Forum Young Leaders Build Tables (and Relationships) With Inner City Youth

By on May 16, 2019

by Justin Schmeltz, Chair, Construction Forum Young Leaders Group

The latest project of Construction Forum STL’s Young Leaders Group (CFYLG) at Kingdom House’s Kingdom Academy was focused on building wooden tables. In the process the young leaders built close connections with the young people in the group.

Kingdom Academy is an after-school program for youth. Kingdom House, founded in 1902, the agency helps the economically disadvantaged achieve economic independence, self-sufficiency and a path out of poverty. Kingdom House serves approximately 2,500 persons, split roughly 50:50 African American/Hispanic, as well as immigrants/refugees from other nations.  Construction Forum STL is currently working with Kingdom House and other partners to build a youth soccer complex at nearby Ray Leisure Park.

We have partnered with Kingdom Academy for the past several years, performing a one night per week hour-long session where we try to expose the scholars to the various construction careers and professions that are possible to pursue,

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For the past year; the participation in our session participation has increased considerably,  from about 4-5 students per week up to about 15 students per week.

In order to get everyone involved, our volunteers have multiple activities going on during each session to get every scholar active in a construction related activity. Some of the students will be working on a longer term project which gets worked on each week, and others will be doing a different hands on activity which varies week to week in order to help expose participants to all of the different areas of construction careers.

This semester, the scholars were tasked with building a table which could be used by the facility. They were provided the plans for the table and any necessary materials and worked through the process of taking a stack of wooden boards and pieces and creating a functioning table to be used by Kingdom House for years to come.

Through this activity, volunteers aimed to get the scholars working together to get tasks accomplished in addition to thinking of ways to overcome any confusions or difficulties encountered while constructing the table. (We want to thank Home Depot Sunset Hills and the Painting and Decorating Foundation for materials for this project.)

Since only a handful of scholars could be working on the table any given week, the remaining scholars each week participated in a short term problem solving activity. These activities included things such as the “marshmallow challenge” (see TED Talk below), creating paper airplanes to achieve different performance objectives, and building structures and doing architectural design using various household materials.”


In addition to the Kingdom Academy activities and volunteering at student career day events, our Young Leaders Group is holding  quarterly networking events.

Membership is free and open to everyone (you define what “Young” means). For more information contact me by email or by calling me at 314.335.8602.

Justin Schmeltz, EIT, MS, is chair of the Construction Forum Young Leaders Group. He is a design engineer|structural engineering at Horner & Shifrin.


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