RUMFORD – Matt Marston likes working with his hands.

The Mexico 10th-grader was intent on applying wood glue to pine strips Tuesday afternoon as a 16-foot canoe began to take shape.

Marston is one of five students who head to the industrial arts room at Mountain Valley High School a couple of times a week to work on the canoe that they’ll launch in the Androscoggin River from the Rumford boat dock when the boat is completed in early June.

“It’s fun,” Marston said. “I build things with my dad. This gives me more practice.”

The students, together with Assistant Principal Chris Decker and teachers Phil Merrill and Andy Steck, have been working on the project for about three weeks.

The idea came from Decker, who wanted to use his love of the outdoors and skills in canoe construction to benefit students who sometimes don’t get involved in high school activities.

This is Decker’s fourth time building a canoe, and the first for students at Mountain Valley.

Tamarah Gaudet, a ninth-grader from Mexico, hopes to go into building construction, so working on the canoe is the perfect practice for her.

She and her family often go camping and she looks forward to launching the canoe.

She said her dad, Robert, really likes the looks of the canoe being built and hopes to buy it once it is complete.

Dan Farrar, a ninth-grader from East Milton, is also getting a chance to use his hands on a project. He, too, likes to build items at his home.

All three students hope to attend the Region 9 School of Applied Technology when they enter the 11th grade; Mattson and Farrar in metal trades, Gaudet in building construction.

For now, though, making the canoe is something different for the young people to work on.

“It’s a very good project that keeps the kids interested. They can see some results and have fun,” said Merrill, who along with Steck and Decker volunteer after school to help with the project.

Decker said the cost for materials needed to build the canoe is about $450, money that came from a GEAR-UP federal grant. If the canoe is sold, the money would go into a fund to build two canoes during the next school year.

Decker wants to get 10 young people involved, two teams of five, to build two canoes at the same time.

When complete, the canoe being built will be naturally wood-toned, then covered with clear fiberglass to allow the wood to be seen.

“It’s the Cadillac of canoes,” Decker said.

He said he plans to work with the physical education class in early June to take students to the boat launch in Rumford for a maiden voyage.

Other students taking part in the project are Chris Bellman and Dylan Gallant.


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