2021 Scholarship Winners

Earlier this year, WMIA’s Educational Foundation awarded a total of $26,000 in scholarships to help 24 college students continue their education in the woodworking industry.

Meet this year’s recipients:


Benjamin Helms, Raleigh, NC
North Carolina State University

Benjamin Helms is going into his senior year at North Carolina State University, with a Major in Sustainable Materials and Technology and minors in Environmental Science and Business Administration. Ben has been a Technical Analyst at NC State’s Wood Products Laboratory for over a year and has been a part of the NC State Sustainability Office, helping to connect the student body with renewable energy through the NC State Sustainability Stewards Program. After graduation, Ben intends to pursue a career in the wood products industry with the intent to increase both sustainability and transparency so consumers can feel proud and confident when choosing wood products.



Breanne Meyer, Brooklyn Park, MN
Hennepin Technical College

Bree Meyer is in her second year of the Cabinetmaking program at Hennepin Technical College. While woodworking wasn’t a part of her upbringing, Bree knew it would be an opportunity to pair working with her hands with working with her head. Looking ahead, she hopes to partner with different local organizations whose work provides educational opportunities to aspiring craftspeople often left out of the woodworking mainstream, while also carving out her own niche as a small business owner in the industry. Bree strives to keep accessibility at the core of her work as a cabinet builder.



Christopher Wernimont, Overland Park, KS
Pittsburg State University

Chris was first introduced to woodworking at Blue Valley Northwest High School in Overland Park, Kansas. His shop teacher, Mr. Masten, fostered his love for woodworking and guided him to Pittsburg State University where he could turn his passion into a career. Chris graduated with his Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing and Management along with his Bachelors in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology in Spring of 2021 and is returning to PSU in the fall for his Masters in Career and Technical Education. This summer, Chris did an Operations Management Internship with idX Corporation.


Claire Koettker, Overland Park, KS
Pittsburg State University

Claire is originally from Overland Park, KS. Claire will be a sophomore at Pittsburg State University in August of 2021 and she is majoring in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology. Outside of class Claire was nominated to be on the board of PSU’s SAW club (a student led organization) and is also a member of the women’s rugby club at Pitt State. This summer Claire is working for Custom Wood Products based out of Saint Mary’s, Kansas. Claire is very excited for her future at PSU and looks forward to her career in this industry.



Connor Jennings, Pittsburg, KS
Pittsburg State University

Connor was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona before moving to Pittsburg, Kansas for school. He is majoring in Architectural Manufacturing Management and technology with a minor in Business Administration. Connor was recently elected as the president of a student organization: S.A.W Club. There are many projects that he completes throughout the year including making toys for less fortunate kids in the Pittsburgh area. This summer he is working as an intern at a company in Dayton, Ohio.



Danielle Hopple, Seattle, WA
Seattle Central College

Danielle Hopple is an architectural woodworking and cabinetmaking student at the Wood Technology Center in Seattle pursuing a career in custom furniture building. For Danielle, visual art is a platform of expression and communication. From the time she could pick up a pen she has been drawing and has always been interested in physical space and interiors. After assisting an established wood sculptor in several projects she decided to take the step of furthering her knowledge and skills of woodworking. After graduating she hopes to become a skilled cabinet maker and plans to continue taking commissions for custom furniture.



Devin Elliott, Asbury, MO
Pittsburg State University

Devin Elliott found his love for woodworking by building 4H projects for the county fair. His father was a local woodshop teacher at a nearby high school, which allowed him to make small projects with a good mentor. After graduating high school, Devin went to Pittsburg State University and is currently studying to complete a degree in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology. He is currently the secretary of Saw Club, the student association affiliated with his degree. This summer Devin is working as an Intern at Hollywood Woodwork in Hollywood, Florida.



Donald Taylor, Madison, WI
Madison Area Technical College

Don has recently graduated from the Cabinet making and Millwork program at MATC. He started out with a good hand and a good sense of design, which has grown tremendously during the last year. The program has brought him from a novice to a more skilled individual, through the wonderful teachers and support he received there. Going to school during the pandemic has had its challenges, with very limited demonstrations done during class. But, its challenges were only opportunity to stretch oneself more. He is planning on starting his own woodworking shop mainly focusing on furniture making and design.



