Guernsey-Sunrise SkillsUSA team thrives on multitasking

The Guernsey-Sunrise High School officers just finished leading their troops in the remodeling of the Guernsey VFW building and are going to be tackling the Sunrise YMCA project in the spring. This year’s members are: from left, Dakota Conner – president, Brian McCoid - historian, Taylor Marshall - treasurer, Juliana Schiele - secretary, Nathan Van Natter - reporter and Jackson Baker – Parliamentarian. Afton Kelley vice president is not pictured.

GUERNSEY -  The Guernsey-Sunrise SkillsUSA team is fairly a new entity at GSHS having had a chapter for only four years, but they have been on a whirlwind activities tour from mid-America conferences to rejuvenating local buildings.

Just recently the officers took the stage in the newly remodeled VFW building and presented interesting facts and history of the VFW building and gave a blow-by-blow description of what a five-year remodeling project looked like in their eyes.

“We still have a few things to do down there,” said SkillsUSA adviser and GSHS shop teacher Troy Reichert. “The floors are being sanded right now. After that we need to put the finish on, put the baseboard on, some little trim work here and there. We didn’t want to put the grand opening off any longer because it’s getting used so often.”

Reichert is very proud of the small band he has put together and is almost like an air traffic controller for their journey.

“Dakota attended the leadership conference in Washington as the Wyoming state reporter,” Reichert said. “For the grand opening each of them will have a part to play and will each give a presentation about the VFW renovation. It’s basically going to be their show. We then have the fall conference going on and at Christmas we are going to put up Christmas lights for people who can’t put up their own. We will also take them down for them in January. Then pretty much February and March we are getting them ready for the state conference. In the spring we’ll go out to the old Sunrise YMCA and work a few Saturdays a month before the skilled trades camps begin in the summer.”

The grand opening of the VFW building was done on Veteran’s Day and in cooperation with the veterans, there was a soup supper and a special presentation done by the officers. Then on Saturday they held a dance in the ballroom of the VFW to kick of the new life that was given to the old building.

For the building dedication presentation, each student got up to address the crowd of veterans, students, administrators and community members that were present.

Conner first to address the crowd, welcomed and introduced his team and then had all veterans in attendance to stand and be recognized. McCoid, the historian got up and gave an interesting look at the history of the 100 year old building.

“We know this building was constructed in 1920 with the original intent to be a feed and grain storehouse,” McCoid said. “By 1937 this building changed hands and became the Blue Moon Ballroom, and it was rumored but not confirmed that Lawrence Welk brought his orchestra to play on this stage.”

McCoid then told of the two lane bowling alley that was built in the basement of the building in the 1940s. He then let people know that the building was purchased by the VFW in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s.

“In 1962 a fire in the basement almost took the building down,” McCoid said. “But the building stood tall and the basement was restored.”

Juliana Schiele then spoke about how the renovations actually began with four of his students that were “driving him crazy” and he had to find something for them to do. After filling out grants and looking at a remodeling project for the just restrooms, things progressed from there and after $100K that has been donated and secured as grants, the building is about 90% finished.

When Afton Kelley came up to speak, she had some interesting “before” project pictures of the bathrooms and the space that would ultimately become the medicine room. It was eye-opening to say the least that the building once looked like that. The kids transformation was simply amazing.

During COVID when students were quarantined, the students looked to the community who provided volunteer labor to help drywall and finish things that were left undone. In all, it took five years to complete the project and many who attended the grand opening couldn’t believe it was the same building.

On Saturday night the kids put together a dance in the newly remodeled ballroom and had the band “Long Canyon” come in and perform. There were over 100 people that packed the building and danced the night away christening the remodeled building.

VFW member Don Mack said, “This is not just for us. It’s for the community. There are not a lot of bigger buildings in town that can house bigger crowds, and now we can do that here. I am so proud of Troy Reichert and what these kids have done.”

In remodeling a building, the students learned many things about building structures, building friendships and building a life under the tutelage of a patient man who has not only been a teacher and a mentor, but also a very wise friend.

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