Building “Fatherless Boys into Faithful Dads”

GOSHEN – November 12, 2014 – “My son goes to The Crossing, and he’s been doing some of the construction …and he also says he works with DJ Construction building houses.

“I wanted to say thank you very much for offering this program. You have no idea how it has changed my son. He absolutely loves helping build houses. …. Since he’s started going to this [program] this quarter, he absolutely loves it. I just wanted to reach out to you and say thank you as a parent.”

These heartfelt words come from a mother whose son participates in the Building Trades program at The Crossing Educational Center, a faith-based, accredited, alternative high school in the state of Indiana. The Crossing Educational Center currently has 18 campuses state wide, and contracts with over 40 public school corporations.

The Crossing_DJ Building Trades

The Building Trades program started last spring when The Crossing, Habitat for Humanity, and DJ Construction combined efforts to help provide students with real-world work experience by building and renovating homes. After experiencing successful change in the students involved in the program, the Crossing continues this program for the 2014-15 year as part of its curriculum.

How It Started
After serving as a public school educator for 25 years and 20 years as an administrator with Concord Community Schools, Rob Staley started theCrossing Educational Center in December 2003 with the mission of empowering struggling students to become contributing members of their communities through academics, job training, and faith-based mentoring.

During the 2012-13 school year,The Crossing decided to expand the opportunities to train students for their future employment after graduation. As a result, the Job Training Program (JTP) was developed to train future leaders on how to prepare to be contributing members of society beyond just receiving a high school diploma.

DJ Construction’s CEO Bob Schrock served for nine years on The Crossing board of directors. From that position, Schrock said he heard “stories over and over again about kids who don’t have a father figure in their life until they come to The Crossing. Some of them might already be dads themselves. Each story is unique, but they all share that single commonality of not having a dad active in their lives.”

Schrock’s desire grew stronger and stronger “to turn fatherless boys into faithful dads. Rob and I put our heads together, and this program we hope provides part of the answer.”

How It Works
Typical to a Crossing student’s schedule, students in the Building Trades program will spend three hours each day immersed in academic programs to propel them toward a diploma. The remainder of the day is spent out in the field working on projects. Each Friday, students will add the academic component to the program by studying the Introduction to Construction curriculum.

Regarding the students’ field work component, Ryan Hill, Elkhart County Crossing Administrator, said the students currently are building a shed for a family in the community. Moving forward, they will work on projects with Mike Schaffer through “Builders of Hope” to restore roofs, fix water damage, repair doors, bathrooms, and windows, and perform other projects.

They also will be visiting DJ Construction job sites to observe different aspects of the construction environment such as setting metal trusses, framing, pouring concrete, and other skills, said Hill.

DJ Construction employee Bill Marvel teaches the course, oversees the project and mentors the kids, with DJ funding the cost of his time.

The Crossing_DJConstruction

“Bill shares a heart for mentoring and helping kids,” said Schrock. “He was a foster parent for many kids, so he’s all about discipleship and reaching kids.”

Schrock said he views Marvel’s work with The Crossing as an indication of his company choosing to be “Decidedly Different.”

“Bill reflects the hearts of many of our employees, which is to make a difference in our community. We’ll support him in that way as he continues to work with The Crossing,” he said.

Said Marvel, “There is great fulfillment in building relationships with the young men at The Crossing as I teach them some things I have learned throughout my years in construction. As I build relationships I’m also able to talk to these young men about the ONE [God] who could change their lives. I’m observing and sensing some of these young men have a desire to make positive changes in their lives.”

This partnership among the different entities yields positive results at many levels. The Crossing students win because they are learning a trade, life skills, gaining mentors, and are receiving school credits.

The Crossing wins because not only do they receive a knowledgeable, helpful instructor at no cost (in Marvel), they also continue in their pursuits of helping to transform the lives of their students.

Finally, the win for DJ Construction is to potentially acquire future employees.

“It’s no secret in Elkhart County right now that good labor is hard to find,” said Schrock. “What we’re telling these kids is if they complete the class successfully, a select number of them will be encouraged to apply for a job with DJ Construction.”

Said Staley, “DJ Construction has provided a fantastic job training partnership with The Crossing, resulting in potential full-time employment for participating students.”

“Our real hope,” summarized Schrock, “is that by landing a job on our crew, these often-fatherless young men will take two steps toward being a faithful dad themselves: First, they will learn to provide for their families by holding a job; and secondly, they will be able to continue developing fathering skills by working alongside other young dads on our crew who will be their mentors and role models.”

In other words, when a student builds houses, he’s also building hope.

For more information on the Building Trades program at The Crossing Educational Center, visit their website at: