Ingenuity Goes Viral

“I like this guy.” A simple sentence, but when Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs fame) says it on Facebook, people take notice. In the case of Mark Dunn, that notice took the form of GoFundMe donations.

The Design and Fabrication Class at Luther High SchoolWe are trying to raise money for our Design and Fabrication Class that was started this year to buy equipment and tools. We are a small school district in rural Luther Oklahoma. The program was started this year with two Mig welders, a small plasma cutter, basic tools, and a handful of computers. (From Dunn’s GoFundMe page)

Dunn, the foreman of Luther High’s Design and Fabrication class, works with his 7th–12th grade students on group projects. Through these projects, the kids learn skills and earn a sense of accomplishment. Their latest project was a big one. “The students wanted to build a smoker with a theme,” Dunn says. “We build everything from the ground up as a group.” The end result, a fully-functional train-themed smoker, was just the latest in a long line of impressive projects turned out by the students.

“I love the look on the kids’ faces when they step back, look at their work and realize they did it with their own two hands,” says Dunn. Historically, money has been raised by the class through selling their completed projects. Recently, a GoFundMe account was started by Dunn. “I started the GoFundMe account in an attempt to buy additional equipment,” Dunn explains. “We received support from a few companies donating materials and time.” The project brought in about $280 of their $100,000 goal. “I am still not sure how Mike Rowe got the information,” Dunn continued. “It certainly helped. Around $36,000 was raised in a couple days following Mike Rowe’s post.”

Rowe reposted the GoFundMe link to his more than two million worldwide followers with his own personal rant. “… we don’t reward real initiative and real work ethic where it matters most—in kids who are trying to figure out how to be of use in modern society.” Rowe, who says he never reposts links to fundraising accounts, did just that for Dunn’s fundraiser.

Mark Dunn, teacher of Design and Fabrication at Luther High SchoolThe GoFundMe fundraiser currently has about a third of donations required to meet Dunn’s goal. “We are going to purchase equipment so that we can help additional kids,” says Dunn. With 122 kids in Dunn’s classes, this is a priority, and the money already raised is making a difference in the class. “My students will have a wider range of projects now and they will not be spending most of their time waiting in line to use a piece of equipment.”

On his fundraiser page, Mark explains the passion behind the project and the request for funding. “Programs like this one have proven to keep kids in school. Several of these kids worked several hours into the night on these projects. Our ultimate goal is to give these kids an opportunity to learn the skills to obtain a decent paying job. Our college bound kids will also benefit by being able to work their way through college earning enough to not have an enormous student loan debt.”

In regards to the smoker, JT Holt with Land Loan Specialists purchased it and is donating it to Anna’s House Foundation in Luther. A check for $6,500 was presented to the students, who can continue to use the smoker for promotion for up to a year. Anna’s House Foundation supports foster families through support, training, resources and housing in Luther.

When the excitement of a national spotlight wears off, Dunn’s students will still be working hard, needing materials to build toward their future successes. “I am still not sure how we are going to get the word out on future projects,” continues Dunn. “I assume once the buzz of Mike Rowe sharing our train wears off we will be back to square one, but who knows.” No matter what the future brings, it’s clear that great things are still going to happen in this shop class.

The fundraiser can be found at www.gofundme.com/umbhes

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