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  • Writer's pictureElliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF 8.28.2023

“Are you with me now?” AJ Ryder

"We are lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back to train them for jobs that don't exist." Mike Rowe –

Over the past seven years, we have been working as the Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative not only to give voice to youth in the skilled trades but through that voice elevate the trades and crafts as equal in rigor to any academic endeavor. To this end, by creating Harbor Freight Fellows as a new form, our goal is to change the ways that the skilled trades are perceived and learned. This means getting young skilled trades and crafts youth not just a certification – a What, but also a Who by placing them with adults in the real-world who do this work acknowledging that the artificial constructs we have set up for youth to get into the skilled trades don’t match up to what the work is beyond the walls of the classroom. All that said, these last few weeks have seen Harbor Freight Fellows influence the mainstream of education from Newark, NJ to Ventura, CA with new programs and new partnerships that involve community organizations, unions, politicians, and schools. This coming year, we are continuing the spread and scale of this work in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, South Carolina, New York, Vermont, and Rhode Island.

At BPL, our work is always to change policy through practice. We love going from: concrete to abstract; making objects to ideas; and experience to theory. In all sorts of ways, we are muddling through and seeing what emerges. The invites and letters below are examples of this work. These are the springboards from which we will propel ourselves in the coming years to take HFF and work like it to the mainstream, in schools and communities supporting youth in doing work that gives their lives meaning.

From the desk of Mae West, “The score never interested me only the game.”

Why didn’t they tell me? & Why don’t we tell them?

“I was making good money, but I wasn’t playing any jazz. So, I got disgusted, saved some money, moved back to Philly, and just decided that I’m only gonna play jazz. I’m not going to play weddings. I’m not gonna take any bad gigs, and if I had to, I would take a day gig for a while, and I did. I tended bar for two years. And it paid off. I wish somebody in school would have told me that.”

Jimmy Bruno is one of the premier jazz guitarists in the world. He had a perfect score on his SAT’s and never went to college. Some fifty years later after graduating high school have schools changed enough to give him the advance notice he wished for.

Let’s Have Fun!

Yared Nuguse is one of the world’s fastest humans, but it is fun that drives him not the score. We are starting to learn about top athletes like Yared and Nicola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo who find meaning in their lives not by the score.

Next week, I’m in Providence doing a book talk that provokes a conversation about what new ways, new forms and new measures staff at the Met are working on. Also, I’m meeting with Brian Mills, Cheryl Isom and Joe Battaglia to set up B-Unbound and Harbor Freight Fellows.


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