If there’s one piece of advice that Rob Miller can give about starting at SCTCC, it’s to not give up when you’re up against something that seems impossible.
Rob, a St. Cloud native, was set to start the Carpentry program this fall. He’s always been captivated by building things, and while he took a carpentry class that resulted in a certificate, it turns out that it wouldn’t help him get a job. So he enrolled for classes after talking with his dad about SCTCC. He was ready to start classes fall semester, 2020, when he ran into a roadblock.
“I enrolled for class and got my books. I was trying to get my tools, and they told me that I’d need about $700 for tools. I was trying to charge it to my financial aid account, but I couldn’t,” explained Rob.
Pat Dehler, the Carpentry instructor, said this is a common problem with students. “We’ve got about a $600-700 price tag on the tools, but that’s a good set that will last a lifetime,” he said. “Tools are always a great investment.”
Students will need tools the first week, but generally there are tools in the Carpentry lab that students can borrow or students will lend tools to each other, creating a sense of camaraderie.
“Don’t worry about not having tools or not being able to afford them. Eventually it’ll come, but we’ll get you going and get you on the right track,” said Pat.
But when Rob heard about the $700 price tag, he hadn’t yet chatted with Pat about the possibility of sharing tools. He got the list from Roseanne in the Trades & Industry administrative office, and the tools were a cost he couldn’t afford without financial aid.
“If you plan on going to college and you feel like there’s a hurdle you can’t overcome, don’t give up,” said Rob. “I was really close to giving up because I didn’t know what I was going to do. Things just kind of fell into place.”
Call it fate, kismet, destiny, but it just happened that while Rob was learning about the tool list, Paul Wesenberg stopped in to see Roseanne at the same time.
“It was meant to be,” he said while telling the story. Once Paul learned about Rob’s background and that he couldn’t afford the up-front cost of tools, he asked for the tool list and got to work. “Everybody’s got tools lying around their shop, so I started filling a tote with tools.”
Paul had most of the tools on the list, but he was missing a few other items. After calling a few people, he got most the remaining items from others who also had tools they weren’t using. Then the next day while he was on lunch at work, a gentleman stopped in to donate tools, and after looking at the list, gave money to help fill out the list.
“I was really appreciative,” said Rob about Paul giving him the tools needed to start classes. He was set to start the first week, during which students need basics for class: tool pouches, hand tools, and safety items. The first week of Carpentry classes, students learn safety and do some demo work, then the second week they get started on fundamentals like sawhorses.
Anyone who wants to donate tools, old or new, to the Carpentry program should get in touch with Pat Dehler – donations are always appreciated for any SCTCC program. Businesses that want to help out can get in contact him as well; he and the SCTCC Foundation will work on putting together scholarships or other packages for students to get the tools when there’s a financial barrier.
When Carpentry students can get started with the right set of tools regardless of their financial situation, that’s one way to help them be successful in the program. Rob was ready to give up when he saw the price tag on the tool list, but with the support of Paul, he now owns a set of tools and is starting the third week of the semester. As Paul put it, it was meant to be.