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Harbor Freight "Tools for School" Prize

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Harbor Freight Tools For Schools 2017 winner Roxanne Amiot sitting by computer with her students

Harbor Freight … Again: Doing Well by Doing Good

Meet the 61 dedicated skilled trades teachers from 30 states who are all in the running for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence and $1 million in prize rewards!

By Doug Stokes

Fri, Jul 16, 2021 02:28 PM PST

$1.4M... $3M+... 73,903... Yeah, these numbers are nice big ones, but they’re even nicer, and far more cogent when one learns that the $1,400,000 is the amount of the first donation made by the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Foundation to the L.A. Unified School District back in 2014... The $3,000,000 is the latest tally of cash awards given through Harbor Freight Prize for Teaching Excellence program... And that 73,903 is the total number of students who have benefited from those prize awards (so far … the program is still going strong).

Here at LACar we try very hard to understand automobiles - technically, but also what role the car plays in just about every aspect of daily life. In the years since we came online (1997) cars have become more efficient, more aerodynamic, safer, and (well, subjectively anyway) better-looking. They have also become almost logarithmically more complex. That complexity, as we all know, requires skilled people to diagnose and repair our rides. The same is true across the board in the “skilled trades” - a catchall term that simply means "people who work with their hands (and minds)".

A Short History Of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

In 2014, Harbor Freight Tools CEO, founder and owner Eric Smidt kicked off a philanthropic project called Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. His generosity was grounded in a deep respect for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands. He hoped the gift would transform skilled trades education in his hometown - but he didn’t want to stop there.

For the next two years, the Tools for Schools team listened and learned from the people who know skilled trades education best - teachers. After conducting a focus group with teachers, hosting an advisor session with educators and other experts, and surveying hundreds of trades-teachers nationwide, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools evolved its purpose: to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America.

student checking the tire pressure in blue car.
Harbor Freight Tools For Schools aims to continue to make a positive impact for students in Skilled Trades programs.

What's The Mission Statement For "Tools For Schools"?

Here’s how the Harbor Freight people see themselves, and their mission:

"We work closely in partnership with a small number of organizations that share a dedication to advancing trades education. Our first partnership was with Big Picture Learning in 2016 to design a new form of apprenticeship for high school students who show significant passion for the trades.

We shine a light on outstanding educators with the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, awarded annually since 2017 to 18 outstanding U.S. skilled trades teachers and programs.

We foster outstanding trades education by building a community of top-notch educators, connecting them to each other at our annual Let’s Build It Institute, and funding their inventive ideas to dramatically improve skilled trades teaching and learning and becoming a source of knowledge in 2020 and beyond.

We seek to increase understanding and support of skilled trades education across philanthropy, business and other arenas, beginning with commissioning the first-of-its-kind landscape research and opinion polling on U.S. high school skilled trades education."

The Selection Process

This week, the program announced that 61 public high school teachers nationwide are finalists for the prize, now in its fifth year. The finalists are from 30 states and specialize in trades including advanced manufacturing, welding, construction, automotive, and agriculture mechanics. The teachers were selected by an independent panel of judges from a field of more than 700 applicants. The winners will be announced in late October, and more than $1 million in cash prizes will be shared by 18 teachers and their skilled trades programs.

Going Forward - Why Is This Important?

"Despite the dramatic need for a new generation of workers, research has shown that most U.S. high school students do not have access to high-quality skilled trades programs. The goal of the prize is to highlight some of the most outstanding programs nationwide and to celebrate teachers who are making a difference in the lives of students," said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. "Our hope is that the stories of these dedicated teachers will inspire other communities to create similar programs for their own high school students. All high school students who want to learn a skilled trades and have a talent for working with their hands should have the same opportunity."

There is rare bipartisan support for increased investment in skilled trades education in high school. More than 76 percent of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents said they favor increased public funding for skilled trades education and think that offering skilled trades classes in high school should be a priority, according to polling by NORC at the University of Chicago. The poll was commissioned by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools.

Eric Smidt, the owner and founder of Harbor Freight Tools, said high school skilled trades programs provide a pathway not just to a good job, but also to a meaningful career and a good life.

