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THHS class introduces girls to trades

Ninth-grader Tessa Pekkala directs classmates where to move a piece of scaffolding in the timber frame structure that her all-female construction class is finishing on the side of Two Harbors High School. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)1 / 4
Shop instructor Kyle Chalupsky explains plans for a wooden door to members of his all-female shop class at Two Harbors High School. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)2 / 4
Eleventh-grader Briana Nelson gets ready to cut a piece of wood that will be used as piece of the structure's door. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)3 / 4
The all-female construction class is helping finish a 30-by-30-foot timber frame structure that uses mortise and tenon joints held together by wooden pegs. The structure, attached to the side of Two Harbors High School, will serve as additional work and storage space for the shop classes. (Jimmy Lovrien/News-Chronicle)4 / 4

A group of Two Harbors High School students can always count on their class being held outside — even if temperature fall below zero. But you won't hear any complaints.

"There's no point to be inside," freshman Joanne Carlson said. "It's just a waste of time."

Carlson is enrolled in the all-female construction class at Two Harbor High School. She's helping finish a 30-by-30-foot timber frame structure that uses mortise and tenon joints held together by wooden pegs. Last semester, another carpentry class raised the timber beams. This semester's class will finish adding the walls, roof and door — projects that aren't exactly possible in the comfort of the heated shop.

"This is one of the few chances you get to be outside during school hours," junior Briana Nelson said, adding that warmer spring weather will be nice.

The structure, attached to the side of THHS, will serve as additional work and storage space for the shop classes. In the past, classes have built tiny homes, ticket booths and sheds.

Tessa Pekkala, a freshman, said her family just remodeled their home, so it's been interesting to see the construction process first-hand.

"I just like to know how everything works," Pekkala said.

Their teacher, shop instructor Kyle Chalupsky, aims for that kind of exposure.

He said the class serves as a way for women, underrepresented in the trades, a chance to try it out.

"Women can get into the trades and be very successful, very quickly right now because there's such a high need to have them," Chalupsky said. "And they're just as capable as everybody else. It's just not a traditional thing that happens."

The class started first as a grant-funded course to draw more girls into the high school's shop program, but Chalupsky kept it as part of the curriculum after the grant ended because of the need for women in the construction industry.

"It gives them an environment where they're comfortable," Chalupsky said.

Allison Sundberg, a junior who has enrolled in the class since ninth grade, agrees.

"When you're working with guys, they feel like they have to tell you what to do," Sundberg said. "So I guess it's just nice to be able to do it myself."

Nelson, who has also been enrolled in the class since ninth grade, wants to take what she's learned and apply it to future projects.

"Now I have those skills to use outside of school ... out in the real life," Nelson said.

Jimmy Lovrien

Jimmy Lovrien is a reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. He spent the summer of 2015 as an intern for the Duluth News Tribune and was hired full time in October 2017 as a reporter for the Weekly Observer. He also reported for the Lake County News-Chronicle in 2017-18. Lovrien grew up in Alexandria, Minn., but moved to Duluth in 2013 to attend The College of St. Scholastica. Lovrien graduated from St. Scholastica in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in English and history. He also spent a summer studying journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

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