The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 07, 2022 1:00 am

Building a 'bright future'

Boys & Girls Clubs career center honors Jim Kelley

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

In a building just north of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, the floor vibrated Thursday as community leaders celebrated a $4.5 million initiative that will give students experience in the skilled trades.

Joe Jordan of the Boys & Girls Clubs laughed as he and Tom Kelley of Kelley Automotive Group swung sledgehammers at a wall inside the future home of the Jim Kelley Career Pathway Center.

The youth organization expects to open the training center in August. It will allow students to learn more about supply chain management, automotive, manufacturing and construction trades.

“When you talk about these pipelines drying up, we have to do something about it,” Jordan said. “It's getting uninformed youth informed about the career pathways in those industries so they can have a bright future.”

About $3.3 million of the $4.5 million in costs have been raised, Jordan said, noting renovations account for about $2.5 million.

Crews were busy with the makeover at 2439 Fairfield Ave. as officials spoke. Formerly occupied by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Indiana, the two-story space will feature five learning labs and state-of-the-art equipment.

Kelley, a Boys & Girls Clubs governing board member, bought the building and donated it to the organization. The center will be named after his father, who learned tool and die skills.

“My dad said – his whole life he said – 'that degree, that trade, that ability to be a toolmaker gave me the confidence, the foundation, to start my life and do other things,'” Kelley said.

Michael Kinder & Sons and Elevatus Architecture – who built and designed the club facility at 2609 Fairfield Ave. – were hired for the project.

Designing the 13,000-square-foot training center was “nothing more than us pulling the ideas out of Joe (Jordan) and trying to put them on paper,” said Cory Miller of Elevatus Architecture.

Fort Wayne Community Schools plans to bring eighth graders to the center during the school day. Exposing students to potential careers is important because many students don't know what they will pursue after high school, Superintendent Mark Daniel said.

Iric Headley of Fort Wayne United agreed.

“So many of our children need someone to take something like this and say, 'Here's what you can have, here's what you can be,'” Headley said. “And that's what we're here to do today, is to launch the vision, launch what tomorrow looks like for so many of our youth.”

Fort Wayne United, a local nonprofit, will help students develop soft skills, including conflict resolution, interview skills and how to talk to someone with confidence, Headley said.

Daniel is encouraged that people across various sectors are collaborating on the training center.

“This is about love of a community,” Daniel said. “We have to do these things” in order to prepare more students for the work world.

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