BRUNSWICK, GA. | In just a few days, high school students will climb out of bed for that fine relic of adolescent capitalism, the summer job.

 

They’ll be elbow deep in suds in restaurant kitchens, restocking shelves with sundries, wrangling shopping carts and be sent to fetch that rarest but most useful of tools, the sky hook. Well, that or a 2-by-4 stretcher. What’s that old saying? I cut it three times, and it’s still too short.

I wouldn’t dare try any of the latter on the students from the Golden Isles Career Academy. They tend to know their stuff and some of yours.

Paul Rick “Tripp” Elliot III will be welding with his dad at Golden Isles Ornamental Iron & Steel, putting together wrought-iron fences and gates. His dad wisely told him to learn welding at the Career Academy, where he was Friday talking over the buzz and pop of other students’ welding behind heavy curtains.

Think your Oakleys are cool? Tripp wears a welder’s shield over his eyes because the noon sun shines dim compared to the white arc of a welding rod meeting steel.

He’ll rise at 5 a.m., be at work by 6 and knock off at 3.

“He likes to get to the job site before it gets hot,” he said of his dad. Tripp’s work day will be half over by the time his friends even think about hitting the beach.

He’s had another job before he learned welding.

“I washed dishes for four months” in an air-conditioned kitchen, he said.

He’d rather weld.

“I didn’t want to be stuck in no kitchen,” he said, tossing aside proper English for proper emphasis. “My whole body smelled bad. I smelled like sewage.”

Like he doesn’t smell bad after working outside all day? Sure he does, but it’s a different stink.

“I smell like a man smells,” he said.

T.J. Grovola will be working at a body shop “prepping out cars,” he said.

He’ll disassemble crunched-up vehicles, replace some parts and get them ready for coats of shiny paint.

“Last weekend I put two new doors on a truck that got wrecked,” he said.

But he doesn’t plan to make it a career. He wants to teach math for a living and has been accepted at the College of Coastal Georgia, where he’ll spend two years, and Georgia Southern, where he’ll get his degree. He’ll still pull wrenches, albeit like some guys swing golf clubs.

“I enjoy taking stuff apart, putting it back together and making it work better,” he said.

He can make your busted-up Civic or your Escalade look brand new. Just don’t expect him to drive one because he is, he said, “All muscle car. All day. Every day.”

“I’ve got a 1966 C-10 Chevrolet stepside pickup,” he said, “and an ’83 Camaro with a big block engine, a hand-me-down from my dad.”

Stephen Kinchen will also be working with his father in the construction business. He, his dad and brother will be clearing land, putting in drain fields and digging footings for foundations.

Some of that work is with shovels, but most of the dirt gets moved with excavators, big and small.

“I like running all the equipment,” he said.

Fun aside, it has its rewards. His older brother, Tristen, already works full-time with their dad.

“He has a new truck. He’s got a boat,” Stephen said.

As he talks about his summer plans, however, some of his classmates are making sawdust in the carpentry class where he’s finishing his final exam.

He prefers carpentry above all else.

“It’s the only thing I’ve liked in school,” he said.

A lot of kids gripe in algebra class and midway through solving a polynomial will ask the teacher, “When are we going to use this stuff?”

Stephen doesn’t ask that about carpentry.

“I’d like to build my own house some day,” he said.

He’s already helped build some things, and it’s made Rick Townsend, CEO of the Career Academy, proud.

He and some other students went to the Lions Club Camp for the Blind near Waycross and helped get a handicap ramp started. He wants to go back and help finish it.

Townsend says that’s pretty common among the Career Academy students.

“It’s amazing what they do,” he said.

And they get a lot of it done before the summer dew dries.

terry.dickson@jacksonville.com: (912) 264-0405