NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. — A nonprofit after-school program in New Hanover County is teaching kids important skills, boosting their confidence and setting them up for many paths of success in the future.
Matthew Garcia says Kids Making It has been helping students learn important skills for a quarter of a century.
“Kids Making It has been around for about 25 years,” Garcia said. “We started with our founder Jimmy Pierce, who is retired now, but he started teaching kids out of his garage from a passion, and from that passion we just kind of grew into the workshop that you see.”
Garcia says the name has two meanings: Not only are the kids making everything in the shop, but they are also getting the skills to make it in life.
“It’s not only kids making it, so we have three main goals,” Garcia said. “It’s for kids to stay in school, stay out of trouble, and connect them with whatever they want to do after school, whether that be college, go into the trades, military, whatever they want to do, it’s our goal to help them reach that goal.”
Through woodwork, Kids Making It teaches kids patience and perseverance while increasing confidence — all while giving them opportunities they otherwise might not have.
“Helping these kids who may not even know anything about woodwork,” Garcia said. “But giving them an opportunity to do something healthy and productive.”
It’s not only productive for these students, but lucrative, too.
“100% of the profits go towards the kids,” Garcia said. “It just teaches them in so many ways, besides making the projects and all the steps that come with it, but they can actually sell the stuff, too, which just adds to much value to their self-esteem, and helps them learn to like manage money, so really just compounding skills here.”
But it’s not just about making money now, it’s about success in the future, something Kids Making It has proven is possible.
“We have a lot of kids go on to college, pursue the trades,” Garcia said. “We have a pretty good success story, high rate of success here.”
For Garcia and other volunteers, seeing these kids start from scratch, learn essential skills and ultimately succeed means everything.
“Seeing one of the kids from our skills trades, come from a rough spot, and just see his pride when he made his own sawhorses and engraved his own name,” Garcia said. “Seeing the smile ear to ear of just something he built and was able to use on his own.”
You can find Kids Making It products at its gift shop in Wilmington, festivals and other events along the North Carolina coast.