Representatives from 39 well-known tool manufacturers from Australia, England, Germany, Canada and the United States will be in the Pikes Peak region Tuesday, bringing fame that will last much longer than 15 minutes to Peyton School District 23-JT.
"We're such a tiny school in the middle of nowhere," Peyton High School sophomore Kaitlyn Norris said Monday. "To have people who are experts coming here to teach us is unbelievable."
Peyton is on its way to becoming the vo-tech capital of the world for woodworking. Among the guests of an open house being held Tuesday are employees from manufacturing companies that donated $700,000 worth of state-of-the-art equipment to build a classroom for the new Peyton Woods Manufacturing Program.
The vocational woodworking shop for high school students has shiny Kreg tools, SawStop table saws, JDS multi-routers, Bessey clamps, Bosch power tools, TigerStop saw stations, Triton power tools and more.
Representatives will tour the shop, demonstrate to students how to work their products and get feedback.
Triton Precision Power Tools chipped in $10,000 worth of routers, clamping systems, saw horses and planing implements because the company wants to gain more recognition in the crowded U.S. power-tool market and reach younger customers interested in woodworking as a career or a hobby, said Steven Hewson. He's a brand manager for Triton and works out of South Somerset, England.
"There's a lot of people chasing the market, and Triton is about innovative, unique features and marketing based on inspiring content," he said.
While in Peyton, Hewson is not only giving students' primers on his company's tools but also filming the story of the program to use in promotional materials. The segment will appear on the company's blog and YouTube and will make its way to Triton distributors in Europe, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and other countries.
Hewson has traveled to several locations to document innovation in woodworking, including custom wooden surfboards being made in South Africa, and wooden skis, skateboards and bamboo bicycles hand-crafted in France.
Peyton is right up there, he said.
"This is the first I've ever seen it at this young of age, working with pupils," Hewson said. "I love the re-use of an abandoned building. This is doing something completely unique with an old building and taking it to the extreme. It's an amazing story."
The classroom is in the school district's former middle school building. Forty students are studying basic to advanced cabinetry manufacturing - and producing real products with an industry sheen - under the tutelage of Dean Mattson. The former professional cabinet maker started a similar program at a high school in Oregon and views the Peyton program as a starting point to expand take the "lean manufacturing" concept nationwide.
He and 23-JT Superintendent Tim Kistler began recruiting industry partners in February.
"It's a dream come true, and it's gone beyond any of my expectations," Mattson said. "Visual learning is the real value in career technical education, and the magic of using their hands, setting high expectations and strict classroom management - which is necessary because of safety - means we have no C, D or F students."
Mattson also is working on building a national training center near the Colorado Springs Airport to "finish off" students and make them completely workforce-ready, along with teaching military veterans and others looking for a second or third career.
Compared to the initial program at North Salem High School in Oregon, the Peyton version is "the difference between a Cadillac and a small sedan from 1995," said Michael Davis, executive editor of the Statesman Journal.
The daily newspaper in Salem, Ore., has written articles about the Woods Manufacturing Program in its city and is using the expansion of the woodworking training as the subject of its first documentary.
Opponents to further developing the program in Salem were concerned about liability and insurance, Davis said, forcing Mattson to look for another school district.
"This is a very fertile area for this transplanted idea to grow," Davis said. "We've all been talking about losing jobs overseas, doing nothing to stop that outflow. This is a laboratory, an experiment for this new model of education that teaches students the 21st century version of career education."
Students are sold on the idea. In Peyton, where children routinely work to help pay the family's mortgage, the new shop is an astounding gift.
"That's why I'm here - so I can learn and take advantage of what's been given to us," said Peyton High School senior Taylor Claman.
"My nirvana," is how sophomore John Nighthorse Chan describes the class.
"I'm in my peace of mind when I'm here," he said. "It's two hours of fun and a way to explore my creativity and learn different skill sets."