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Kennedy High School Welding Teacher Wins $50k 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence


Benjamin Carpenter and John F. Kennedy HS in Richmond Share $50,000 Award


Benjamin Carpenter holds $50,000 check with RHS students and staffRICHMOND, CA – Benjamin Carpenter, a welding teacher from Richmond, has been named a winner of the 2021 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, winning $15,000 for himself and $35,000 for his program.

Carpenter, who teaches welding John F. Kennedy High School, is one of 15 prize winners. Additionally, three grand prize winners together with their schools will receive $100,000 each. 

“I believe that we have responsibilities to younger generations, particularly those who are underserved. It is a happy coincidence that my skill set is currently in demand, and I can’t think of a better way to contribute to the success of future generations than giving young people knowledge and skills that will improve their lives and communities, said Carpenter.”

The mission of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is to increase understanding, support and investment in skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools.

“High school skilled trades teachers and their programs are an essential part of addressing the skilled trades worker shortage,’’ said Danny Corwin, executive director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools. “These dedicated educators make a huge difference in the lives of young people every day, setting them on a course for a meaningful career and to make a difference in their community.’’

The Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence was launched in 2017 by Eric Smidt, the founder of national tool retailer Harbor Freight Tools, to recognize outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools. 

"Among the key things we came to appreciate during the pandemic is the value of hands-on learning and the incredible resilience and commitment of our teachers,’’ Smidt said. "We are grateful that these outstanding winners and thousands of educators like them across the country are developing tomorrow’s skilled workforce.’’

Research by NORC at the University of Chicago has found deep and bipartisan support for increased funding for high school skilled trades education. According to the study commissioned by Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, in 2019 more than 78 percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats said school districts should make skilled trades funding a priority. Despite that enthusiastic support, high school skilled trades education in U.S. public high schools is woefully inadequate to meet the demands of a skilled workforce. Existing high school programs cannot even meet even half of the employer demand for skilled tradespeople over the next decade. 

Benjamin Carpenter posing with award check and toolboxOverall, there are winners from 14 states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. 

Grand prize winners will each receive $100,000, with $70,000 going to their public high school skilled trades program and $30,000 to the individual skilled trades teacher behind the winning program. The 15 additional prize winners will each be awarded $50,000, with $35,000 going to their public high school program and $15,000 to the teacher. Due to school, district or state policy regarding individual cash awards, the schools of two of the winners will receive the entire prize winnings.

The 2021 prize drew more than 700 applications from 49 states and included three rounds of judging, each by an independent panel of experts from industry, education, trades, philanthropy and civic leadership. The application process, which included responses to questions and a series of learning modules, was designed to solicit each teacher’s experience, insights and creative ideas about their approach to teaching and success in helping their students achieve excellence in the skilled trades. 

In July, the field was narrowed to 61 finalists. The 43 finalists who were not named winners today will each receive a $1,000 gift card from Harbor Freight Tools. 

About Harbor Freight Tools for Schools

Harbor Freight Tools for Schools is a program of The Smidt Foundation, established by Harbor Freight Tools owner and founder Eric Smidt, to advance excellent skilled trades education in public high schools across America. With a deep respect for the dignity of these fields and for the intelligence and creativity of people who work with their hands, Harbor Freight Tools for Schools aims to drive a greater understanding of and investment in skilled trades education, believing that access to quality skilled trades education gives high school students pathways to graduation, opportunity, good jobs and a workforce our country needs. Harbor Freight Tools is a major supporter of the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools program. For more information, visit:

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