Shiloh shop program going for $1.5 million federal grant

Shiloh shop program going for $1.5 million federal grant

By: Quinn Propst

By: Quinn Propst

By: Quinn Propst

By: Quinn Propst

HUME – Shiloh High School's industrial technology program – the one that received national attention for making wood-framed glasses featured in "Vogue" and Martha Stewart's new magazine "Blue Print" – could be receiving a $1.5 million grant.

If it does, Mark Smith's shop program will become a learning center for other high schools in the area, and even some of the community colleges, nearby universities and industry workers.

The Shiloh High School's shop program is well-known in industrial technology education circles because it teaches advanced, computer-based woodworking skills.

Shiloh's program also has the unique distinction of being in a business partnership with a Kentucky company called iWood EcoDesign. The company contacted Smith in 2004 after seeing an article about his program in a trade publication. The iWood company supplies the materials, walnut for the eyeglass frames and exotic veneers like tigerwood, zebrawood and ebony to finish them.

Smith gives the entire income from iWood, $10 per finished frame, to his students. The frames are sold by iWood at www.iwoodecodesign.com for $350 a pair. Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Neve Campbell and U2's Bono own them.

The grant that Smith is seeking to expand his program is being offered through the Department of Labor, and U.S. Rep. Timothy Johnson, R-Urbana, has offered Smith his assistance and help of an aide in the grant writing.

Shiloh High School is the only entity in Illinois applying for the grant money, and furthermore, it's the only high school in the nation.

If they win the money, Smith plans to increase the current shop and classroom space from 2,500 square feet to about 5,000, purchase high-tech and low-tech tools, and purchase engineering standard computers.

"Very few community colleges will have a shop as nice as ours will be," Smith said. "We would like to open our doors to them as well." Smith said he has already begun talking to administrators in other schools about kids coming in from other districts for the classes.

Also, he hopes industry workers would come to brush up on their skills or learn the latest technologies.

The grant will be awarded in October or November, Smith said.

The shop already has industry support, and Smith's used his sharp business skills to acquire tools and supplies at deep discounts. Last year the program received more than $100,000 in industry donations.

Smith said his students' sunglasses have been all over the fashion runways and fashion magazines, but his students also complete other ambitious projects.

One student built an octagonal cherry dining table. They've also built kitchen cabinets, making about $50,000 for the program in the last 10 years, according to Smith.

News-Gazette staff writer Anne Cook contributed to this story.

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