FRANK MULHOLLAND - Daily Union Reporter
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
Once in a while a project will come along that all parties involved call a win/win project. The Shelbyville Festival of Lights and Shelbyville High School (SHS) students and instructors have partnered to create Christmas yard decorations and this program could be called a win/win/win project. The students working on this project, the school district and the folks who have purchased these decorations are all winners. The Festival of Lights could even be called the fourth winner because they are receiving help from the students.
This project actually started last year when the students decided to give some volunteer hours to the Light Festival. Tad Mayhall is chairman of the Shelbyville Lights Festival and he said this project came out of the volunteerism of the students when they created the big candy canes for the festival last year.
Mayhall said full-time volunteer and dedicated Festival of Lights foreman Bill Bly originally built the first Christmas Tree decoration.
“He came by the office with the first Christmas Tree and we decided they would make good filler for the Festival,” said Mayhall.
The trees stand about 4 foot tall and are about three foot wide. They are then painted and wired with lights. These outside decorations are made with prongs so they may be stuck in the ground. They are selling for $35.
Mayhall who had worked with SHS instructor Greg Reynolds, welding instructor, pitched the idea of the welding class making these decorations. Mayhall and Reynolds agreed this project would give the SHS Welding class practical experience. That idea expanded as a way to give the students welding experience and possibly by getting orders from the public and selling the decorations could raise funds for much needed new welding equipment.
Reynolds said last year the Welding class had to get organized and set up production lines and was still able to produce and sell about 50 trees. This year with the production more streamlined Reynolds feels the students can produce a lot more trees.
The project has grown this year to include the classes of Accounting and Introduction into Business taught by John Tynan as well as the Welding class. The Welding class handles the production, the Accounting class keeps the books and the Into to Business has built a business model and marketing plans. Together the students are working to turn this project into a profitable business. The profits from the project will still be used to upgrade the welding equipment and supplies needed to build the decorations.
“There are still some more modern equipment we would like to get, and some of our equipment needs repairs,” said Reynolds. “This project takes a little of the financial burden off the school district.”
He said in the past such luxuries as welding helmets that are auto-darkening are now a reality.
“These funds allow us to purchase more modern equipment that you would find in the industry,” Reynolds said.
The project has grown and the orders from businesses and individuals are coming into the school on a daily basis. Reynolds said one of the Christmas trees is on display at Monical’s Pizza.
“We also have quite a few more students involved this year which means more kids out selling trees,” said Tynan.
Reynolds said the program is working out much better this year with the other classes involved.
“It has really worked out well because our welding students can focus on production and we can turn all the financing and marketing over to Mr. Tynan’s classes,” Reynolds said.
Tynan said he sees the great value of the “hands on approach” of all the students involved.
He said this project will now lead to a new entrepreneurship class.
“That class will pick up where the Intro to Business class left off and the idea is next year that will become a year long class,” said Tynan.
Both instructors say the hands-on approach has encouraged students to sign up for the classes that are involved in this project.
“Another neat thing about this project is last year I saw maybe 20-25 welding students for the whole year. But, since we have started doing this I could see 45-60 students enrolled in welding,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said another important lesson for the students is the communications needed for this project. They need to communicate with each other and also with the other classes.
“We are bringing in all of those soft skills into this picture as well, communication, cooperation, organization, productivity, all of those things have to be manage to get to that common goal.”
Both instructors wanted to thank Mayhall and Bly of the Festival for their advice and cooperation.
“They have put a lot into this program and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
The students are also very enthusiastic about the project.
Senior Brandon Cloe who is in both the Accounting class and the Welding class certainly sees the value of this endeavor.
“This project has worked out great.” said Cloe. “You have both sides of the project, the money side and the production side.”
Reed Best is also a senior and he feels the project is awesome.
“We started out being able to do one tree a day and now we have it (production) down to a science,” said Best. “Also this is a class you get something out of and it is helping the school.”
SHS Principal and Co-Superintendent Kevin Ross appreciates the value of this program. He feels the project is great for the students and the school, but also sees the community service aspect of the program.
“This program is making our kids aware of what is going on at the park,” Ross said. “ We have had kids not only helping create some of the displays and getting involved with the set-up and community work. There is a lot of great community involvement with this project. I am just real pleased with the way it is going.”