An act of generosity for a young man entering the building trades is emblematic of a broader partnership between church, business and labor in Springfield, designed to help students at Lanphier High School succeed.
When Joey Martin graduated from Lanphier in May, he was part of a building trades pilot program designed to expose students to various construction jobs and transition them into apprenticeships with building unions.
Martin was accepted into the Labourers’ Local 477 apprenticeship program. But he was afraid he would have to turn down the offer because he didn’t have a reliable vehicle to get to the job sites.
“We cover seven counties, so transportation is important,” said Brad Schaive, business manager for Local 477. “But the problem was solved thanks to donations from the West Side Christian Church.”
It was actually a coalition called Lanphier United made up of the church, O’Shea Builders and Solid Ground Solutions that helped the young man. A benefactor bought a vehicle at a discount and a mechanic volunteered to fix the SUV. It was then given to Martin.
“What’s remarkable is that when he can afford to buy his own car, he plans to donate the car to the building trades program for another student to use.” , said Melissa Sandel, director of ministries for the church.
She added that while the story of the donated car is heartwarming, the bigger picture is how the Lanphier United coalition started this summer.
“We want to shine a light on the many positive things that happen at Lanphier. Challenges often get magnified, while good things often go unnoticed,” she said. “Lanphier has a faculty full of people who really want to see these students succeed, and they are sacrificing themselves for them.”
North High School has faced its share of challenges. Pierre Scott, 18, was stabbed to death, allegedly by another student, just outside school on November 17, 2021.
“A lot of their students are struggling,” Sandel said. “They come from low-income homes and they experience symptoms of poverty. Not everyone at Lanphier comes from that type of background, but the school has just been through a lot of drama and trauma over the past few years. .”
A group of teachers and administrators met at the church over the summer and partnered with the church and businesses to create Lanphier United.
“It’s a team of organizations and individuals who have rallied around Lanphier to try to help elevate the school’s trajectory. … Lanphier leaders wanted to cultivate hope, belonging and unity, first among their staff and administrators, then among students, parents and our community. Everyone comes together to help children succeed,” Sandel said.
The high school is currently undergoing a $93.2 million renovation, thanks to a 2018 voter-approved sales tax referendum for Springfield Public Schools District 186. An auditorium, a 2,000-seat pavilion, and an area for a building trades program are some of the addition’s features.
Over the years, District 186 had phased out building trades courses. But five years ago, he tried to reintroduce the course at Lanphier.
“The district really saw it as a math class, so it was rolled into the math department,” said Rob Handy, who now co-teach the class. “It was terrible. It was awful. We had no students in the class. There were two kids one year, and the next year there was one, and then the year of COVID, we we didn’t have any more.”
But last year, 12 students were on the program and this year there are 39 students. Next year, the school’s 4,000 square foot workshop will be completed in the new building and the program will be open to students across the district.
The building trades program is now only offered to juniors and seniors, but in two years Handy said he hopes to see it offered at all high school levels.
Those enrolled in the program are a mix of special education and general education students, said Handy, who is a certified special education teacher.
Students visit various construction sites, observe different trades in action and do hands-on learning. Part of the class work is for students to visit each of the union halls in the city building and hear what each vocation has to offer.
“There are so many opportunities in the workforce and there is a shortage of workers,” said Schaive of Local 477. “There is a huge shortage of tradespeople because there is has so much work. We must look at all avenues of recruitment.
“This is an opportunity to educate young people that you don’t necessarily have to take on a lot of college debt to be successful. Whether it’s laborers, operators, plumbers, fitters steam, you can make a good living… It’s a sure path to the middle class.”
Scott Reeder, Writer for Illinois Times, can be contacted at [email protected]