Elby Brosch (He/Him), Seattle, WA
Seattle Central College

Elby is currently a student at Seattle Central College in the Cabinetry and Architectural Woodworking Program. His aspirations as a woodworker came from his love of creativity and beauty paired with his appreciation for functionality and efficiency. He grew up dancing and still performs professionally. His love for form, line, and shape that came from studying dance transfer easily over to understanding furniture design. Elby also enjoys the physical labor of woodworking. The repetition and precision reminds him of dance. The ability to create functional, necessary objects feels empowering. To learn the craft of woodworking, gain the ability to create anything he needs, and provide that skill for others is wonderfully exciting.



Emma Fashing, Madison, WI
Madison Area Technical College

Emma is completing the Cabinetmaking and Millwork program at Madison College in Wisconsin. After being gifted a large slab of unfinished Chinese Chestnut, her curiosity peaked with wood. After mainly working with paint, clay, and neon glass as art mediums–wood seemed like the next best choice to explore. It was kismet! Emma enjoys the endless functions, information, and challenges that wood provides. Emma will be pursuing furniture design when her program is completed and looks forward to dedicating herself to a woodworking career!



Érico Lopes, Seattle, WA
Seattle Central College

Érico Lopes graduated in 2005 in culinary arts and worked in the food industry for 20 years. When he was about to start a specialization in this major the COVID-19 pandemic hit, making him change his field of study and profession. Since the fall of 2020 Érico has been a student at Seattle Central College studying wood technology as a boatbuilder but with plans do the carpenter’s and cabinet making modules after his graduation. Extremely interested in design and the variety of tree species, Érico always works to align beauty, functionality, and toughness in his pieces, applying techniques learned during his life in Brazil with his father and in U.S at the college.



Gage Davis, Dorchester, TX

Pittsburg State University

Gage is going into his Senior semester at Pittsburg State University majoring in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology and minoring in Business Administration. He plans on going back to get his master’s in business administration the following spring. Gage decided to go to college to pursue this passion and has not looked back. He has found himself getting involved in different organizations outside of class such as a student led organization called SAW club and Student Government. He has been a distinguished member in SAW club every semester and was the President this past school year. Gage has also been fortunate enough to secure an internship for the summer at Fadco Inc., which he hopes will further his skills and learning in their project management department.



Jacob Graff, Corpus Christi, TX
Pittsburg State University

Jacob grew up in Colorado and graduated high school in Corpus Christi, Texas. With an interest in building and a talent for design and technical drawing, he began woodworking as a self-taught hobby in a small shed with just a few tools. By high school, Jacob was building and selling projects from cutting boards and planter boxes to large furniture and even instrument cases. Inspired by local and online craftsmen and mentors, he grew more skills in woodturning and joinery alongside a growing hand tool collection. To pursue a career in woodworking, Jacob will attend Pittsburg State University and major in Wood Product Manufacturing through the AMMT program.



Jamie Ishii, Easthampton, MA
New England School of Architectural Woodworking

Jamie Ishii completed the cabinet making program at New England School of Architectural Woodworking in March of 2021. He has been a residential and commercial painter and occasional carpenter’s helper for close to 20 years. Woodworking has always been an interest of his but only recently has he taken steps to make it into a career. Inspired by the discovery of his late father’s old Japanese hand tools, he started to learn joinery and eventually enrolled in the cabinet making program at NESAW. He is excited to continue to learn and establish a lasting career in woodworking.


Jewelie-Awna Richards-Safford, Williamstown, Vermont
Vermont Woodworking School

Jewelie-Awna is very interested in pursuing her dream and long-term goals of going to college and owning a small business in woodworking. The first goal she has is to get into the Vermont Woodworking School, which is immersed into Northern Vermont University, to learn more about woodworking. This will allow her to use the resources they provide, develop better woodworking skills, and learn more about business to help her create her own business. When her business is profitable, she wants to build her own house out in the middle of nowhere in Vermont. Her plan is to have 10 acres with a wood workshop on the property. She would also have a barn for her farm animals.
Customers have asked her to make products for them because they know she is an artist. The cutting boards she is working on now are no doubt the most detailed cutting boards she has ever made. The person she is making them for wanted her to wood burn her own lily flower design into the cutting boards. The cutting boards include different pieces of wood, including maple, cherry, and butternut.



