SVEA — For 21 years, students from the Youthbuild program have helped bring an old country school back to life.
Youthbuild, a program of Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, helps introduce unemployed young people to a variety of careers in the building trades industry. The program is active at the Area Learning Center, a Willmar Public Schools alternative high school.
In addition to spending time at area businesses, the youth in the program do volunteer work.
A number of nonprofit organizations in the area have benefited from their work. They’ve done repair work and some light construction work for the organizations. Among their projects have been raised planting beds and activity tables.
At DEMO Inc., in the former Svea School, young people have helped
At DEMO Inc., in the former Svea School, young people have helped complete projects to preserve the 1907 building’s history and develop it into a place to teach and develop young artists.
DEMO stands for Developing, Exploring, Maintaining Originality through the Arts. It was founded by artists and recently retired art teachers Monica Villars and Pauline Donahue, both of Willmar.
Donahue and Villars have put countless hours of their own effort into rehabbing the building, which was in poor condition when they purchased it.
They have hired building trades professionals where needed to improve wiring, plumbing, electrical and other systems in the building.
And volunteers from Youthbuild and other organizations have helped get lots of work done. They have included students from the ALC service learning class and volunteers from a Svea church and group homes in Willmar.
“We’ve had so many years of the kids working; it’s made a huge difference,”
Villars said in May, as she pulled weeds alongside some Youthbuild students. Villars taught at the ALC for many years
Delina Woltjer, a youth employment specialist for Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Services, said she works with the students three times a week. Near the end of the school year, she told them they could choose between visiting businesses or volunteering, they chose to do more volunteer work.
Woltjer pulled weeds that day with Villars and several students. One of them, Natalia Deleon, 17, a sophomore at the ALC, said she has enjoyed her Youthbuild experience. She liked learning about welding, she said, and she enjoys coming to DEMO.
At DEMO, Youthbuild has done a little of everything.
Over time the students have plotted and planted a garden. A small grove overgrown with weeds and brush is now a green lawn dotted with trees.
“So many hours went into clearing brush,”
Youthbuild students have helped refinish woodwork and paint walls inside the building. A group of students helped insulate and weatherproof the building’s rock basement and foundation. They’ve helped insulate the attic, too.
Outdoors, Youthbuild teens built a wooden platform for a picnic table nestled in a shady spot near the building. Villars said it kept the picnic table from sinking into the soft ground. In May, Kaystone Bautista, 16, a junior, used a power sander to smooth away the picnic table’s weathered surface so it could be refinished.
Some of the work is more physical, some with an artistic bent. Mona Sepulveda, a senior, recently painted the raised designs on an old door. Donahue provided the color scheme, and Sepulveda carried out her plan.
Over the years, young people who’ve volunteered at DEMO sometimes return to visit.
“I love to see kids in the arts,”
“I’m proud of all the babies and the places they’ve gone.”
Donahue taught in BOLD schools. Story published in West Central Tribune, written By Linda Vanderwerf on Jun 8, 2018