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McKeesport Area club eager for projects

Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Dennis Harper Jr., Tony McKelvey, Dale Wardropper and Daniel Kloshen inspect the shed roof they replaced at the McKeesport Kiwanias Community Garden. They are members of a McKeesport High School construction club.

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By Tim Karan
Monday, Sept. 23, 2013, 4:36 a.m.

It all began with one simple gesture.

Just before the end of last school year, McKeesport Area High School students enrolled in the McKeesport Area Technology Center's building and construction program learned of a wheelchair-bound classmate who was struggling to get from his home to the bus each day.

“He couldn't get up the hill when it was wet out and things like that,” said junior Dennis Harper Jr., 16. “So some of us went to his house and laid some stones and fixed the cement up for him.”

Teacher Mike Locke said that's when he and the students decided to do more.

“I was thinking it would be nice to do more projects like that throughout the community where we could work for two or three hours after school and give people a hand,” Locke said. “They would supply the materials for us, the students could get some valuable hands-on experience, and all of us get to give back to the community a little bit.”

Locke and the students decided to form the RAK Club, which stands for Random Acts of Kindness, an after-school program for the 30-40 students in the building and construction program.

The club's second project was to repair the roof on the supply shed in the Kiwanis Community garden along Walnut Street.

“The shed was donated and there was no money to have it fixed,” Locke said. “When we got here, the whole roof was destroyed. One side had completely caved in and the other was about to.”

Locke said he and about six or seven students stripped the shed down and put up new plywood and shingles all in one night.

“Now it's good to go,” he said.

Senior Daniel Kloshen, 18, said the club provides him with an outlet for his interest in carpentry.

“I love working with my hands and I love being blue collar,” Kloshen said. “(This club) helps me learn the skills I need to pick up. That way, when I'm older, I won't have to pay someone to do repairs around the house and I canhopefully make a living out of it myself.”

It's a sentiment shared by senior Dale Wardropper, 17.

“I like knowing I can do these types of things if I ever need to,” Wardropper said. “I'd like to start my own business, flip houses and help out the community one way or another.”

In fact, to the students in the club, the only thing more important to them than learning the skills is doing their civic duty.

“It's making the community look better,” Kloshen said. “We want to rebuild McKeesport from the bottom up.”

Those with a project they'd like to suggest to the club should contact McKeesport Area School District public relations and communications specialist Kristen Giran at 412-664-3645.

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or

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