Published July 30, 2020
Concord Resident Wants to Help Students Master Life Skills - By Bev Britton
Shawn Einck, president of the Concord-based Life-Skills Empowerment Group, or LEG, thinks students should know how to balance a checkbook, unclog a sink or change a tire before graduating from high school.
“After starting my own home improvement, home repair and renovation business, I started thinking about how to give back to the community,” Einck recalls. “The idea of going into schools and teaching how to do your own type of home improvements or skills that are no longer typically offered in the high school curriculum appealed to me.
The concept took shape last year after he joined the Concord Chamber of Commerce. There, he began talking to “like-minded people.” That included Don Rollins, who has a personal finance training business.
“He was somewhat trying to do the same thing, as far as going into the schools and teaching about personal finance,” Einck says.
MOVING TO ONLINE FORMAT
The two came up with five life skill sessions they wanted to share with students. The sessions include home maintenance, automobile maintenance, personal finance, professional etiquette/manners and time management/organization. With the slogan “Get a LEG up on your life,” they planned to provide the classes to schools for free. Private donations and business sponsorships provide funding.
“There’s a big acceptance and a bigger movement that high school or GED graduates don’t necessarily have to go on a four-year college track. That really ties into the trade skills,” Einck says. “And that’s somewhat the underlying idea of LEG.”
Although Rollins realized he didn’t have the time to commit to LEG, Einck pushed forward and had a soft launch planned within the Mount Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD). “We had it structured so that all five of the topics would be taught in one day, having 30 students max in each rotation with 40 minutes per topic,” he says.
He was in the process of “taking care of the administrative red tape” when COVID-19 shut down schools. Like the rest of the world, he had to start thinking virtually. LEG recently provided live online sessions on home maintenance, personal finance and auto maintenance to about 35 MDUSD summer interns.
“Basically, it’s a PowerPoint presentation with a live teacher,” he says. “For example, the automobile session focused on the engine first, then we reviewed, had a quiz and allowed the students to answer the questions.”
Participants with correct answers received donated $10 Dave and Buster’s gift cards “as a nice incentive for engaging,” Einck says. “We had some really nice positive feedback at the end.”
UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY
After meeting Einck on a job site, handyman Lee Klinghoffer of Pleasant Hill signed on to handle the auto maintenance class.
“We cover how to do an oil change, how to change a tire and check air pressure, how to check your fluids, how to jump start a car,” he says, noting that teaching about safety is a top priority.
“I’m not a mechanic, but I’m handy and a tinkerer. I’ve always just felt it didn’t have to be a big mystery to maintain your car in a basic way, and it saves you money and time,” he adds.
Klinghoffer, who has a degree in acting, says being in front of the camera comes naturally. But don’t expect to see him under the hood of a car or Einck teaching from under his kitchen sink.
“Right now, it’s someone sitting at a desk with props – like an oil filter and a funnel, tangible things so the students can have a practical experience,” Einck says. “As far as going into my home, we don’t really have the capability of doing that right now. But we’re not opposed to it.”
SHAPING THE WHOLE PERSON
Einck sees the current switch to online learning as a “huge opportunity” for LEG. “Any English-speaking state or country will be able to access our education. So we’re really trying to ride that positive thought.”
He is reaching out to principals across the nations about the program.
“People are still getting back into the office,” he notes. “But as the fall starts, I’ll be having more and more of those discussions. Based on our projection of how we’re going to be used this coming year, I am on the lookout for more teachers.
Klinghoffer says the life skills being taught are essential.
“When I was growing up, you had things like shop class and home ec. I was a hero when I went to college because I knew how to cook and do laundry,” he says with a laugh.
He believes the program can help fill that educational gap. “These are a lot of things, frankly, I see missing in a lot of people – you know basic etiquette: ‘Nice to meet you, please and thank you.’ People can take that through their whole lives.”