Veterans Day Spotlight

Written by Dorrie Higbee on .

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In honor of Veterans Day, we’d like to share the story of one of our staff members, who, before joining us at the woodschool, proudly served in the U.S. Air Force. After completing six years of service Matt McLaughlin began pursuing his interest in woodworking by building furniture in his father’s workshop. Eager to hone his skills and advance beyond the fundamentals, Matt applied to our 2017-2018 Nine-month Comprehensive program, for which he was able to use his GI Bill ® Education Benefits. 

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In his application letter, Matt wrote, “I am completely positive that by attending the Nine-month comprehensive course, I will be able to achieve my goal of becoming a successful member of the furniture building community.” Looking back on that now, we couldn’t have scripted his path any better. When asked if he has achieved his goal, Matt says, “I get to be part of the support system that is so necessary in this kind of learning environment.  So my answer is a resounding, YES.  I feel like I am a far larger contributor in the community of furniture makers than I could have ever imagined before I arrived, and I would have never found my place in the sun if I had not attended the Comprehensive program.

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With very little formal training in traditional joinery, Matt’s time at the school expanded his skills exponentially, including his design ability.

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In addition to woodworking, Matt is a talented drummer. One of the goals he achieved during the Comprehensive was developing techniques and skills to build jigs and create his own drum designs. Meanwhile, he joined a band that still plays regularly around the state.

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After completing the Comprehensive, Matt joined our staff as a summer Workshop Assistant, where the value of his cheerful disposition and helpful attitude in the classroom was immediately apparent.

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Our students with military backgrounds are often quick to work as a team and Matt is no exception. His collegial attitude is infectious.

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Shortly after assisting during the 2018 Workshop season, Matt joined our facilities staff, where he is now Assistant Facilities Manager. His previous experience as an airplane mechanic in the Air Force prepared him for many of the challenges he faces as part of the facilities team. His experience taught him a sense of urgency to his tasks and how to assess the issues and handle the unexpected, efficiently and safely. He has a knack for turning chaos into productivity and he doesn’t fluster easily. His attention to detail and methodical approach to each project are assets to the school and benefit the students, faculty, and staff in each building.

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This summer Matt had the opportunity to co-teach with Peter Korn during a Basic Woodworking workshop. Once again in the classroom, Matt was generous with his good cheer and encouragement.

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Matt says his journey with the school has been transformational, creating a life for himself, working at a job he enjoys, in a place where he is thriving and greeting each day with a smile. We are grateful for his service and for his interest in becoming part of this community.

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