desks for success students

Building Success, One Desk at a Time

In the face of a global pandemic that illuminated disparities in resources, three Shaker Heights High School students decided to act locally by providing an essential item for remote learning: desks. Says junior Grace Wilkinson, “I started by just Googling simple pictures of school desks and chose my favorite prototype.” From there, she recruited fellow students, Rachel Coxon and Olivia Peebles, to join her in co-leading the project they dubbed Desks for Success. Their goal is to build 50 desks and distribute them to students who do not have an ideal remote learning setup. To help them reach that goal, they enlisted the help of principal Eric Juli, who was happy to act as their cheerleader and mentor. 

“I saw this as an opportunity for the students to solve the problem they identified on their own,” says Eric. “ I had partnered with Soulcraft Woodshop as a principal in Cleveland, so I connected them with the team at Soulcraft, where they have supported our students from design through implementation.” The Shaker Schools Foundation stepped up to provide funding to help cover the cost of the mentoring, tools, and materials they needed to launch their project.

In approaching the design problem, Olivia explains, “We drew and measured out prototypes according to what the user will need– we considered storage, the perfect universal height of the desk, how much space we should leave for textbooks, etc. I am excited to tackle any issues related to the design cycle.” 

Says Rachel, “It’s been really cool to get out of a classroom setting to learn more about the real world, and everyone has been treating us like adults. It’s been hard for students to adjust to everything going on and I couldn’t imagine attending online school without a place to work.”

The students have recruited a fleet of other student volunteers to help them in their project, all of whom are excited to apply hands-on learning to a real-world problem: educational inequity.

“I truly hope that through our efforts and the help of Soulcraft, the Shaker Schools Foundation, Mr. Juli, and many other students, people will take the time to consider others who are struggling through this time and acknowledge educational inequities,” says Olivia. 

Your gift to the Shaker Schools Foundation helps provide hands-on, experiential learning for students in every grade, Pre-K through 12. Thank you!

Giving Students TLC:

Technology to Learn and Connect


Like many school districts across the nation, the Shaker schools started the 2020-21 school year with remote learning. To help ensure equitable access to engaged learning, the Shaker Schools Foundation partnered with Shaker teachers and administrators to identify and meet the needs of our students. 

As a result, the Foundation launched the TLC “Tech to Learn & Connect” fund to support the purchase of high-quality headsets with microphones for all students in grades K-8, as well as computer mice that are compatible with District-issued Chromebooks. 

TLC funds also supported the purchase of magnetic counting boards and letter sets for PreK students, for Google Read/Write software that helps students at all grade levels with reading fluency, and for additional resources to spark creativity in music and art specials.

Says Lomond teacher Gretchen Hess,  “I was blown away when I heard that the Foundation would be supplying a headset and a mouse to every student! I am grateful each day when I see my students using them. Plus, they think it’s super cool!” 

Your gift to the Shaker Schools Foundation helps us deliver equitable, engaging education to all of our students. Thank you! 

Finding an Artful Solution

When it came to teaching art in a remote setting, Shaker Heights High School art teachers figured out a pretty clever way to help students get their arms (and brushes) around some tricky concepts: by using webcams funded by the Shaker Schools Foundation to demonstrate those techniques, step by step. 

Says Christina Stouffer, “The webcams allow students to see firsthand perspectives of art making techniques in real time.” Adds Kristina Walter, “It allows me to create the artwork in one screen while I’m explaining instructions on another screen.” 

The Foundation also purchased art kits for the students to use at home throughout remote learning. 

“We’re grateful to the Foundation for recognizing the importance of the arts in education, especially during this challenging time for our students,” says High School art department chair Karen DeMauro

Your gift to the Shaker Schools Foundation helps keep the “A” in STEAM by supporting arts programming for students at every grade level. Thank you!

Providing New Pathways

With the return to some in-person learning, Shaker Heights High School students couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new equipment in the new machining and manufacturing room at the High School. New equipment was installed over the summer using funding from the Shaker Schools Foundation’s Innovation Fund, to bolster the High School’s Engineer pathway that will provide Career Tech Education credentials.

Dr. Joe Marencik, who heads up the CTE program and teaches Engineering and advanced Robotics, was excited to add to the more high-tech “toys” for the students to gain hands-on experience, including 3D printers, laser cutters, a thermal vacuum former, a wind tunnel, industrial robots, and industrial mills and lathes. 

When student Naukiya Worley first walked into the machining room, she says, “I was kind of shocked because I’ve never seen this type of equipment before in a school. I’m excited to use it because I feel like you can get the experience for yourself instead of just hearing a teacher talk about it.” 

Machining and manufacturing teacher Marty McGuan agrees. “Students will be getting an extensive amount of hands-on experience working with hand tools, power tools, and the various machine shop tools,” he says. “There is no shortage of what a student can learn in this classroom. They can really become practitioners of the mechanical arts.” 

These opportunities will provide Shaker students not only with engaging, hands-on learning, but will open new career pathways to them as well. Students can earn in-demand industry certifications like OSHA 10-hour training, Autodesk, and FANUC robot programming. And, students will be able to take part in internships arranged with local manufacturing companies who are eager for skilled employees. 

Shaker senior Evan Ward says, “I had taken Robotics last year so I had some familiarity with the tools, but I had no clue how a lathe works. Now I know how to use it to cut metal. Mr. McGuan said that this knowledge is very helpful for mechanical engineering or future work with vehicles or at NASA.” 

Your gift to the Shaker Schools Foundation supports innovation and technology for all grade levels. Thank you!

Pathways video

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