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Up and running – Kennedy opens community-funded welding room

By James Day

Kennedy High’s new welding room, an innovative public-private partnership, is open for business and ready to serve.

Officials from Mt. Angel Community Foundation, area building trades and the high school were on hand Aug. 31 for an opening ceremony and the production of the first job by the state-of-the-art equipment.

Kennedy teacher Korrie Shull fired up a plasma cutter, paid for, along with a 3D-printer via a $20,000 grant from the Marion County Board of Supervisors, and moments later a metal sign noting THANK YOU EVERYONE was etched, cut and ready to be passed around, photographed and held up for posterity by club-jacketed Kennedy FFA members.

Mt. Angel Community Foundation board member and Withers Lumber VP John Gooley introduced the new Gem Equipment Welding Room to a gathering of approximately 30 people. He noted the $90,000 in donations and in-kind commitments from 40 individuals and companies that made the project possible.

“Every time there was another ask for help, people said yes,” project organizer Gooley said, noting that an additional $10,000 from the Michael Roth Foundation was necessary at the last minute for fire sprinklers.

“This room came together at no cost to the school and it shows you what 40 people working together can accomplish,” Gooley said. “I thank everyone who helped build this welding room. It will be here for generations. And all for a public school.”

Gooley passed the keys to Mt. Angel School District Superintendent Rachel Stucky, who noted the value of the student community working with the Mt. Angel community.

“The school district is dedicated to increasing opportunity,” said Stucky, who expressed “gratitude to the many, many groups who brought this dream to a reality.”

Stull will be joined in the welding room by Chemeketa Community College teacher Alex Snegirev, a Kennedy High graduate. 

One of the goals of the welding program is to raise more money for scholarships that would allow students to move on to further training with the Chemeketa welding program. Gooley also noted that Kennedy students plan to design and build craft items to be sold at Oktoberfests next September. Proceeds will be used to continue to support the welding program.

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