By the time he was a toddler, Carbon Career and Technical Institute senior Dave Pelcheck was already learning carpentry, learning the basics by helping his father with projects around the house.

"I've done it all my life," he said. "We have picture of me doing it when I was two years old."

Pelcheck, 18, who has been named valedictorian of CCTI's Class of 2010, was a student at Panther Valley High School when he decided to enroll in CCTI's carpentry program. "I heard about the opportunities through my friends, and my family told me about it," he said. "My family knew some people who went here, and they told me it was a good thing to go into."

On Wednesday, he won several awards and honors at the school's annual Senior Recognition Night: the Carbon Builders Association Award, including the Howard Weir Memorial Award; the David Argall Good Citizenship Award; Outstanding Senior in Carpentry; National Vocational-Technical Honor Society recognition; the Carpentry Achievement Award; and recognition for his performance on PSSA tests.

Making the decision to enroll in CCTI didn't come easy. "Leaving all my friends that I knew for so long, and meeting all the new people, and not being sure what its going to be like" was the tough part of leaving Panther Valley High School for CCTI, he said.

Pelcheck honed his carpentry skills at CCTI as he studied and learned and began to build his future.

In his first year of classes, Pelcheck built a scale model energy-efficient house for PPL Corp.

"When I came here, I basically continued on what I already knew, and my shop teacher, Mr. Bobish definitely helped with that," he said.

Bobish called Pelcheck an "exceptional" student. "He's top of the class. He's definitely one of the best students I've had since I've been teaching," Bobish said.

The school has also helped Pelcheck has also build a solid personal foundation.

"I'm definitely a lot more social, and I'm not afraid to talk to anybody now," he said. He now has the confidence "to know what I'm doing and be able to do it well."

Pelcheck has already been accepted into the carpenters' union in Lebanon. After graduation, he'll move there.

He's visited the training center in Lebanon, but that's the extent of his experience with the area. Pelcheck acknowledges it's a big step.

"I'm going to start working right out of high school," he said. "I decided that college wasn't for me."

In 10 years' time, Pelcheck sees himself "eventually managing job sites."