A few years ago, Hutchinson High School junior Toby Mohs realized he enjoyed mechanical work. His father bought a diesel truck, his friend drove a diesel, and at the dairy farm he works at there were diesel engines.
"I was surrounded by diesels," he said. "So I started to like them even more specifically."
That's how he discovered he wanted to go to school for diesel mechanics. And he's already started gaining the practical experience he'll need thanks to a program the school's TigerPath coordinator, Andrea Moore, brought to his attention. Her job was created to help connect students to career education opportunities.
Several months ago, Charlie Plant of Big Picture Learning and Doug Thomas, who knew Moore through his time working with charter schools, visited HHS to look for grant applicants for the Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative. The program encourages students interested in the trades and offers a $1,000 scholarship for 120 hours of apprenticing with a trade mentor. It also offers a $500 stipend to the mentor and a $500 stipend to the school staff member who helps arrange the fellowship. In Moore's case, providing such opportunities is her job, so the stipend went to the school.
Moore went to the school's agriculture internship class to see if anyone was interested in the opportunity.
"Toby, being the organized go-getter that he is, came to my office and said he would apply," Moore said. "He organized it and got accepted."
The fit was natural for Mohs, who had already started working at DC Diesel Tek in Litchfield for his agriculture internship class. Through the fellowship, he'll be able to continue his work there.
"This kind of developed along the way," Mohs said. "I went as part of a class and (the fellowship) fit into it."
At DC Diesel Tek, Mohs does whatever is needed, including dealing with garbage, replacing wheel bearings on trailers, replacing brakes on trucks and more. The business offers diesel repair, industrial repair, commercial repair, agriculture repair, welding and fabrication, inspections, trucking and more. Because he is not certified, there are tasks Mohs cannot do, but he is able to watch, listen and learn.
The fellowship uses an application that Mohs will download to record his apprenticing hours. He'll also periodically fill out surveys as the application tracks his attitude toward the trade before, during and after his apprenticeship. For Mohs, the outlook is positive.
"The way I see it, before this class and this fellowship, I didn't have much of a way to get into anything mechanical," Mohs said. "I was more fixing my own vehicle or learning on lawnmowers. But now I get to go and watch and learn and help do these jobs. It's more general knowledge. And I can say I've done it. I at least have a basis of how to do it if I had to do it again."
Moore said she's glad the school decided to create a position such as hers that can be the point person to bring such opportunities to students. In addition to the scholarship and stipend, the fellowship provides one other perk for recipients: $250 for tools of the trade.
"And you get to keep them," Moore said.