It was “all about the dogs” when a group of eighth graders from Cottonwood Community School rolled up their sleeves to design and construct a doghouse for the Verde Valley Humane Society.

The students, participants in a career and technical education program at the Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus, learned basic carpentry and plumbing from YC Instructor Aaron Rodriguez over the course of 3 ½ weeks. The custom, 2-by-4-foot, insulated, taupe-colored doghouse is the tangible result.

“Everything that we did, we discussed and considered how the dogs would feel about it,” Rodriguez said, explaining that the house’s 10-inch roof overhang was designed to offer outdoor shade and the above-the-floor door opening was incorporated to keep the dwelling spider-free.

Beyond considering the comfort of its eventual occupants, Rodriguez said the students “really wanted the doghouse to look nice.”

Look nice it did when it was delivered to the VVHS on West Mingus Avenue March 1. Along with the construction team, on hand for a ribbon cutting were YC Verde Valley Campus Dean Dr. Tina Redd, CCS Principal Matt Schumacher, CCS Academic Coach Amy Romero, VVHS Board Chair Alice Klies and VVHS canine resident, “Abraham.”

Before and after the ribbon cutting, CCS students posed for celebratory pictures and coaxed Abraham into the doghouse placed outside an agility area on the VVHS property. Klies said the non-profit organization plans to erect a sign acknowledging the YC/CCS partnership and “to recognize the kids.” The donation is meaningful because of the community effort behind it, she said. “We’re thrilled to be a part of anything the community can do.”

Schumacher and Romero also lauded the partnership with YC that is giving their students valuable career exploration opportunities. “The idea is to foster an interest, spark a curiosity and put them on a path to rewarding careers,” Schumacher said.

The student builders said they enjoyed the construction segment of their CTE exploration this semester, especially learning to operate skill saws and nail guns. “It was so cool,” said one student who, along with several of her classmates, said she plans to continue taking construction courses in high school.

For his part, Rodriguez said he wished his class of eighth graders could have lasted the full semester. “It was a lot of fun. They’re a good group of kids. We were kind of just now getting into the groove.”

Past and future career-training explorations for CCS students at YC include law enforcement, culinary, horticulture and nursing programs. The CTE partnership between YC and CCS is groundbreaking for both schools.

“We know it’s lifechanging. We know hands-on experiences will resonate with these students for years to come,” said Redd, noting that eighth grade is a “formative” year in which a lot of decision-making about the future happens.

Additional partnerships may be forged in the future to make YC career education programs available to more students in the Verde Valley, Redd said.