Kayla Anderson photos
Students from the construction trade class at MCHS stand in the renovated Career and Technology Education building.

On a cool, crisp Thursday afternoon, Mineral County High School students are outside of the CTE (Career and Technology Education) building nestled between the gymnasium, the main building, and its parking lot. The large warehouse-like space was previously used as a storage room with a computer lab and woodshop attached to it, but this year’s high school students have taken the initiative to revamp and renovate the entire area and have recently converted the tired computer classroom into a modern, sleek Gear Up Center. 

I meet construction trades and woodshop teacher Mike Domagala who has been with the high school for at least 10 years. He explains that the old CTE building used to be the high school’s automotive shop 30 years ago, pointing to the random parts and equipment that are still around and about to be auctioned off to the public. About eight years ago the high school had the idea to turn the auto shop into a construction trades center and now is the time when it is truly taking form. The plan morphed into two projects- cleaning out the space, renovating it, and reestablishing it to host a home maintenance class for students to learn basic plumbing, carpentry, and other necessary home ownership skills. 

The new Gear Up Center at MCHS.

This season’s class not only cleaned out the building but put up the OSB framework, hung drywall, and cut all of the wood for its training stations. The four basic stations will soon have appliances such as toilets, sinks, pipes, lightbulbs, faucets, disposal systems with trap doors. Tight, real-life spaces that people in these high-demand trades have to squeeze into. Domagala explains that students will even have a station where they’ll get the opportunity to punch holes in the wall and fix them by re-sheeting it, sanding it, and painting it. The class has even talked about using one side of the warehouse to build tiny homes in the future. 

“Over the last few months, the kids have gotten rid of things, moving, and cleaning all of it and then we’ll have a districtwide auction this spring of the old equipment we don’t need. They are the blood, sweat and tears behind this project. 

“I’m really proud of them. They worked hard and this is a great group to get the construction trades back at the high school,” Domagala says, gesturing to the group of energetic students. He tries to encourage his students to just go out and build something, it doesn’t matter what it is. 

“I try to teach them that if they build something nice, whether it’s a birdhouse or whatever, their parents will keep it forever,” he adds. The class also does basic construction work for the District, and recently built picnic tables and a Lost & Found box for the elementary school, a playhouse for the preschool, and other projects. However, Domagala admits that he is primarily a history teacher and hopes that these new features of the school will help lure a highly qualified construction trades instructor to MCHS to help take the students to the next level. 

With that, Domagala introduces me to star senior student Makayla Lane who has functioned as the foreperson for leading the class on renovating the new Gear Up Center. In taking charge of the project, Lane did the majority of the painting, trim work, and carpeting. Domagala credits her for keeping the project going until it was finished. Lane then directs me to the reestablished Gear Up Center, adorned with sleek black leather chairs surrounding polished conference room-like tables. Along the walls, stress balls, T-shirts, stickers, pens, and other college swag try to lure students into applying to their school. Representatives from the Student Success Agency are there, continuing the conversation, offering their support, and motivating students who want to continue their education after high school. The Gear Up program is in its third year at MCHS, which is basically a support group that follows students through high school until they go to college. 

Local Gear Up Specialist Kristy Bekiares enthusiastically explains how the program also helps high school students get college credits before they graduate, how it’s possible to take CTE classes and finish with a certificate and build from there. 

Bekiares shares that all of these new programs and the student support to go with it is just a small part in what the school district does to make the community better. 

For more information about the MCSD and MCHS, visit https://www.nvmcsd. org/.