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Ben Grave uses carpentry skills to build home in Grand Marais, MN

Carpentry Program Graduate

Ben Grave ‘22 has two passions: hands-on work and sustainability. He had the chance to do both at Summit Academy OIC, and his experiences in the Carpentry program have given him the confidence and training he needs to thrive in his next chapter.

Grave’s academic path took some time to discover. He graduated from Wayzata High School and attended a few colleges searching for a purpose or passion that made him feel alive. Grave noticed that his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the classroom environment made it challenging to focus on schoolwork or find relevance in his studies. “My dad always expected me to be motivated by a paycheck because I was working for [his cleaning business], and that was not what I was motivated by. I am motivated by doing something that I enjoy,” said Grave.

Grave heard about Summit from his mother, who has always been a big supporter in his life. Although she wanted her son to enroll in the Electrician program, Grave felt the Carpentry program was better for him. “I came here to get training, experience, and demystify the [construction] process. There’s an established method for how things structurally go together, and that’s something engaging for me,” said Grave.

For over a decade, Summit’s partnership with the Steger Wilderness Center has allowed construction students to learn more about sustainability issues and environmentally-conscious construction. After completing Phase I of his coursework, Grave’s carpentry instructor, Beth Halverson, invited him and a few other classmates to participate in a two-week-long carpentry project at the Steger Center in Ely, Minnesota. Grave enthusiastically agreed to join the trip as he enjoys spending time in Northern Minnesota in his personal life.

Once Grave arrived at the Steger Center, he worked on building an outdoor kitchen. Grave appreciated the mentorship of working alongside master carpenters and roofing, a skill he usually would not have the opportunity to experience at Summit. “The time I spent at Steger was the most rewarding work experience that I’ve had in my life. Every day I was done, I felt really satisfied with what I’d accomplished and how the day had gone,” said Grave.

Grave felt inspired and connected to how the Steger Center highlights environmental design and construction. “My end goal is a little different from some folks. I’d like to make as much of my living from my property and the woods around me. Permaculture is what I’m shooting for,” said Grave. Grave works as a Framer at Works Construction & Maintenance Services in Grand Marais, Minnesota. He is thrilled to apply his carpentry knowledge to financially support his family and physically build a new home on a piece of land he purchased.

“What I’m moving my family toward is really valuable to me, my wife, and hopefully to my son. I’m very excited about what I will be able to provide for them with my education.”

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