A group of high school students clad in grease-smeared coveralls wield wrenches and screwdrivers as they tinker on a motorcycle engine. Others remove stripped screws from a fender. While this is an uncommon scene as schools eliminate shop classes and vocational education, Skidmark Garage owner Brian Schaffran has a revival plan.
Launching Feb. 26, Motogo is a shop class on wheels that brings all the supplies needed to disassemble and repair a motorcycle to the schools in a trailer — a huge cost-savings for schools with small travel budgets. The schools need only supply a workspace, such as a cafeteria or gym.
Schaffran is still raising funds for the trailer, but hopes a Feb. 9 benefit at Skidmark helps with the cost. Regardless, Motogo plans to hit the road this month — even if it’s in a pickup truck.
The inspiration for both Skidmark and Motogo came from Schaffran’s eight years as a teacher at St. Martin de Porres High School. “We had this thing called Wonder Week where we stopped teaching our regular classes and got to teach whatever our hobby was,” he says. “I brought in three motorcycles. And for one week, I had 12 kids just working on motorcycles and getting to know how to use tools. It was life-changing for me and them.”
Inspired, he opened Skidmark’s community-based garage in 2015. Still, he wanted to work with students again. After Skidmark was firmly established, he and his business partner and fiancee, Molly Vaughan, decided the time was right to get the shop class in gear.
Last year, Skidmark hosted a three-week pilot class at Magnificat High School with four Design Lab Early College High School students. Motogo plans to fully launch with a collaborative program that pairs sophomores at St. Martin de Porres with senior citizens from University Settlement.
The classes are formatted to foster communication between the two groups. During the school day, Motogo transports the St. Martin students to University Settlement, where they work side-by-side with seniors to change tires, wire electrical systems and repair an engine on three classic 1972 Honda CB350 bikes. Future initiatives would hopefully bring the bikes to the schoolhouse.
Feedback from Motogo’s pilot classes has been positive, with some students even considering careers in a related industry. Schaffran hopes this can improve job prospects in a skilled-labor starved market such as Cleveland. But it’s about much more than just teaching math or how to use tools.
“Once they put that engine back in the bike and it starts, their confidence level will skyrocket,” says Schaffran, who hopes it inspires students to tackle other projects. “It’s more about the empowerment that they will get out of it. That will change their lives.”
For more info visit motogocleveland.com