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Building a butterfly

Students in two programs at the Pruden Center for Industry and Technology are getting plenty of work experience this year while they help improve the community.

On Tuesday, seven students accompanied welding instructor Tom Shirk and Pruden Center director Corey McCray to the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts to deliver a butterfly bench to the center. The bench is one of about half a dozen the welding and auto body collision repair programs at the Pruden Center have made during the past five years for local organizations and nonprofits.

“This is one way for the kids to apply what they’ve learned and be able to step back and say, ‘Wow, I like it,’” Shirk said. “They don’t realize all the different things they’ve been doing.”

The butterfly bench, which is constructed by the welding students and painted by the auto body collision repair students, is a senior project for the pupils in those programs, Shirk said. The benches are given to area organizations — another bench was recently given to Mount Zion Elementary School in honor of a teacher there who died last year.

Smaller, wall-mountable butterflies are constructed by juniors in the same programs and given to organizations seeking silent auction items, Shirk said.

“To make these to sell, that’s not what we’re about,” Shirk said.

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts got a bench at the wish of board member Ross Boone, who was so impressed with the similar benches he saw in the Pruden Center’s lobby that he requested one for the arts center.

“I kept bugging Corey [McCray],” Boone said. “I said, ‘I’d like to have a piece of that artwork for the center.’ I was so impressed with the whole programmatic thrust of the Pruden Center.”

The Pruden Center has several technical education programs, including cosmetology, culinary arts, health services and more.

The welding students who helped make the sculpture agreed that it was a learning experience.

“It gives us an opportunity to put what we’ve learned throughout the class to good use,” said Smithfield High School senior Todd Stribling.

Lakeland High School senior Spangerlen Flood agreed.

“We came out with a great chair,” he said.

Suffolk Center director Paul Lasakow said the donation of the chair is a symbol of the center’s mission of arts education.

“I just think it’s a wonderful way to marry art, education and technology,” Lasakow said. “Now we have the butterfly as a symbol of our belief in that.”

Lasakow and Boone have not yet decided on a permanent place for the chair, but it will be displayed prominently, they said. Thanks to the purple and pink automotive paint, the sculpture will withstand the elements outside.

Leaders from the two centers already are thinking of other ways they can collaborate, including having Pruden Center students build sets for the arts center.

“This is an example of how the kids can learn and the community can benefit,” McCray said.