03/23/16 Starting Them Early
SOUTH TEXAS – Cally Coleman Fromme, vice president of business development at Zarsky Lumber in Victoria, says she is constantly thinking of ways to get young people interested in the construction industry – and specifically the lumber and building materials industry.
As a past chair of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, Fromme wanted to brainstorm ideas that would help the industry as a whole, but particularly in a local way. After having a conversation with some of her counterparts on a national level, Fromme formed ideas for ways to engage local youth turned to education.
As a result, Zarsky Lumber partnered with Moses Kim, manager for the South Texas division of Steve Klein Custom Builder and with Mike Pollok, general manager of Weyerhaeuser’s Houston facility, to invest in the LBM industry’s future by creating an introductory educational program for elementary students. Kim is a business customer at Zarsky.
“I thought they would be a good fit because they had just built a new subdivision next to an elementary school and they’ve been providing support for the elementary school since then,” Fromme said. “Weyerhaeuser already had the curriculum. They provided the pine tree saplings for all the students and the teachers.
“Educational goals include providing information about our industry as a career path, removing negative stigmas about forestry and the environment, giving examples of everyday products that come from trees, and simply being a good neighbor,” Fromme says.
The initiative, called What Can a Tree Be?, took place at Ella Schorlemmer Elementary in Victoria on the students’ last day of school in 2015. Children were given the opportunity to see what products are made from trees and learn about sustainability. Staff from the three participating firms spoke about their jobs and answered questions at two assemblies—one for pre-K to second graders and another for third to fifth graders.
“The students had plenty of items to see, touch, and feel,” Fromme says. “All of these household items were very familiar to them, but they had no idea of their origin. Weyerhaeuser representatives provided good information about forest sustainability both verbally and in the handouts that the teachers reviewed with the students prior to our visit. The kids were able to understand that it would not make sense for an industry that is totally dependent upon the future of the forests to behave in any manner other than one of responsibility, cultivation, and care.”
Fromme said she hopes to continue growing this – and other – programs in the future.
“The builder and I would love to do a program with the students, 5th graders, where we walk them over to the neighborhood, show them a slab, bring them back in a few weeks to see the home framed and keep bringing them back through all the stages of construction just to let them see how a house is built and the various careers every step of the way,” she says. “I’m not through trying to reach these kids.”
Zarsky Lumber Company, Inc. serves South Texas and the Gulf Coast region with ten locations offering lumber, doors, hardware and more. –cw