- J.T. Crawford
It’s 10:15 in the morning at the Innovation Hub. It’s relatively quiet in the school’s main corridor as students focus intently on projects in classrooms and shops. Suddenly, a low rumble emerges. Then, a couple of quick blasts. Vroom! Vroom! Students begin to emerge, peeking into the hallway just in time to catch sight of a brand new custom Harley Davidson slowly go by. For those in the automotive programs, this a culmination of an educational journey—one that reaps many rewards and showcases the importance of partnerships.
One of the cornerstones of the Innovation Hub approach is working with local business and industry leaders, tying education to real-world experiences. Like with everything else at the Hub, such partnerships open a myriad of possibilities that are always evolving.
The custom Harley is an example is a connection with Four Rivers Harley Davidson. General Manager Trent Willett who started his career as a tech and builder of motorcycles is always on the lookout for ways to share his passion with new generations.
“My first thought was to do a bike build with some students,” says Trent. “Then, I thought about setting up some sort of scholarship after selling the bike. But that would just help one kid. I found out that there was always a need for money to buy tools and equipment, so we decided to have the students build a bike, raffle it off, and then reinvest the profit back into the program.”
A bike build involves taking a brand-new Harley, deconstructing it, and rebuilding it into a custom bike. Motors are rebuilt, parts are upgraded, some parts are powder-coated, and the bike gets a unique paint job. “It’s a cool process,” says Trent. “We’ll put about $25,000 into it. And this year, we were able to get a lot of things donated. I called around to different companies to let them know we wanted to use their products—things like taillights, seats, handlebars.”
Not only does it help the school financially, it gives students a unique opportunity. “It’s a great experience,” adds Trent. “Not a lot of kids get to take a brand new Harley and tear right into it. When they first start, they are a little nervous. But once you get some tools in their hands and they get going, they take off. It’s like a swarm of piranhas around that bike. When they get going, they love it.”
Tony Denson was one of the students who built the ’20-’21 bike. Tony was part of the Auto Body Tech/Collision program. “We got this bike with ten miles on it,” says Tony. “We tore it down to the frame and rebuilt it.” Tony focused on painting, giving the motorcycle its unique style. For Tony, it was not only a unique opportunity to build a custom bike, it led to a job. He is now employed by Four River Harley Davidson.
“Through the school, I got certifications like structural repair, non-structural repair, mechanical and electrical, paint refinishing, and ASE,” says Tony. “It was great being able to do this.”
And you can help the school by buying a raffle ticket for the 2020 Harley Low Rider now valued at over $40K. Tickets are $100 each, and a maximum of 750 will be sold. They can be purchased at Four Rivers Harley Davidson. Drawing will be held on March 20.