Story by Carey Grosdidier, Freelance Writer
When guest speaker Emily Pilloton came to RuralX last summer, she opened the gathering with stories of Studio H, an innovative program she launched in California that integrates design skills and building projects into high school classrooms. Emily closed her conversation by saying, “Everyone has it in them to start something—whether it’s a business, a Bible study or a book club. Just start something. The rewards are worth the risk.”
Karla Brozik, Executive Director of the Winner Area Chamber of Commerce and the South Central Development Corporation, took those words to heart. Inspired by Emily’s words and the work being done through Studio H, Karla wondered if something similar to Emily’s program was possible in Winner.
“Students in Winner don’t go to school on Fridays, so I thought a program similar to Studio H might give kids something productive to do. It would also provide them with useful new skills and allow them to explore local career options—something our job force development could really use,” she says.
Karla briefly discussed the idea at a development board meeting and then attended another meeting where she heard community member Barry Grossenburg pitch a similar idea. Knowing that she had his support gave Karla the initiative to go the next step.
“Barry Grossenburg of Grossenburg Implement was instrumental in making this all happen,” she explains. “He is an influential and supportive community member and getting him on board paved the way for everything else. Once I had his support, we were able to schedule a development board meeting and get board approval. Since then, The South Central Development Corporation, the 4-H advisor and our FFA advisor have gotten involved. It’s been awesome.”
Karla also wrote a grant through the South Central Development Corporation and received $5000 from the Tripp County Community Foundation to help get the newly formed Tripp County Skills for Tomorrow program up and running. She plans to use the money to help pay community members to teach students skills like welding, woodworking, visual arts and agriculture technology. It will also help cover the costs of supplies.
“I already have community professionals who are interested in stepping up and teaching these classes,” she says. “We are just getting the program off the ground and hope to see it grow as more people become aware of it.”
In addition to providing technical job skills, a job shadowing component of the program will also take place. It is Karla’s hope that students will realize there are quality, good paying jobs available in Winner. She says nearly every business in town is looking for employees and the job shadowing program might convince some students to stay in Winner after high school or college graduation.
As if all this isn’t enough, the community is also partnering with SDSU Extension in a program called Teach SD that pairs tech savvy teens with adults in the community who need help with computer technology. Karla is hopeful the program will continue to grow as more people become aware of it.
“I had a lot of these little ideas in my head before I attended RuralX, but hearing Emily talk about her success inspired me to make those ideas a reality. I’m excited to see how it all comes together!”