In 2012 Terry Valmassoi, president of Master Spas, heard Rob
Staley speak about The Crossing, a faith-based charter school he started in
Indiana. Staley was looking for businesses the school could partner with to
provide job training to its at-risk students.
for kids who aren’t going to make it in regular high school,” Valmassoi says. “What he saw is these kids — they
end up on the street, they end up in jail, there are just no opportunities for
them at all.”
Valmassoi wanted to get involved, so he took it to the director of manufacturing at Master Spas, Mike Rees. “Typically, manufacturing guys would say, ‘I don’t need another headache in manufacturing — these high school kids for three hours a day messing up our flow,’ ” Valmassoi says. “But he was all over the idea. Once we did it, it worked so much better than we thought it would and our employees embraced these kids.”
When the program started, the kids were bussed to Master Spas to
work a three-hour shift. Master Spas covered the cost to have a teacher/coach
there. It was working well, so they added a shift. At that point, Valmassoi
joined the local board for The Crossing and knew the school envisioned the kids
would go beyond job training and start learning how to run a business.
“They wanted to
have microbusinesses set up where the kids can learn skills in running the business
themselves,” Valmassoi says. “So
we got the idea to get the students to manufacture pallets. They buy lumber on
their own, and price it to make money to cover the cost of a coach to run that
program.” The pallets are then sold back to Master Spas to use with its spas.
When busing the kids back and forth was starting to affect
attendance, they decided to set up a satellite campus at Master Spas. “We got our vendors involved and
built a classroom big enough for 30 students,” Valmassoi says. “It had another room for what they call
family time — when they can talk about life — and then they have a loft up on
top where they can have lunch and hang out.” That was built about four years
ago. There are two teachers on campus that teach in the classroom, a coach that
runs the microbusiness and a coach in the factory.
Anywhere from 23 to 30 students are on the campus daily. Master
Spas started an intern program so students could work at the factory during
summer and other school breaks. They include the students in all company events
and have hired several after they have graduated.
employees is hard,” Valmassoi says. “When they graduate, any students who are interested in a job and
want to be part of the Master Spas family, we do hire them.”
Valmassoi says the students leave not only with a diploma, but
also with an understanding of work. But he says the program probably has an
even bigger impact on the Master Spas employees.“Some
of the employees really see themselves [in these] kids and became their
mentors,” Valmassoi says. “It really adds more to life.”