July/August 2013 Issue
June 20, 2013

BOCES educator helps students give back

Author: Maggie Fitzgibbon
Source: NYSUT United
boces teacher and students

The effort began in 2010 when Olie Olson, a metal trades instructor and member of the Genesee Valley BOCES Teachers Association, embarked upon a collaborative endeavor with his students and college students from SUNY Geneseo. The goal? Create sculptures to benefit a local charity.

And so the Angel Project came to be.

peacock artSeveral years later, Olson's students at the Charles G. May Center, a career and technical education center in Mt. Morris, Livingston County, are still creating and donating works of metal art - raising more than $100,000 for local charities and learning trade skills along the way.

"In his classroom and shop, students learn not just how to weld but they learn many life lessons, like the importance of acting with integrity," said Julie Donlon, assistant superintendent for instruction. "He engages his students and sets clear expectations as he ignites a passion for learning."

Olson, teaching assistant Sheila Piper - a Genesee Valley SRP member - and SUNY Geneseo Art Professor Dan DeZarn helped the Angel Project students transform sheets of stainless steel into one-of-a-kind works of art.

Metal trades students learned art and design techniques while SUNY Geneseo students gained practical experience using welding tools.

In that first year, 30 angels were crafted and auctioned to benefit Teresa House, a non-profit hospice in Livingston County. The auction raised almost $20,000.

In 2011, Olson wanted to expand the project and approached representatives from the Red Cross in Dansville. The Red Cross agreed, and Steel Blossoms was born.

Dansville art teacher Greg McMaster, a member of the Dansville TA, and his students worked alongside metal trades students to create and design garden sculptures.

The sculptures were displayed in the Village of Dansville during the annual spring Dogwood Festival. In June 2012, the gallery of 45 garden sculptures collectively raised more than $39,000 to benefit the Red Cross.

This year, 47 students from 11 school districts worked for 15 weeks to create more than 40 sculptures to benefit Vincent House in Wayland, a comfort care home for the terminally ill. The Vincent House logo contains a dove, the inspiration for this year's project theme - Wings of Steel. The auction raised almost $44,000.

Every bird sculpture was a student's idea, and they discussed with Olson how the piece would come together. Slowly and carefully, the sculptures started to come alive. Olson demonstrated techniques as students watched and then practiced themselves. Using recycled materials donated by community members, teachers, staff and students, farms and businesses, the students cut, grinded, welded and brushed metal into peacocks and woodpeckers.

"The art project teaches the metal trades students not only how to weld and create a piece of artwork, but to also understand the value of community service," said Olson. "The students take pride in being a part of a project that enriches the world they live in."

- Maggie Fitzgibbon, Genesee Valley Educational Partnership

Career and Technical Education

BOCES Career and Technical Education courses reflect real-world, real-time, applied learning in a wide number of areas.

Whether students build a garage or shed, cook up culinary delights, or solve crimes through a criminal justice program, they learn what is required to plan and prepare for a job and see it through to completion.

Budget cuts in recent years have impacted the number of districts taking advantage of BOCES programs.