April 18, 2009 in City, News

Students turn skills into pens for soliders

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Quintyn Boomer (right), Chandra Bensel (center) and Robert Houghton, all seniors at Shadle Park High School, work on mini lathes at Woodcraft in Spokane Valley today. Students were producing wood pens to send to U.S. Army soldiers in Marez, Iraq. All three of these students are planning to join the Marines after graduation.
(Full-size photo)

Shadle Park High School senior Quintyn Boomer spends five hours an evening on a computer.

But he’s not a complete geek. On Saturday, Boomer and 11 other Shadle Park woodworking students made 35 handcrafted pens to send to U.S. troops in Iraq.

Like many teens, he loves his online video games. But Boomer, 18, also is a solid woodworking student.

“I just like doing something that lets you make something. That’s fun for me,” said Boomer, who will join the U.S. Marines after graduation.

Those pens will go overseas with about 150 wooden toy tops, all made by the students as a service project encouraged by woodworking teacher Ray Harding.

Harding regularly offers his students options for community service and leadership projects. He said the pen project is the first he’s done for U.S. troops. His students in recent years have made benches from discarded snowboards and given them for auctions hosted by nonprofit groups, said Harding.

Saturday’s project was inspired by recent contacts between Harding’s daughter, a Washington State University freshman, and an Army mortar platoon based near Mosul. His daughter, Paige Harding, knows a Spokane-area soldier with that platoon. In recent months her sorority, Alpha Phi, sent books, gift packages and letters to the troops.

“We found out they like to give toys to the children over there, to help them feel better,” Paige said. The idea of the pens evolved as she learned the soldiers enjoy writing and receiving physical letters.

“They all use e-mail,” said Paige. “But they also really enjoy getting actual letters. The letters give them something they can keep and take with them.”

Ray Harding turned to his friends, Nick and Rosemary Charles, the owners of Woodcraft Supply in the Spokane Valley. The couple gave the students the use of their store, their lathes and a choice of maple, black walnut or oak wood. Using lathes and hand tools, some students were able to make pens as quickly as 15 minutes. Some took longer.

The Woodcraft owners also donated the metal pen components that were used to complete the pens. Joe Wing, a Woodcraft worker and a proud owner of a pen made of expensive ebony, said the Shadle Park pens were worth enough to sell starting at $30 each. “They’re good, they have a lot of character,” Wing said.

Another Shadle Park woodworking student, Chandra Bensel, worked on few pens while wearing a T-shirt with the word “Marines” on the back. Bensel, 18, also will join the Marines after graduation this spring, reporting to Parris Island in late June.

“I enjoy working with my hands. I get satisfaction from just being able to know how to make things,” said Bensel.

Harding gets a good feeling watching students of all types learn how to work with wood. “A lot of kids go to college and then get out, and they’re not able to get that job in some professional field. We’re seeing more kids realizing that being able to work with your hands, to work with tools and know what you’re doing will help you get a good job.”

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