Welcome to our social impact series, called “Five Questions.” On the first day of every month, we will share five questions with a community organization serving children and youth in Jackson County. We hope to inspire you, enlighten you, and connect you with community organizations should you ever need assistance. By sharing this with you, we hope that together we can be inspired to take action to improve our communities!

Last summer, after creating Wonder and Wander – Jackson, I heard about The Shop Rat Foundation for the first time after signing Big up for some of their free summer class offerings (rubberband helicopters and paper circuits). After spending some more time learning about them, I knew they would be perfect to showcase as part of our Five Questions social impact series. We chatted with Rachael Wingle, Program Director, who shared about the extensive work The Shop Rat Foundation does for youth in our area. Keep reading to learn more about this fantastic organization!

Five Questions with The Shop Rat Foundation
1. Tell us about The Shop Rat Foundation, and the mission of your organization.
The Shop Rat Foundation is a Jackson-based educational organization whose mission is to ignite interest in manufacturing and professional trades among youth through innovation and outreach.

2. How long has The Shop Rat Foundation been active in the community?
The Shop Rat Foundation was founded in 2004 by local manufacturing entrepreneur, Chris Salow. The Organization grew from manufacturers’ recognition of the increasing need for employees with hands-on skills, as well as, the shortage of relevant programs available for youth to explore these skills and possible careers.

3. What kinds of classes are available to the youth in our area? How can someone register for your youth courses? 
We offer a wide variety of hands-on classes including engineering, carpentry, machining, welding, and computer science. Registration for our Spring Semester is currently open! Any interested student is welcome to visit our website, www.shoprat.org to see all upcoming registration information and detailed class information.

4. While many of your classes are for students in grade six and up, you recently received a grant to support STEM opportunities in grades 3-8. Please tell us more about this amazing opportunity!
We are proud to announce that we recently became the recipient of the Dream Makers grant which will allow us to facilitate in-school robotics and coding classes to Jackson County Schools. We are so excited for this opportunity and plan to roll out the curriculum this spring!

5. What advice can you give to parents and caretakers who have a child that is interested in a career in the manufacturing trades?
Many careers within the manufacturing and skilled trades industries offer bright and promising futures! We are proud to say that many of our Shop Rat alumni now have successful and lucrative careers because they chose to follow these career paths. Any parent or student interested in learning more about the skilled trades pipeline is welcome to reach out to us. We would love to introduce you to your possible future career!

Bonus Question: What is your favorite kid-friendly place in Jackson County?
As a mother of young children, I have so many favorite kid-friendly places to visit! Some include Cascades Park, Jaxon’s Playhouse, and the Jackson School of the Arts.

To learn more about the Shop Rat Foundation, view their course offerings, or make a donation, please visit their website:

Five Questions With The Shop Rat Foundation

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