Santa’s Helpers: Building tech students team up for special needs kids - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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Santa’s Helpers: Building tech students team up for special needs kids

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Posted: Monday, December 17, 2018 10:40 am

The small gym at Porter Early College High School turned into a makeshift Santa’s workshop last week as construction technology students from a local trade school teamed up with special needs students at Porter Early College High School on a Christmas project.

The project started with Romaldo Ortiz III, a special needs student at Porter, and his father Romaldo Ortiz, a construction technology teacher at the Cameron County Education Initiative trade school in Brownsville.

Each year the elder Ortiz has devised a Christmas project of one sort or another for students in his son’s special needs class at school. This goes all the way back to Faulk Middle School and Castaneda and Gonzalez elementary schools, he said.

Ortiz’s construction technology students had built birdhouses in class as an early small-scale project to learn how to cut angles and fit things together. The idea now was for the special needs students to paint the tiny houses with original designs as a Christmas present for their parents.

But what started out as an activity for Romaldo’s class quickly morphed into a project for all of the special needs students at Porter. Construction technology students past and present pitched in to mass-produce about 60 birdhouses. Medical technology students at the school also pitched in.

“Many of my construction students had never dealt with children with disabilities. Most of these kids can’t be left alone. Their parents have to be with them all the time,” Ortiz said. “It was a good opportunity for my students to interact with someone they didn’t know before.”

Hector Ortega Jr., a building trades student, said he found out about CCEI through the Texas Workforce Commission and a job fair for veterans. He and Guillermo Rodriguez were part of the first construction technology class at the school. Both said the birdhouse project helped them complete a community service requirement.

Kimberly Conde and her mother Norma were busy helping paint birdhouses on Wednesday.

“I went in through Workforce back in June,” Kimberly said. “I’m already going to finish. “Mom started in mid-November.”

Ortiz said the project provided a creative outlet for everyone involved. It was evident in the smiles on their faces.

glong@brownsvilleherald.com

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