Benchmark Project prepares for unveiling

Jenny Glasscock, contributing writer

This year, student volunteers from both Central and West were given the opportunity to participate in the Benchmark Project in connection with the Chicagoland Speedway. These students were able to be mentored by a Chicagoland Speedway employee as well as receive work experience while designing benches during this year long curriculum project. This program follows other successful ventures such as the Cows on Parade and is ultimately intended to beautify the Speedway and fundraising for local charities. “We have had a great relationship with Joliet Township High School for several years and the Benchmark Project allows us to enhance this relationship by providing students with real life work experience,” said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway. “This year long project will provide students with the opportunity to explore their professional interests while also learning to work in a team environment with their peers – executing a true business venture.” The project provided students with experience that included: production of benches, design of benches, managing a financial budget, charity outreach, and business development. The whole process of this project involved students from a variety of classes to get the benches built and finished. Art students, students from the welding class, and students from the Business and Marketing classes have all participated in the project. Teachers supported these students and helped to make the project a success. Terri Schrishuhn, fondly called, “Miss Shoo”, the Academy of Arts and Communication Leader and mentor for students painting the benches said, “Mr. Popek, Mr. Contreras, Mr. Bell, Mr. Cumming, Mr. West, Mrs. Angel, and Mrs. Stapleton have all been important in the process because they’ve had a hand in helping students research, create, and build the benches.” Mrs. Stapleton, Academy Leader expressed her satisfaction with the project and praised those involved. “The teacher leadership from Brian Bell, Joe Contreras, and Dave Popek really made this project a success,” Stapleton said. One of the aspects of this project required that students sell the benches to local businesses and organizations; the proceeds generated from these sales will go to the Make a Wish Foundation and the Humane Society. West was able to sell ten benches to local businesses and organizations that reflect the local community and the world of motorsports. Devin Edwards, a sophomore that has actively participated in this project said, “My favorite part about this experience was being able to put my own creativity and innovation into something I love doing. I also liked being able to give something to people who really need it.” At the beginning of the school year, students gave detailed digital presentations on bench design and construction, marketing, sales, web design, business planning and more. They created progress reports and timelines. “Students worked very hard to meet deadlines and produce an excellent product to display in the community,” said Stapleton. “The kids and the teachers did an amazing job. We were really blown out of the water,” said Nicole Meagher, senior manager for communications at the speedway. Seniors involved were given the opportunity to earn scholarships for this project. There are five $500 dollar scholarships available. Seniors were asked to apply by submitting a short writing sample describing their involvement in the project and some of the things they learned. Applications were due April 18th. Alex Cap, a senior student who took a leadership role with this project said, “I would say that this project showed me the business part of the world. It opened more doors and opportunities for me.” The completed benches will be showcased at the Chicagoland Speedway for the entire 2012-2013 season. After the racing season ends, the benches will be returned to the buyers to display. For instance, Pilcher Park will be using one of the benches in a children’s park. The unveiling will be Monday, May 14th at 4:00 pm at the Chicagoland Speedway. “I would definitely encourage students to do projects like this in the future,” Cap concluded.