Speedway benches raise funds for charity
By Tony Graf email@example.com May 28, 2012 9:02PM
People gather for the revealing of the Chicagoland Speedway and Joliet Township High School BenchMark project at the Chicagoland Speedway Monday, May 14, 2012, at 500 Speedway Boulevard in Joliet. Students built benches for advertising at this summer's big race with the proceeds going to charity. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Denny’s, D’Arcy Buick, D’Arcy Hyundai, D’Arcy VW, Honda of Joliet, Tezak’s Home to Celebrate Life, Martin Whalen Office Solutions, Bill Jacobs Joliet, Northern Illinois Steel, Harrah’s Joliet, Thomas Nissan, Collision Revision, Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, First National Bank of Illinois, Joliet Park District, Chignoli Auto Sales, Troy and Vicki Dunlap, ExxonMobil, Worldwide Equipment Sales LLC, E&R Towing, Advanced Family Dental.
Updated: July 3, 2012 10:39AM
JOLIET — Some of the benches have a sleek Blues Brothers theme, reminiscent of local Route 66 lore. One bench has elegant black-and-white scenes of the Joliet of antiquity. Another bench has a patriotic tribute to veterans.
Joliet Township High School students created these benches for display at Chicagoland Speedway during upcoming races. Students created the concepts, did the design work, built the benches, and found sponsors to support the effort.
With the BenchMark Project now complete, the students have raised $20,000 for local charities, including the G.W. Buck Boys and Girls Club, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Will County Humane Society.
“These students also gained valuable business skills that will certainly benefit them for years to come,” said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway and Route 66 Raceway, at a May ceremony. “They concepted the ideas, they managed the project, they met deadlines, they worked collaboratively with others, and they developed valuable selling skills.”
“We learned what is actually used in the real world,” said Alex Cap, a Joliet West student, project leader, and member of the West construction team. “We learned way more than what the books could actually teach us, and what our teachers could teach us in shop. It was a good experience overall.”
While Cap and his classmates worked in building, Central student Jorge Gonzalez worked in the sales and marketing team. Members worked to find sponsorships in the community. They navigated real-world obstacles to achieve their goals.
“A big part of this project was perseverance,” Gonzalez said. “We would call every day from class, and we had the really bad disadvantage of having that class during lunchtime — so every day we would call, and nobody would be there. So we would have to keep on calling and calling. We perservered, and we got the job done.”
The BenchMark Project is an example of the academy concept at Joliet Township High School.
The school’s career academies are designed to motivate students to be college ready. The five academies are: Arts and Communication; Business Management and Information Systems; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; Human Services; and Health and Medicine.
The first three on the list were the primary participants in the BenchMark Project.
Cheryl McCarthy, superintendent of the district, remembers emphasizing this concept in early discussions with Paddock. She wanted a project that would provide students with real-life experience: Students could work with people in a particular field, learn curriculum in their classes, and then see it come to life outside of the school.
“And this project has really done that,” McCarthy said.
“When the students gave a presentation early on about the design of the benches, I was really impressed at their knowledge of welding skills, the materials,” she said.
McCarthy also was impressed by their discussion of marketing efforts.
Carol Collins, district project director, serves as liaison to the speedway for Joliet Township High School.
The project also is an example of the school and speedway working together.
“Chicagoland Speedway and Joliet Township High School have been partners throughout the past decade of our existence,” Paddock said. “In fact, we recently had the students out for a couple days of job shadowing in our facility, where they spent a couple hours with our staff. We’ve done that for several years.”
Paddock credited other participants, including the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
“This was a great example of students, teachers, administrators, our staff, local businesses, and the Joliet Chamber of Commerce all coming together — the consummate example of a team effort coming together to bring this project to life,” he said.