Building Relationships: Students Use Construction Skills to Serve

When Charles Acton fell on his front porch a year ago, it was clear he and his wife needed help.  

Their neighbor, a retired Duncanville ISD employee, called high school construction teacher Tamara Gurnell to ask if her students could help. The construction students regularly take on community service projects. When they learned about the Actons’ need for a safety railing, they bumped that project to the top of their list.

“It doesn’t surprise us that they would be doing things like this, but it’s great to see it,” said Mr. Acton. “It’s great to benefit from it. It’s going to be great for us but will also help people who come to see us.”

Gurnell and her construction students spent two mornings working outside the Acton’s home digging post holes and assembling the railing.

“We just wanted to help the community and get some hands-on experience,” said Giovanni Servin.  “It’s great being able to learn in a safe environment while doing something in the real world.”

Charles and Mona Acton have a long relationship with the school district, beginning with Charles’ father who was superintendent of schools from 1945-1951. Acton Elementary is named after the late Charles C. Acton. Both Charles and Mona are graduates of Duncanville High School, and they made their home in the community.

“The people over the years have not changed,” Mr. Acton said. “The teachers who lead these young people are really exceptional, and we’re proud of them.”

Giovanni, who is a senior, says he plans to pursue the construction trades when he graduates in the spring. He says his teachers have prepared him well.

“Mr. Johnson and Ms. G have taught me a lot in the four years I’ve been here,” Giovanni said. “They’re always going out of their way to teach us to try different things in the construction field.”

And while the students are learning those important skills, they are being taught to give back to the community. That’s something the Actons appreciate.

“It’s really a great gift. We are very thankful,” Mr. Acton said.