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Supporters Successfully Lobby for Industrial Tech Program

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - About 50 parents, students and graduates from Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School came down to the Lagoon Pavilion at Noelridge Park on Tuesday, prepared to fight for the future of the school's industrial arts program.

But they learned shortly after arriving that organizer Lynn Manternach had been in communication with Kennedy Principal Mary Wilcynski, and that the fight was over.

"About an hour ago, Dr. Wilcynski told us that room 61 is no longer up for grabs," she said to enthusiastic applause.

Room 61 was one of two rooms originally planned to be reconfigured this summer to create more space for Project Lead The Way engineering classes, which are moving back to the school after originally being housed at a Rockwell Collins, and a physical education class.

The move could have reduced or eliminated some of the industrial arts classes that now use space, including welding, automotive technology and the electric car construction program.

But after an outpouring of support for both the program and industrial arts teacher Barry Wilson, Manternach said, the school reconsidered. Manternach relayed that Wilcynski who couldn't be reached for comment after the meeting had informed them the school would find another room for new programs.

Wilson said he's happy both that the programs aren't losing their space and that the Project Lead the Way classes are coming to campus. He hopes the school will be able to provide more opportunities for students to pursue their interests, even if they don't lead to a four-year college.

"I'd like to see more kids be encouraged to explore career options," he said.

Corey Scott, 18, graduated from Kennedy last week and said current students were also pleased that space would not be going away.

"The only reason a lot of us go to this school is for the industrial arts," he said.

The event served as an impromptu reunion for many students who had passed through Wilson's classes in recent years. Melanie Laurier, Jacob Krause and Chris Durgin, all 22, spoke of how working in the electric car program had helped focus their career ambitions.

"If it wasn't for this guy right here, none of us would've gotten through high school," Krause said.

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