Kelson Claassen, Hesston, KS
Pittsburg State University

Kelson Claassen graduated in May 2020 from Pittsburg State University with my Bachelor of Science in Technology with a major in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology (AMMT) and a minor in Business Administration. He started my MBA in the fall of 2020 and is going into his final year of grad school. While working on his masters he has continued to be involved with the AMMT department by working as a graduate assistant. Last year as a graduate assistant, he taught classes on programming and running our CNC routers, as well as helping other students use the machinery in the Pitt State shops. He is spending this summer interning at Mark Richey Woodworking in Newburyport, Massachusetts.


Lorie Hebert, Montreal, QC, Canada
École Nationale du Meuble et de L’Ébénisterie (ENME)

When asked why she likes the woodworking industry, Lorie’s first answer is that she is following her father footsteps, who is a woodworker himself. She thinks of wood as a renewable resource, and her career objective is to be a project manager on construction site for an architectural woodworking company. When not in class or lab, she is a member of the student council. She also works part time as a CNC operator for a caterpillar chains manufacturer in the lumber harvesting industry.



Maude-Sophie Picard, Montreal, QC, Canada
École Nationale du Meuble et de L’Ébénisterie (ENME)

Maude-Sophie is a student at ENME and she will be graduating in May 2022. Eventually, Maude-Sophie would like to have her own business in architectural woodworking. Working with wood is natural for Maude-Sophie, and she qualifies wood as an Eco-Friendly resource for building durables structures. On ENME campus, she is also part of the active student council. Maude-Sophie also volunteers with the local animal shelter.



Nathan Minuth, Custer Park, IL
Pittsburg State University

Nathan is starting his 3rd year at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. He is from Custer Park, Illinois and heard about Pitt State from his high school shop teacher after expressing interest in the wood industry. He is currently majoring in Architectural Manufacturing Management and Technology and minoring in Manufacturing Management. Nathan has a strong passion for making things out of all materials and looked into Pitt State for its class work in manufacturing. He is very active in the AMMT program and other programs in the school. Next year, Nathan will be the Vice president of both the Society of Architectural Woodworkers and the Pittsburg State SAE Baja team. Woodworking is his passion and he hopes to find himself in a fulfilling career in the industry in 2 more years.



Nicholai Turner, Madison, WI
Madison Area Technical College

Nicholai graduated in May from Madison College’s Cabinetmaking and Millwork program. Originally from Nashville, TN, he started working in residential construction in 2010 eventually focusing on trim carpentry. With a desire to produce ecclesiastical furnishings and classically designed architectural millwork he enrolled in Madison College’s Cabinetmaking and Millwork program. For leisure Nicholai enjoys turning green wood bowls and toy tops, as well as gardening and cooking. He is grateful for the support WMIA as offered and hopes to share the knowledge and experience gained through this opportunity with others.



Olivia Svensson, Brooklyn Park, MN
Hennepin Technical College

Olivia is going into her second year of cabinetmaking at Hennepin Technical College. She has a Bachelors of Science in Computer Science and worked in that field for 5 years before deciding she wanted a more hands-on job. After leaving that job she took a week-long course in northern Minnesota building a timber frame, and from that realized she wanted to go into woodworking. She spent a year in carpentry and took some cabinet making classes to fulfill technical credits but realized that is where she truly wanted to be. She is excited to be in a creative and hands-on field.



Patrice Lavoie, Montreal, QC, Canada
École Nationale du Meuble et de L’Ébénisterie (ENME)

After five years in a crash test laboratory as a photographer, Patrice Lavoie returned to school to study woodworking. His curiosity for the most recent assembly techniques as well as for old-fashioned woodworking gives him enough motivation to return to student life. From the forest to the table, wood is a passion for Patrice.

Ryan Albrecht, Brooklyn Park, MN
Hennepin Technical College

Ryan spent seven years as a preschool teacher while discovering a love and talent for custom picture framing. With an eye for design and attention to detail he began to push his creativity by incorporating wood carving and hand painted design elements into his framing projects. After losing his job due to Covid-19, Ryan spent the next six months working full time in his basement developing his skills and discovering new interests. He realized he could be successful in the picture framing and woodworking industry with proper training and was encouraged to look for work as a picture framer and attend Hennepin Technical College. Ryan is entering his second year of education in cabinetry and furniture design at HTC, as well as his second year of working part time in a custom picture framing shop. Ryan has the eye and patience for detailed work and plans to continue incorporating creative woodworking into his framing projects, and is excited to learn more about design and custom furniture building. Ryan’s great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle were/are furniture builders and timber framers and are proud to see Ryan finding success within the industry.