$1 million grant will aid area CTE programs

It’s not every day that you accept a check for more than $1 million, but that was part of Bluffton-Harrison MSD Superintendent Brad Yates’ duties at a special press conference Tuesday afternoon in Berne.

As the fiscal agent for the Area 18 Career and Technical Education Cooperative, Yates accepted a check for $1,012,812.78 from the Don Wood Foundation. The money will go towards purchasing state-of-the-art equipment that will benefit vocational education efforts in five of Area 18’s schools: Bluffton, Blackford, South Adams, Adams Central and Bellmont high schools.

Bluffton High School’s award winning welding program, led by Kevin Powell, will receive a new virtual welder and a water jet metal cutting machine.

“Obviously, we are thrilled to get this,” Yates said during the event. “What we’re doing here today will have an impact on our students for years to come.”

Brittany Kloer, Area 18 CTE director, put the grant proposal together during the course of this past fall and shared her excitement at getting the news in November. She noted that the board of the Don Wood Foundation recognizes the importance of collaboration between CTE teachers and local industry partners to prepare students for the growing workforce in the manufacturing sector.

“Our partnership with the Don Wood Foundation will allow our students the opportunity to gain the training necessary to fill many of today’s high-skill and high-paying jobs,” she said.

Gary Gatman, who is the economic development director for Noble County and a board member of the foundation, explained that the foundation’s mission is to strengthen and grow the manufacturing sector of Northeast Indiana.

“Talent and the development of talent is at the fore front of our needs,” he told the gathering at the Buildings Trades programs on the South Adams High School campus. “The future is here, the needs are now,” he said. “This grant will help development students to enter the local workforce into highly rewarding and highly-paid jobs. There are huge needs in the robotics and automation skill sets.

“We are thrilled to support this proposal that Brittany brought to us,” he concluded, “and the opportunities this will bring to so many young people.”

The Don Wood Foundation is now one of the largest foundations in Northeast Indiana with over $200 million in assets. Wood was the owner of 80/20 Inc., a Columbia City company he founded and, with the help of his sons, grew from a 3,000-square-foot facility to a 255,00-square-foot campus.

“Ultimately, Don’s legacy lives on,” Kloer said. Through the foundation he created after selling the company, “it will help to grow and transform the manufacturing sector in northeast Indiana by supporting industrial technology,” she said.

The Bluffton High School welding program received $199,083.56 for its equipment. Other grants went to Blackford High School, about $43,000; Bellmont, about $199,000; and South Adams, about $274,000. Adams Central’s advanced manufacturing program received the largest amount of about $346,000 for new equipment.

“It’s really exciting to be a part of a community of school districts that work together,” Yates said in his remarks. “It is so great to collaborate in order to benefit our youth.”

Kloer also expressed her appreciation to Joe Elkins of Bluffton for helping her put the grant together and make the presentation to the foundation. Elkins is the executive director for the Adams Wells Manufacturing Association, a collaboration of employers working to promote careers in the industrial trades to students in the two counties.

Story by Mark Miller, Courtesy of the News-Banner


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