"High school skilled trades teachers are heroes. Our teachers and their programs are an essential part of meeting the national challenge of educating the next generation of skilled trades workers."

- Eric Smidt

Winners will join a nationwide network of outstanding trades teachers who convene throughout the year and in a three-day summer institute to share best practices and brainstorm ways to improve high school skilled trades programs.

Cash Prizes For Teachers And Schools

The 2021 finalists now advance to a second round of competition, where they will be asked to respond to online expert-led learning modules designed to solicit their insights and creative ideas about teaching practices. The finalists will be asked how ideas from the modules might be used to inspire students to achieve excellence in the skilled trades. Two rounds of judging, each by separate independent panels of reviewers, will narrow the field to 18 winners and, finally, name the three Grand Prize winners and 15 additional prize winners.

Grand Prize winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the skilled trades teacher behind the winning program. The 15 additional winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher. Winners whose school, district and/or state policy prohibits receipt of the individual portion of prize award were eligible to apply on behalf of their school’s skilled trades program. If they win, the entire share of the prize will be awarded to the school. Winners will be announced in late October.

the Harbor Freight Tools For Schools logo
The Harbor Freight Tools For Schools logo

2021 Harbor Freight Finalists

And (drum-roll, please!) here’s the list of all 2021 Harbor Freight finalists from 30 states - there are 61 of them! If there’s a teacher that you know, give them a call or send them a DM on whatever social media you're connected. If there’s a great teacher not listed on this honor roll, well, the 2022 nominations will await your enthusiastic letter of recommendation.

This sort of recognition and reward is good for everyone - students, teachers, parents, and (especially) the community. Private/public outreaches like one this are more welcome than ever.

LACar Salutes:

Jay Abitz, Automotive and Collision Repair Freedom High School – Freedom, WI

John Amos, Construction William Chrisman High School – Independence, MO

Angela Arnett, Technical Theatre Escondido High School – Escondido, CA

Dallas Bergstrom, Manufacturing & Mechatronics Miller Career & Technology Center – Katy, TX

Jeffrey Bertke, Electrical Trades Upper Valley Career Center – Piqua, OH

Brian Bettag, Transportation Mechanics and Repair Jefferson High School – Lafayette, IN

Matt Blomquist, Construction Taylorville High School – Taylorville, IL

Ashton Bohling, Industrial Technology Johnson Brock High School – Johnson, NE

Jessica Bowlin, Construction Technology Auburn High School – Auburn, AL

Kent Brady, Small Engine Equipment Technology Dauphin County Technical School – Harrisburg, PA

Donald Brown, Automotive Technology El Diamante High School – Visalia, CA

Scott Burke, Construction Green Mountain High School – Lakewood, CO

Benjamin Carpenter, Welding John F. Kennedy High School – Richmond, CA

Lee Caughron, Welding Grand River Technical School – Chillicothe, MO

Christopher Comer, Aviation & Aviation Manufacturing T. Wingate Andrews High School – High Point, NC

Brian Copes, Construction & Manufacturing Chickasaw High School – Chickasaw, AL

Dave Darden, Automotive Technology Cedar Shoals High School – Athens, GA

Richie del Puerto, Automotive Technology Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center – Everett, WA

Josh Dickson, Carpentry Cape Henlopen High School – Lewes, DE

Greg Ditch, Automotive Technology Naperville North High School – Naperville, IL

Corey Dixon, Agricultural Mechanics Pulaski County High School – Somerset, KY

Kevin Finan, Machining Atlantic Technical College & Technical High School – Coconut Creek, FL

Coty Green, Automotive Technology Chisholm Trail Tech Center – Omega, OK

John Gunderson, Automotive Technology John Jay High School – San Antonio, TX

Jay Hales, Automotive Technology Riverton High School – Riverton, UT

Danielle Hamilton, Automotive Technology Sidney Lanier High School – San Antonio, TX

Glenn Harrison, Manufacturing Dr. Martin Luther King Early College – Denver, CO

Jorge Huizar, Agricultural Mechanics Hennessey Schools – Hennessey, OK

Seth Hungerford, Construction Technology Cold Hollow Career Center – Enosburg Falls, VT

