SUNRISE – The old YMCA in Sunrise is the oldest YMCA in Wyoming and when the town of Sunrise became a ghost town in 1984, all the buildings, including the YMCA built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1917 became dilapidated and in need of major upgrades and repair.
In the past few years, Guernsey-Sunrise industrial arts teacher had a vision to bring students together to teach them basics of life, character of community and pride of ownership through laboring to remodel and build with their own two hands.
Chosen this last year as SkillsUSA regional adviser of the year, Reichert seems to be tireless in his quest to take on projects that his students can feel proud of. He has also instituted Skills Trades camp where kids from all over the United States can come and be a part history in the building that they restore.
The second annual Skilled Trades Camps concluded in Sunrise this past week with 4 camps taking place from July 10-Aug. 12. The mission of the camps is to provide students from across the nation the ability to improve their work skills in a variety of skilled trades while renovating the oldest YMCA in the state of Wyoming.
The Sunrise Historic and Prehistoric Preservation Society (SHAPPS) received the YMCA through a generous donation from John Voight, the owner of the town of Sunrise, and the camps were started last summer through funding from Harbor Freight Tools for Schools and the Wyoming department of education. After a successful two camps last summer, the camps expanded this summer to two boys camps and two girls camps with a total of 20 students from 3 different states attending.
Eleven of the students this summer came from 2 different schools in Pennsylvania, with 10 of those students coming from Dauphin County Technical School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Their teacher, Robert Brightbill, was a Harbor Freight Tools for Schools prize winner in 2019 along with Troy Reichert who runs the Skilled Trades Camps. Brightbill drove 4 of his female students out for the July 31-Aug. 6 camp along with a female chaperone and they enjoyed the work experience almost as much as the scenery and wildlife.
The July 10-16 girls camp saw only 3 girls, with 2 coming from Guernsey and 1 from Illinois. Those girls began repairing old windows in the upper level of the YMCA, and learned how to cut glass, glaze window panes, strip and sand paint, put up scaffolding and take apart 100-year-old window frames that had 13-pound counterweights in hidden slots on the sides of the windows.
The July 17-23 boys camp had 9 boys attending from 1 school in Pennsylvania, 1 school in Wyoming, and 2 home-schooled students from 2 different towns in Wyoming. The boys continued work on the windows, but also stripped and scraped paint from the front entrance of the YMCA.
Landscaping projects also took place, with overgrowth around the YMCA and brick houses being removed during the week. Dan Benford with the Associated General Contractors of Wyoming was also able to come speak during the boys camp and share with the boys how desperate companies across the nation are for skilled trade workers.
After a 6-day break, the second girls camp kicked off with five girls from two different schools in Pennsylvania, and one home-schooled girl from Hartville. The girls continued where the other camps had left off, but they also took down the exterior doors from the upper level and rebuilt them before stripping them and preparing them for stain.
The final boys camp welcomed two home-schooled boys from Torrington and Casper, with one girl from Guernsey coming out during the days to finish installing the windows that she helped work on during the first camp.
Every camp included skilled trades competitions in the afternoon for students to showcase their skills in sawing, drilling, construction knowledge and more. Winners from each camp received a Skilled Trades Camp Champion brass belt buckle. Camps also included evening activities for the campers.
John Voight gave the campers a tour of Sunrise on Monday nights, George Zeimens showed the kids the archaeology dig sites and artifacts on Tuesday nights, campers floated the Platte River on Wednesday nights, and the kids were treated to quality Wyoming food on Thursday nights at either Miners and Stockman’s Restaurant in Hartville, or the Stampede Saloon and Eatery in Chugwater.
The University of Wyoming invited the two larger camps to visit their campus Friday afternoons for a tour and catered meal, including spending the night in their dorms and then treating them to a college breakfast before the kids left to head home on Saturday.
Every student this year was also given the opportunity to take an online Industry Recognized Credential (IRC) to help give them an advantage in gaining employment in summer jobs or work after high school.
Thanks to generous donations and grants, the campers have only had to pay travel expenses to get to Denver or Sunrise, with everything else paid for by the Skilled Trades Camp. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools and the Daniels Fund were the major donors this year, with over $100,000 going toward gas, food, materials, tools/equipment, a new van, UTV and 4-wheeler to name a few of the expenses that go toward making the camps possible.