Creteau Tech students volunteer to help refurbish WWII memorial

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Korean War veteran Al Benton, center with cane, is joined by a group of volunteers who will work on the project. (Courtesy photo)

ROCHESTER - R.W. Creteau Regional Technology Center students in the Manufacturing and Millwork pathway will collaborate with the Rochester Veteran's Council, the Office of Mayor Paul Callaghan, and Korean War veteran Al Benton to renovate and maintain the Honor Roll, the City of Rochester announced recently.

Benton, a member of the Rochester Veteran's Council, has worked since 2001 to maintain the World War II Honor Roll, located outside City Hall, with help from other members of the Veteran's Council, but this year more help is on the way.

Under the guidance of Manufacturing and Millwork Instructor Jason Daggett, students began their yearlong project by meeting with Benton for a history lesson.

Benton taught students about the memorial as a first step and told them the memorial was built in 1943 as a result of a vote by the Rochester City Council. The memorial contains the names of 1,663 Rochester residents who served in World War II, including the names of 71 who lost their lives in the war.

Benton said he began working to maintain the memorial around 2001, because it had fallen into disrepair, and because his sister is among the Rochester residents whose service is memorialized. The Honor Roll was not meant to be permanent and was built largely from wood, which has made it a challenge to maintain.

Now those efforts will include Manufacturing and Millwork students, who will learn new skills and then use them to contribute to the project. Daggett said the project will benefit students just as it benefits the Honor Roll.

"This project will cover many of our program competencies and skills. The students will be planning out the project from start to finish, managing timeframes and processes, as well as compiling a list of materials and tools required to complete the job," Daggett said. "Most importantly the students will learn how to work together and collaborate. These are the core skills which are so important to all employers and in all career paths today."

Daggett said the project will also help students experience the self-satisfaction of giving back to the community, and he hopes that feeling is contagious.

"I hope that the feeling of satisfaction and pride that they will gain from this project will encourage them to continue to help the community in their future," Daggett said.

The students will now assist with renovating some of the wood on the Honor Roll, and give it a new coat of paint. Daggett said students left their first meeting with Benton impressed and eager to work.

"Mr. Benton is very passionate about preserving the monument, and the students realized how important the monument is to our community and also our veterans," Daggett said. "I think they are very excited to be a part of this moving forward, and many of the students shook Mr. Benton's hand and thanked him for all he has done, and for his service to our country."

"This project combines a great community service and an important history lesson, with a valuable opportunity for students to learn new skills and test their existing skills," said Director Michelle Halligan-Foley. "This project is a win-win for both our school and the community, and I could not be more proud of our students."

Benton believes the Honor Roll can be a permanent Rochester fixture if it receives the proper care and attention, stating "It will always be there, as long as someone takes care of it."

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