When Sandy Thistle was growing up, there was one thing for sure she knew she wanted to do. Not hate her job. “What I saw were a whole lot of adults around me who hated their jobs. And I did not want to hate what I did. And so for me, this is perfect,” says Thistle.
Thistle is the co-program director for Madison College’s construction and remodeling program. She’s been a professional carpenter for years, working on several iconic structures in Madison, including the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.
“ I love being a carpenter,” Thistle says. “I love so many parts of it. And I feel lucky to have found it.” It’s that love that led her to co-create CampBUILD, a week-long camp where girls from kindergarten to high school learn carpentry, design, electrical, and welding.
It’s a passion project for Thistle. “I think this is the most important work I’ve ever done. I am always thinking, ‘How do we broaden who represents carpenters? And believing that in order to see themselves In this role, girls need to see women who do this work,’” says Thistle.
During the week-long camp, campers work on a variety of projects:designing birdhouses to building picnic tables. It is a fully interactive learning experience. With activities designed to help build self-confidence and awareness for girls in the trades.
Thistle assembled a group of working and retired professional female carpenters and electricians to help run the camp. Exposing campers to a variety of expertise and skill sets.
“At the team here that I work with, I feel like we each have a niche where we have strengths,” Thistle says. “And how they fit together is really brilliant.”
Thistle hopes the experience inspires the campers, but most of all, she hopes it pushes them to find what they love to do in life. “I think it’s hard to find for girls, and I want it to be easier for them to find so that they could potentially love what they do to the same level that I do.”