Blair Jensen, Welding Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers – South – Riverton, UT

Kristie Jones, Construction & Carpentry Franklin County Career and Technical Center – Meadville, MS

Nicholas Jordan, Construction Montecito High School – Ramona, CA

Matthew Kasten, Welding Capital Area Career Center – Springfield, IL

Jody Kemp, Agricultural Mechanics Peach County High School – Fort Valley, GA

Stephen Lindridge, Machine Tool Technology Candor Central High School – Candor, NY

John Lockhart, Agricultural Mechanics South Harrison High School – Lost Creek, WV

Casey Lunceford, Agricultural Mechanics Ronan High School – Ronan, MT

David Mackey, Power Sports & Equipment Wexford Missaukee Career Technical Center – Cadillac, MI

Ian Matje, Diesel Technology FutureForward at Washington Square – Thornton, CO

Brian McDonnell, Automotive Collision Repair GST BOCES Coopers Education Center- Painted Post, NY

Erik Mortensen, Automotive Technology Watauga High School – Boone, NC

David Moye, Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair Lyman High School – Longwood, FL

Rodney Presley, HVACR Lanier College & Career Academy – Gainesville, GA

Kim Rosenbaum, Welding Twin Lakes High School – Monticello, IN

Andrew Saweikis, Welding and Fabrication Rockland BOCES CTEC – West Nyack, NY

Don Seehusen, Industrial Technology Schuyler Central High School – Schuyler, NE

Staci Sievert, Industrial Technology Seymour High School – Seymour, WI

Teanna Simpson, Agricultural Mechanics Thayer High School – Thayer, MO

Don Stock, Automotive Technology Wichita North High School – Wichita, KS

John Stratton, Automotive Technology Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES – New Hartford, NY

Jeremy Tarbet, Automotive Technology Canyon del Oro High School – Tucson, AZ

Eric Wagaman, Construction Franklin County Career and Technology Center (PA) – Chambersburg, PA

Robert Watkins, Automotive Technology The Center of Advanced Studies and Technology – Bolivia, NC

Jeffrey Webb, Mechatronics Southern Michigan Center for Science and Industry – Hudson, MI

Gary Weese, Automotive Technology Caddo Career & Technology Center – Shreveport, LA

Brian Welch, Agricultural Mechanics Madisonville North Hopkins High School – Madisonville, KY

Robbie Wise, Aviation Maintenance Technology Tulsa Technology Center – Tulsa, OK

Adam Wood, Metal Fabrication Bettye Davis East Anchorage High School – Anchorage, AK

Derek Wray, Automotive and Diesel Technology Salem High School – Salem, VA

Wes York, Agricultural Mechanics Caldwell County High School – Princeton, KY

Breanna Youngberg, Manufacturing Cascade High School – Everett, WA

The 2017 Winner - Roxanne Amiot

This story of the 2017 winner is as typical as it is untypical … dedication, understanding, and a sense of pride in helping youngsters to develop skills that help them make a good life for themselves, their families, and their communities. Eric Smidt, the guy who owns Harbor Freight, calls them heroes … I have to concur.

Harbor Freight: I call it doing well (go buy some stuff there) by doing good (see all of the above).

About The Author

Doug Stokes's profile picture

Doug Stokes

Doug has a long and wide-ranging history in the motoring business. He served five years as the Executive Director of the International Kart Federation, and was the PR guy for the Mickey Thompson's Off-Road Championship Gran Prix. He worked racing PR for both Honda and Suzuki and was a senior PR person on the first Los Angeles (Vintage) Grand Prix. He was also the first PR Manager for Perris Auto Speedway, and spent over 20 years as the VP of Communications at Irwindale Speedway. Stokes is the recipient of the American Autowriters and Broadcaster’s 2005 Chapman Award for Excellence in Public Relations and was honored in 2015 by the Motor Press Guild with their Dean Batchelor Lifetime Achievement Award. “… I’ve also been reviewing automobiles and books for over 20 years, and really enjoy my LA Car assignments.” he added.

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