the campus library on a sunny day
Jun 2, 2023
Daily Inter Lake

Scout Gives Back to Columbia Falls

By Chris Peterson

Columbia Falls senior Trey Rice put his welding and fabrication skills to good use earlier this year, building four new benches at Columbus Park.

Rice did the project as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Rice first went to City Manager Susan Nicosia to ask if there was a project he could do for the community and she suggested new benches at the park.

The city recently put in pickleball courts and will soon finish up sand volleyball courts as well.

So last fall, Rice went to work. He’s been in the high school welding program under teacher Ben Schaeffer, so he knew how to design and weld the benches.

A host of businesses, including Pacific Hide and Steel, Western Building Center, Fastenal and others donated toward the project.

Well supplied, he went to work, and admittedly, was a bit under the gun. He had to get the project done by his rapidly approaching 18th birthday, so he found himself pouring the concrete footer for and installing the benches in January.

Still, it was a lot of fun, he said.

In addition to his Eagle Scout honors, Rice also has a certificate of advanced science in welding and fabrication through Schaeffer’s class and Flathead Valley Community College. He recently graduated from the program with 18 of his fellow classmates.

“It was cool to walk (through FVCC graduation ceremonies) before even high school graduation,” he said.

He said the welding program has been fantastic experience.

“That shop class is like a family,” he said. “Schaeffer does a fantastic job.”

He said Schaeffer puts students immediately in touch with prospective employers right out of high school. But Rice already has 40 college credits through the college’s Running Start program, which lets high school kids get college credits, so he’ll return in the fall, where he wants to get a business degree and then transfer to Montana State Northern in Havre where he hopes to enroll in its diesel tech program.

Working on diesels is his other love. He owns a 2005 Dodge 1-ton pickup he bought from his father, Brendan. But his dream truck is a ’93 Dodge 2500 diesel, with the coveted 5.9 liter, 12-valve engine.

“It’s my dream truck,” he said.

He found it for sale and it was stored in a barn with just 120,000 miles on it. That’s just broken for that engine, which is known to go 500,000 miles.

Rice encourages any kid entering high school to consider the welding program their freshmen year. He said he likes to work with his hands and it was perfect fit.

As far as an Eagle project is concerned, he urged scouts not to procrastinate — or you might find yourself pouring concrete in January.

Rice is the son of Brandon and Jessica Rice.

Columbia Falls graduation is this Saturday at the high school at 11 a.m.