By Jimmy W. Pierce, Executive Director, KMI
The Kids Making It Woodworking Program began as a volunteer effort in 1994, became a full-time program in 2000, and has served over 3,500 youth throughout the years, 99% of whom have been New Hanover County Schools’ students.
KMI now serves 500 local youth every year, from age seven through early adulthood in three programs: Introductory Woodworking Classes for pre-teens, in which kids learn basic hand-tool skills and build a project to keep; Vocational and Entrepreneurial Classes where teens learn to operate traditional cabinet shop machinery, build a variety of projects, and are allowed to sell their products in the KMI gift shop, earning 100% of the profits on all their sales; and the KMI Apprenticeship Program, through which graduates who need jobs are offered paid on-the-job training positions, making custom products for the public, using both traditional, computer driven and digital technology machinery. In the fall, KMI will begin their new Skilled Trades program for older teens, introducing the basics of electrical, plumbing, masonry, construction carpentry, and HVAC.
Connecting vocational skills and income to work early in a child’s life has a way of helping to lay the foundation for success. KMI tracks the results of their teenagers in the program, and has had a zero dropout rate for many years. Their recidivism and ‘getting in trouble’ rate is < 2%.
KMI counts success one student at a time, and has far more success stories than we have room for here. But here are a few:
- Tyrell “Pop” Brockington started at KMI when he was 14, was hired as a youth apprentice at 15, took shop and after graduation from Hoggard became a full-time KMI instructor. He turns 30 this year, and now works in a professional cabinet shop.
- Thomas was in a gang and suspended from middle school when he first came to KMI. After a few months, he quit the gang, got back in school, and used all of the money from his first profits check to buy his own tools and start his own woodworking business. Other students now have their own woodworking businesses too – one of whom could be receiving a disability check but who has decided with his family not to, as he now can make it on his own.
- Tevin and Yvonne had a tough childhood and were at New Hanover High School when they first came to KMI at 15 & 14. Tevin is now putting himself through school at NC A&T University, and wants to become an architect, and Yvonne is putting herself through Fayetteville State to become a social worker.
- Enrique just graduated from NHHS and will attend NC State University to become an architect in the fall.
- Jessica started at KMI at 14, graduating from NHHS. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Paris, and inspired by her experience at KMI, Jessica is now working to start her own non-profit teaching cooking and baking to at-risk kids.
www.kidsmakingit.org; 617 Castle Street, Wilmington, 28401; (910) 763 – 6001