Carver Vo-Tech’s carpentry team building storage and display shelves at Second Chance.

Since 1925, Baltimore City’s Carver Vocational-Technical High School has offered students a college prep high school education with a pathway to one of nine vocational careers. Today, led by teacher Greg McDevitt, Carver carpentry students are not only trade apprentices, but they also give back to Baltimore as volunteers. The students’ ongoing volunteer project at Second Chance caught our eye.

Which Carver High School?

“A lot of people ask me that question.” said Greg McDevitt, Carver Vo-Tech High School’s carpentry teacher.

Your confusion is because of the “other Carver,” Baltimore County’s George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology.

The Carver in Baltimore’s Easterwood neighborhood on the west side has 85 faculty and about 1,000 upper school students with access to nine vocational pathways: Business, computer-aided design, carpentry, child care, cosmetology, culinary, graphic arts and printing, masonry and the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Office Training Corps (JROTC) program.

Having worked in construction and carpentry prior to teaching, McDevitt has been leading the Carver carpentry program for 15 years. McDevitt’s mission is to train the 50 or so sophomore, junior and senior students to be career-ready for residential construction or union trade jobs.

“Real learning is almost always impossible to achieve in a simulated environment,” said McDevitt. “When we are on an outside job, the one question that I never hear is, ‘Why do we have to do this?’ The answer to that question is always self-evident.”

Carver’s carpentry program receives federal Perkins Grant funds to purchase tools. Building materials are often donated.

The carpentry workshop at Carver Vo-Tech is part of the redesigned high school built in 2008. What makes McDevitt’s carpentry apprenticeship unique is its long list of volunteer carpentry projects. His students have repaired Patterson Park’s picnic tables, worked on Habitat for Humanity homes and helped on numerous Parks & People Foundation projects, oftentimes on the weekends.

“It’s a lot fun to go out on projects and learn new skills. Especially the fun projects like building the chess tables [pictured left],” said Stevie Bates, a junior who is also in JROTC. “We met the [Lieutenant Gov. Boyd Rutherford] at the Easterwood/Sandtown Park dedication. I thought it was cool that they were looking up to Baltimore City kids.”

On most Tuesday mornings this semester, you can find Carver carpentry students at the Second Chance warehouse near the M&T Bank Stadium. 

Second Chance gives used building materials and struggling jobseekers a second chance. The nonprofit reclaims enough would-be discarded building materials to fill a 200,000-square-foot warehouse. Second Chance’s retail store offers every conceivable type of building material for sale to the public. The sales revenue generated at Second Chance supports its unique workforce development program that helps people overcome some pretty steep job barriers. 

“The carpentry students have bonded with their Second Chance partners. The students relate to them,” said McDevitt. “A few at Second Chance have shared their life experiences with the students. Their advice to the students has been to use what the kids are learning in school, get those high-paying carpentry jobs and avoid the need for a second chance.”

Carver Carpentry students taking a break from building storage units at Second Chance. (At least two of the three high school boys are focused on construction!)

Laurel Peltier writes the environment GreenLaurel column every Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.