New shop building helps sustain the future of rural community

Walking into the new school shop building at Wing Public School, you might be greeted by the sound of a hammer or the purr of a buzz saw. But if you listen closely, you might hear a different kind of buzz – excitement for a program that could help sustain the future of this small community.

“This community is an agricultural community. It’s a farming community. And this ties into everything that is already here,” says Superintendent David Goetz, Wing Public School. “It helps strengthen the future of farming and agriculture in our community, while keeping kids interested in school.”

Completed in the spring of 2017, the building houses the school’s agricultural education program. Within its walls, students study animal science and learn skills like woodworking and welding.

“I like that we learn new things,” says Freshman E.J. Gray. “My grandpa taught me a lot, but I’d like to see the new ways and learn to be better.”

Before the shop was built, the school provided its agricultural curriculum through online and ITV courses. Ag Teacher Kelsey Deckert worked with school officials to build the program from the ground up. She now teaches six classes each day.

“The shop adds so much more to the program,” says Deckert. “We have a place to do woodworking, mechanics and welding. They have a place to do projects. They’re developing life skills, and it makes a big difference.”

Junior Cole McCommon has taken three classes since the shop was built. Those classes have allowed him to practice the things he’s not ready to do at home.

“I’m a hands-on learner,” says McCommon. “I love to take things apart and put them together. That’s why I love farming.”

McCommon has been working on his family farm since he was 6 years old. He started by opening gates, and now, there isn’t much he can’t do.

“I’m pretty much the right-hand man on the farm,” says McCommon. “I’ll run pretty much whatever I’m thrown at. I’m basically the second in command.”

After graduating high school, McCommon plans to serve in the U.S. Army and pursue an education in automotive technology at the North Dakota State College of Science, before returning home to take over the farm.

At 15-years-old, Gray is already running his own business that offers lawn mowing, oil changes and some repair work.

“The trade industry is huge,” says Deckert. “There are a lot of kids who like to go into those jobs where they are doing a lot with their hands. It’s always good when they come back to you and say, ‘I went home, and I applied it.’”

Deckert says she learns a lot from her students. “I was told when I was younger that as a teacher you’re always going to be a student in life, and I totally believe that.”

Deckert and her students aren’t the only ones excited about the new program.

“I’ve had community members ask if we would offer some night classes. We haven’t ventured in to that yet, but I know there is some interest in welding,” says Goetz. “It really shows that there is a strong interest in [the program].”

In the future, Goetz would like to introduce a family and consumer sciences program to the school.

The new shop building was funded, in part, by a community capital loan provided by the Rural Development Finance Corporation (RDFC). Founded in 1994 by North Dakota’s rural electric and telecommunications cooperatives, RDFC helps rural communities grow by offering low-interest financing.

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