Summer Program Provides Carpentry Training for SW Youth

Young people – mostly from SW schools – display the checkerboard topped utility tables they constructed at the “Hammers with Hearts” carpentry training week at Williamson College of the Trades in Media.  The program was sponsored by The Common Place and Wayne Presbyterian Church.   
Back row right are Mike Rounds, President of Williamson, and Mike Neville, Director of Carpentry
(photo courtesy of Carl A. Vairo, Director of Public Relations, Williamson College of the Trades)

The banners above them read “Faith, Integrity, Diligence, Excellence, and Service.”   That was how Williamson College of the Trades (WCT) greeted 19 teenage youngsters, mostly from Southwest, each of whom spent a week in June learning woodworking skills – and a lot more – in the 2nd annual “Hammers with  Hearts” program.

The young inner-city men and women were bussed daily to the sprawling, sun-dappled Williamson campus in Media, PA, from The Common Place center at 58th Street and Chester Avenue.   There, a group of experienced and thoughtful trade instructors introduced them to basic shop disciplines, blueprint reading, and the use of hand and machine tools.

The trade training took place amid the broad work tables in the spacious Carpentry building up the long Williamson driveway from Middletown Road.   Each student cut the wooden parts from raw lumber, planed and sanded them to a smooth finish, and assembled, stained and polished an elegant, checkerboard topped utility table at the end of their week of work.   

While several of the young people indicated they might now consider taking up a trade like carpentry, all said the exposure to how you carefully plan to make something and then carry out the plan was helpful for school or work. 

The schools from which the young artisans were recruited included Boys Latin and Cornerstone Christian Academy.   One lad from Harlem Academy in New York City was signed up by his father who saw the program offered on the internet. “These were all kids who had a positive outlook on life, and the program reinforced that,” reflected Mike Neville, Director of Carpentry.   “It helped them to build confidence that they could take on a complex project and successfully carry it to completion. That, in turn, builds self-esteem and empowers them for their education and for life.”     

Mike Rounds, President of Williamson, noted that the 3-year trade education provided by the school gave them outstanding vocational opportunities.  He observed that more than 170 businesses had paid for the chance to attend recruiting day for the 74 members of this year’s graduating class. More information on Williamson can be found at

The Hammers with Hearts trade training program is a partnership between The Common Place and Wayne Presbyterian Church whose CityLights Network has been the suburban partner for many Southwest organizations for the past 25 years.   The Common Place sponsors afternoon and Saturday morning enrichment programs for school-age children and can be reached at 267-275-8238

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