By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
One field trip. One interaction. That’s all it took to inspire a group of young men from Schoolcraft High School to pursue and start a Schoolcraft High School slot car club which now meets weekly at Schoolcraft High School.
“It all started during our sophomore year at a field trip to the Gilmore Car Museum,” says Xavier Palmer, the club’s president. “We were rotating in small groups to different activities and stations. One of the stations was a slot car track. We just couldn’t get enough of it.”
Then it got more interesting. The young men met and interacted with Phil Carpenter, who was leading the slot car station. “He explained all kinds of things to us. There were so many interesting aspects of the cars, the technology. It was cool.”
And then the challenge. Carpenter told the young men, “You get a club started, and I’ll donate $500!”
And they were off! The students held several meetings with Principal Matt Dailey who explained the steps to gaining approval for a school-related club. The students continued meeting and brainstorming.
In the meantime, they needed a sponsor. At first, Palmer says, “We asked any teacher or school employee if they could supervise us that day after school.” They continued to ask and continued to meet. SHS teacher Robert Wagler was touched by the determination and persistence of the group. He agreed to be their sponsor and provided a space for the track and setup. That was the break and stability they needed.
Eventually, they presented their proposal at a Schoolcraft school board meeting in late 2022. Their club was unanimously approved. And as promised, Carpenter presented the club with a $500 check in January.
“We weren’t really sure it was going to happen, but he came. And he said he will come again and spend more time with us,” says Jesse Keim, the club’s head technician.
When asked, the club members have different answers for what they enjoy most about the club. Bohdan Evans enjoys the engineering aspect of the cars and the repairs. Palmer enjoys the outreach and dialogue involved in starting and continuing the club. Keim enjoys the racing and technology. And Cody Copeland really enjoys and benefits from having the camaraderie with the group.
With the money, the club has purchased track and cars. Hobby Sports generously donated track and a gift card. Another teacher gave them some slot car track his family no longer used.
Wagler smiles as he listens to the young men share their enthusiasm for the club. “This is a completely student-driven activity. I just provide the space and some supervision. It continues to be a great experience for all of us.”
The club has several aspirations for the year. “We would like to get more students involved, and we would like to open the activity and room at a Common Bond Event,” says Palmer.
They would also like to add more track and materials.
The club would happily accept old slot car track, cars, even slot car parts. Contact club sponsor Robert Wagler at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have materials you no longer use and could to donate to these young leaders.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe