$175,000 Grant will Revitalize High School Vo-Tech Programs in Gibson County, TN

Rural Development Partners (Forest City, IA) and NMTC partner, Bongards (Humboldt, TN) awarded Gibson County high schools a matching funds grant of $175,000 to strengthen workforce development. Funds are revitalizing high school technical programs across Gibson County, boosting student opportunities for successful careers. Since initiating the grant in December of 2020, Vo-tech programs are coming to fruition, energized to create lasting impact in the lives of many.

Jeff Gaston, Human Resources Manager for Bongards in Humboldt shared, “We are very excited about the opportunity this investment provides for our local students. It has the potential to benefit all students within Gibson County. As a manufacturing organization, we recognize the ever-evolving technical skills needed in today’s workforce. The funds will be used to expand the Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at both the Humboldt and Milan High Schools, as well as provide access to students from surrounding schools in Gibson County who will also benefit from the expanded programs.”

Humboldt High School

Humboldt High School received $100,000 to renovate their facility, creating an environment more conducive for training in the vocational trades and technology fields. Funding is also being used to purchase and rebuild training equipment.

“The Humboldt City School CTE Department received a joint donation/investment from Bongards and Rural Development Partners for upgrades on our metal shop,” said Interim Superintendent Lillian Shelton. “The restoration included total reconstruction of the restroom in the shop area, new equipment, new tools and many other important safety equipment to enhance our shop area. We greatly appreciate the support team that came to work diligently with Mr. Prince and our students. Much time and planning were put into making this project a success.”

Beginner students attend on Mondays and Tuesdays, and advanced students on Wednesdays and Thursdays; advanced attend for at least three hours per day. Students taking the vocational classes have been engaged and are doing well. Some come in on their days off and stay in the shop all day, these students are advancing well. Most complete their welding assignments and proceed to work on machining projects, some advance to the CNC mill and are designing and machining parts.

New Air Compressor (Humboldt HS)

New Chuck & Tool Holder on a Lathe (Humboldt HS)

Students built a staircase for a local church (Humboldt HS)

Men’s bathroom renovations in shop area. (Humboldt HS)










“Humboldt has completed the bathroom renovation, retooling of old equipment, and purchase of our new equipment which were made possible by the Bongards and Rural Development Partners training grant,” said Humboldt CTE Instructor Randy Prince.  “We are currently entering the new year with 52 students in our CTE program and are excited about the career opportunities available to our CTE students because of the generosity of Bongards and RDP”.

Trenton Peabody High School

Trenton Peabody High School received $24,333 to purchase equipment for CTE classes: STEM I, II, and III, Engineering Design I, II, and Engineering Practicum. The equipment purchased includes a PLC training package to bring students up-to-speed on PLC controls and allows them to create their own programs. Many students in the vocational trade classes learn by doing, so high emphasis is placed on building job skills through the hands-on process. The tools obtained through this funding will help students learn the engineering maintenance, service, and technical fields. A tabletop hands-on automation and motor controls training panel system will teach students to troubleshoot. Welding helmets and a multi-process welder with auto-line and supplies were also purchased to enhance skills in welding.

Electrical Controls Training System (Trenton Peabody HS)

Motor Control Training System (Trenton Peabody HS)

“Without this grant none of these purchases would have been possible,” said Trenton Special School District CTE Director June McCourt. “Peabody High School and the CTE program are certainly appreciative of the grant money and the learning opportunities this new equipment presents to all students in these programs and to future students.”

In March (2021), Trenton Peabody High School reported that approximately 200 students are enrolled in vocational classes for two semesters. The Allen Bradley PLC trainer and Hands-On Motor Controls Trainer are being set up in a lab at the Dyersburg State Community College (DSCC)/Trenton Peabody Campus due to space constraints at the high school. The high school and DSCC have partnered to set up the equipment, and DSCC purchased lab training equipment to enhance the educational experience. DSCC campus is a two-minute walk from the high school, so students have easy access, and this arrangement extends the benefit to multi-educational institutions within the Trenton Peabody district. The equipment purchased with the grant will remain the property of the high school. Trenton Peabody High School began offering Engineering Systems Technology as a dual enrollment course for Peabody students in the 2021-22 school year. Students have the opportunity to earn certificates in Electrical Circuits, Industrial Electronic Controls, Programmable Logic Controllers, Fluid Power Systems, and Integrated Robotics.

Milan High School

Milan High School was awarded $24,333 to purchase equipment for their Vo-Tech program. Milan High School has undergone a renovation in the career and technical education building, including the implementation of a state-of-the-art industrial maintenance lab to supplement the existing on-campus TCAT classes. Students as young as freshmen will have access to this program and are able to leave campus their senior year to finish certification programs at TCAT Jackson.

