A promising new program at Chiloquin Junior/Senior High School will allow students to develop creative and professional skills while learning to run a business.
Panther Prints, started by Chiloquin math teacher and leadership advisor Jenny Dunham and Principal Scott Preston, will teach students to create designs and use a T-shirt press and embroidery machine to add those graphics to apparel and other items for commercial sale.
Dunham and Preston started the program about two years ago and have done most of the work to get it off the ground, including initial designs for T-shirts.
“It’s worth the effort I have to put in because it’s ultimately for the kids,” Dunham said. “We’re helping students get skills they can bring out into the real world.”
The program began out of a need for school spirit gear and a desire to provide a space for learning artistic trade, exposing students to elements of art, production, and business.
The eventual goal of Panther Prints is to develop into a fully student-run business, where students work independently on projects in each area of design, production, and sale.
Last week, Chiloquin Fire and Rescue accepted a bid with Panther Prints to order 50 embroidered hats and 100 T-shirts for the department and the community. Proceeds from the order will go back into the business and towards college tours and other activities focused on post-secondary education.
The program was funded in part from GEAR UP and Oregon Community Foundation grants. The GEAR UP program is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in post-secondary education.
One of Panther Prints’ first projects this year was to create a T-shirt design for the 2021 senior class that represented the current school year. The result: A panther mascot logo with a mask over its mouth.
“I’m really passionate about this because the students truly deserve the opportunity,” Dunham said. “Just because we’re a little school in a tiny community doesn’t mean our students aren’t capable of running a business. Our kids need those kinds of opportunities just as much as a larger school.”
Preston and Dunham envision Panther Prints as part of a “maker’s space” that allows students to learn about artistic and craft-based trades for future career aspirations. In addition to the shirt press and embroidery machine, the school also has a 3D printer and laser engraver.
“We have students who are really involved in sports, but we have groups of kids who aren’t involved in those activities, and they need an outlet and a way to participate in something important as well,” Dunham said.
Ana Shanks, a Chiloquin sophomore, last week learned how to use the T-shirt press.
“It gives us a lot of opportunity to try new things,” she said, “and it helps us with things like field trips.” To contact Panther Prints, email Jenny Dunham at firstname.lastname@example.org.