Thursday, June 02, 2011

Opinion: The True Value of "Hobby" Classes

By Rick Kasprzak*

The current political climate is very hostile towards public education and arts classes in particular. It has been suggested classes such as shop are "hobby" classes.

I am a direct beneficiary of those "hobby" classes offered in public schools. So are you.

In his workshop, Calumet resident Rick Kasprzak cuts a 2X4 to size using a miter-saw, also known as a "chop" saw. (Photo © and courtesy Rebekah Kasprzak)

Along with a lot of students, I took metal and wood shop classes when I was in Junior High School. At the time, realistically I didn’t put too much stock in them. I was gearing myself towards a degree in electronics engineering, as at the time computers were the wave of the future.

However, the engineering degree didn’t pan out. Now I find myself in a retail career. The Business minor is coming in handy.

I like to think of myself as a capitalist. I recognize a need, and I fill it. Anyone with the savvy can make some capital, which is the point of capitalist market.

One thing the Keweenaw abounds with is vacant properties. With the current economic situation, anyone with credit or cash can take advantage of the opportunities. With the basic tool skills I possess because of those shop classes, I have the confidence to buy those properties and rehabilitate them.

That obviously benefits me, but you may be wondering how that helps you.

Rick Kasprzak assembles a greenhouse he is attaching to his garage, over a raised-bed garden. (Photo © and courtesy Rebekah Kasprzak)

When I purchase a property in tax default, the state and the municipality immediately recoup the back taxes. Also, the property is then held by someone responsible (in this case, me) who will continue to pay taxes. Also, it is in my best interest to fix up the property. That means I am investing in the community by keeping a home from deteriorating. That in turn, has a positive effect on the surrounding homes by adding value to all the properties in the neighborhood.

My intention is to turn these rehabilitated homes into affordable rental housing, another valuable service to the community. As I acquire more properties, I will need to hire contractors and handymen. I will be purchasing supplies and tools from local businesses. I hope to grow my small business large enough that I can retire from my retail job and focus on property acquisition and rehabilitation.

Not bad for a few "hobby" classes.

*Editor's Note: Calumet resident and guest writer Rick Kasprzak attended the May 14 "Save Your School, Show Your Spirit" rally in Houghton. He said he agreed with music teacher Ann Campbell's statements defending "hobby" classes and wrote this article to share his experience with Keweenaw Now readers. See our May 15, 2011, article, "Local teachers, union members rally for schools," with a videoclip of Campbell's comments.

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