Platte County Elementary toolbox activity completed at Guernsey-Sunrise High School
HDTV host Kayleen McCabe builds dreams at Guernsey-Sunrise HS
Guernsey- Elementary students from Platte County came together for one of the largest mass-build projects that HDTV host Kayleen McCabe has ever been a part of.
McCabe who came to town at the request of industrial arts teacher, Troy Reichert set up the event by inviting educators to a steak dinner at Miners and Stockmen’s restaurant in Hartville.
The night was for the purpose of getting educators all on the same page as to the event that was to take place the next morning at Guernsey-Sunrise High School. Educators got a chance to meet one another from other elementary schools and hear a presentation by McCabe as to what was going to transpire with the massive build.
McCabe, the dynamic host of many remodeling and renovation shows on HDTV is one of the women who actually does her own work and is a working part of all projects produced. She is a Colorado native who said that she was and only child growing up in a very happy childhood.
“Dad wanted a boy,” she said. “That’s why I learned how to rebuild Studebakers. I’ve been doing construction all my life. My father was a welder, mom was in nursing so we would always be working on projects around the house. I didn’t actually start doing this as a career until I started as a production specialist on the show ‘Trading Spaces,’ and then realized that I could do that for a living.”
McCabe is proud of the fact that she is a contractor and that she doesn’t just provide the feminine fluff on television.
“I wanted to be hands-on,” she said. “I’m not an actress and I’m not a model, I am a framer. I wanted to show that actually this is what a framer looks like. Being hands on for me was critical.”
The goal of the event in Guernsey according to McCabe was to pass on her passion for construction by teaching second and third graders a little bit about construction. We are going to build a simple toolbox and maybe they do this in the future, but I really want them to fall in love with math. Because when you are building, you are just playing with math.”
She presents math as as “an awesome beautiful language” and construction is one of the ways that humans can express it.
“I believe all construction is a work of art,” she said. “But my 20 years on television has really forced me into the mindset that every construction project is going to be ridiculous. And that’s all I do now.”
Before McCabe approached Reichert to come and do this project, the story really begins back in 2019.
It all got started after winning the Harbor Freight Tools for School Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2019, Troy Reichert was approached by EdCorps, a nonprofit organization that promoted skilled trades by empowering schools to create a business and sell items online.
The Guernsey-Sunrise woodworking students decided to create the Wyoming307woodworkers in 2021. Word spread of what the kids had been doing, and was eventually brought to the attention of Kayleen McCabe this past fall.
McCabe reached out and set up a zoom call in October 2022 to pitch an idea to Reichert and his students. The idea: She wanted to travel the country promoting Skilled Trades to elementary students through a speaking engagement that included students putting together a tiny toolbox. And she wanted to hire the Wyoming307woodworkers to fabricate all of the pieces for the toolboxes that the elementary kids would put together.
"I want kids today to know that they'll be defined by their integrity, reputation and work ethic in life, not an ACT score or college degree,” Reichert said. “Go after that if you want, but making hundreds of thousands of dollars in your 20s working a skilled trade job you love makes more sense to me than paying off college debt until you're in your 30s or 40s."
As fall and winter progressed, McCabe drew up the plans for the toolbox pieces and submitted them to the students. The students discussed time management, materials, and production costs before submitting a proposal back to McCabe to produce the pieces.
The Wyoming307woodworkers created a production line to maximize production and efficiency while building the kits. Students created jigs and templates to speed production, while Reichert reached out to businesses and organizations for donations of materials, safety glasses and hammers.
After another zoom call with McCabe in February, it was decided that it would be a great idea to have Kayleen come to Guernsey to do her skilled trades activity with second and third graders from Wheatland and Guernsey.
After confirming the event with Guernsey-Sunrise school administration, Reichert contacted the Wheatland elementary principals to create the joint assembly between the two school districts.
"Kayleen is an incredible woman and an inspiration to children of all ages across the nation. Her passion for the skilled trades is very evident in how she communicates and it was a humbling pleasure to have her hire our high school business and come to our little town and share her knowledge with elementary students."
As with any national project, there are a lot of moving parts. If Kayleen gets grants and funding, she intends to hire the Wyoming307woodworkers to continue building toolbox parts during the 2023-2024 school year. Students learn a variety of soft skills and job skills through this activity. Tools used include the disc sander, table saw, bandsaw, drill press, miter saw, surfacer, edger and others. Math concepts are crucial in making sure that every kit will fit together properly, and students also learn how to do quality control before packaging the items.
Harbor Freight Tools for Schools donated $300 toward the purchase of safety glasses and hammers for the event.
Dan Benford from the Associated General Contractors of Wyoming (AGC) donated additional safety glasses, stickers, hats, and other swag items for the event.
Platte County Chamber of Commerce donated stickers for the kids and presented Kayleen with a gift bag of goodies to Kayleen.
VFW Post 4471 Auxiliary donated "pocket soldiers" for the second and third graders. The goodie bag included a plastic soldier , flag pin, candy stick and note about the "pocket soldier".
The high school students that built the toolbox parts include: Aidan Noggle, Rylie Thompson, Shelbie Bowen, Emmett Dawson, Tristan Hohnholt and Dawson Bingham.
"The quality work of the high school students, and the connections I've made with business/industry partners over the past few years is what got this all started. Harbor Freight Tools for Schools and the AGC of Wyoming got us connected with Kayleen this past year, and it's been a great partnership ever since."