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Technical College of the Lowcountry students pitch in for oyster roast

Student Carlton Austin constructs an oyster table Sept. 24 at the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus in Beaufort.
Student Carlton Austin constructs an oyster table Sept. 24 at the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus in Beaufort. Jay Karr/Staff photo

Tools and safety students at Technical College of the Lowcountry are used to building shelves, benches and picnic tables as part of their regular curriculum. When the idea arose to build three oyster roast tables and offer them -- along with a stainless steel oyster cooker -- in a drawing to raise money for their peers, they were excited to help, all while learning something new.

"The reaction from the students has been great," said Tim Newsome, building construction technology instructor. "They were happy to be able to use the tools and make something."

The handmade tables and oyster cooker will be raffled off at the Technical College of the Lowcountry Foundation's second annual "Oysters By the Bay" fundraiser, which will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 13 at the school's Beaufort campus.

Isaac Bill Smalls, a technologies student at TCL, helped build the tables and cooker.

"It gives me a sense of pride that I am going to school and learning while I'm helping someone else," he said. "A lot of kids want to go to school, but they don't have the money, and this fundraiser will give them a great opportunity."

Louise Mathews, TCL's executive director for institutional advancement, said she's hoping the event will exceed the $10,000 raised at last year's roast. Proceeds will help 20 to 25 students with tuition and the cost of books. And a new fund has been started for student emergencies.

"Students are living on the edge," Mathews said. "They are hungry. They have transportation needs and sometimes need help with a flat tire or keeping their electricity on."

She gives the students, most of whom have full-time jobs and are raising families, a lot of credit for finding the time to go to school.

"They recognize education is a way to change their lives for the better," she said. "And they are the ones who are the heroes. They are brave. ... It is exhausting to raise a child and hold down a job, but this oyster roast is one of the ways we can help them."

After 20 years in the Army, Smalls retired in 2006. Finding full-time work has been difficult, so he decided to study for his basic construction technology degree at TCL.

Being a part of a bigger solution makes Smalls feel his efforts are worthwhile.

"I like to see the school give back to the community," he said. "Every little bit helps, I always thought of it that way."

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