the sidelines.

Photo courtesy Mindy Gray

“The volunteers showed the students how to use a drill, take out a broken screw, the proper way to wear gloves when dealing with raw wood, etc.” Stringer said. “They were excited to not only be using tools but also really learned how to comprehend and follow written instructions.”

Throughout the day, DPR volunteers including Stringer maintained an open dialogue with the kids to see what they had learned following each activity. “I think what was most impactful for me was listening to their responses and seeing their development and growth,” she concluded. “Twenty students left with social, life and hands-on skills that they can start applying to their life right now to help them get to where they need to be, while also piquing their interest in construction.”

Photo courtesy Mindy Gray