Milan HS Student Jimmy Ramirez on Pneumatic Trainer

“Without support like this from our local manufacturing facilities, it would be almost impossible for a public school to purchase equipment like this,” stated Milan CTE Director Candi Collier. “We are well on our way to having a cutting-edge industrial maintenance lab thanks to this gift from Bongards and Rural Development Partners.”

“Given the great need in West Tennessee for industrial maintenance professionals, this equipment assisted Milan High School’s Industrial Maintenance program to prepare students for their postsecondary and workforce goals. We are grateful for the opportunity provided by Bongards and Rural Development Partners.” said Collier.

Milan High School has purchased the Amatrol Trainer, and new welding equipment to replace older/broken equipment. This trainer is being used weekly in their industrial maintenance program. As of March (2021), 50 students were enrolled in the program.

Gibson County High School

Gibson County Special School District received $24,333 for their new industrial maintenance program offered to both South Gibson County High School and Gibson County High School students. The program is housed at Gibson County High School and all courses in the program taught by a TCAT instructor with dual enrollment through TCAT Jackson. Students have access to the program beginning their freshman year, and seniors can leave campus to finish certification programs at TCAT Jackson. Adult classes are also being considered for after school hours. The Gibson County School District used funding to purchase motor control trainers, electric multimeters, electrical controls training system, bugging kit, and various other electrical tools and supplies that are used by local industries, helping to assure students are workforce ready for an easy transition into the industrial maintenance field. As of March (2021) 45 students were enrolled in this program.

Learn Labs Electrical Controls Training System (Gibson County HS)

AM Probe & Clamp Meter (Gibson County HS)

“Our industrial partners have really helped us out,” said Rory Hinson, CTE director for the Gibson County Special School District. “All of our county school districts are really listening to the needs of our county industries. The lines of communication are really “open”, and that’s what we want.”

“We were able to start an Industrial Maintenance program in the middle of a pandemic thanks to the support of Bongards, Rural Development Partners and our other local industry partners,” said Hinson. “Specifically, funds from Bongards and RDP were used to buy electrical trainers, multimeters, and other electrical tools students will encounter in the workforce. We cannot thank Bongards and RDP enough for the investment in our district. Putting these tools in the hands of our students is invaluable to the success of the program. We hope this experience will help our students as they transition to the workforce.”

Bradford High School

Bradford High School was awarded $2,000 to help fund transportation for their students who wish to take CTE classes at Milan High School or Gibson County High School.

Bongards Creameries

Bongards Creameries is a cooperative of more than 400 family dairy farms using milk production capacity to produce and distribute dairy products. The Humboldt facility is one of three Bongards facilities; headquartered in Chanhassen, MN. The Humboldt facility serves as a processing facility and major distribution hub, delivering processed cheese to customers across the southeast U.S, a previously underserved market.

Rural Development Partners

Rural Development Partners is a certified Community Development Entity that has won nine New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) awards from the U.S. Treasury totaling $606.7 million. In 2017, RDP partnered with Bongards Creameries to transform and expand a shuttered plant in Humboldt, bringing high quality jobs and economic vitality to the community. In addition, RDP, through its Community Investment Program, asked Bongards to donate $87,500 to support workforce development initiatives in Humboldt and the surrounding area. RDP provided matching funds for a total grant of $175,000. Bongards and RDP worked with community leaders to determine the most impactful use of the grant funds.

“RDP has been privileged to work with Bongards and our community partners in and around Humboldt to support and enhance technical training programs that will benefit workers and employers in west Tennessee,” said Jonathan Klaassen, CEO of Rural Development Partners.

Workforce development is one of the primary challenges companies and communities face today. As manufacturing processes continue to evolve through advances in technology, the importance of a trained and skilled workforce is critical to the growth and success of manufacturing companies.

Gibson County Economic Development

“The Bongards and Rural Development Partners workforce training grant has allowed Gibson County High Schools to upgrade their facilities and industrial maintenance training equipment, which will enable them to better prepare our students for successful careers in manufacturing,” said Kingsley Brock, Director of Economic Development for Gibson County. “We are grateful and appreciative to Bongards and Rural Development Partners, and are fortunate for the commitment each company has in promoting and supporting workforce development in Gibson County. Gibson County has some of the best Career and Technical Training programs in the state and our CTE directors are also among the best in Tennessee. This training grant has allowed Gibson County High Schools to further support the growth of our companies, our communities, and the future careers of our young adults.”