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Helping the budget one stool at a time

On a recent Friday afternoon, when most high-schoolers were busy making weekend plans, 17-year-old Darius Cheung was welding his fourth metal stool.

The stool he was working on March 6 was not only the fourth stool he had welded in his life, but also the fourth stool he rehabilitated in an effort to help save the South Colonie Central School District money.

According to Barry Witte, engineering technology teacher at Colonie Central High School, for at least the past 13 years, as long as Witte has been teaching at the school, the technology department has offered students the opportunity to learn about welding while completing small fix-it jobs on furniture used throughout the school's classrooms. The furniture includes metal stools, chairs and chair-desks.

Witte said after looking through a catalog at the costs of the things the students fix in the district, he found that the stools typically run between $70 and $80; the chairs cost roughly $100; and the chair-desk combo can cost up to $500.

A couple dozen break in a year, so that adds up to several thousand dollars, said Witte.

Instead of simply replacing the furniture, the technology teacher sees the broken equipment as an opportunity to create a learning experience for students.

Witte said the night custodians check the furniture in the classrooms every night when they are cleaning the rooms. The chairs and stools that wobble or teeter, or maybe are just completely broken, are brought to the technology room for Witte to see.

Witte then asks students if they would like to volunteer to stay after school and complete the welding projects to restore the furniture.

This year, so far, Cheung was Witte's only volunteer.

When asked why he thinks his classmates did not want to volunteer to weld after school, Cheung said they were probably just too lazy to come in. Cheung, a junior, said that he decided to come in because, "I wanted to learn how to weld," he said.

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