Stephanie Clayville is going to be the first in her family to attend college. That’s her plan. After she graduates this spring, she dreams of studying machine manufacturing technology at Portland Community College, a career path inspired by the metal shop at Portland’s Franklin High School.

Many days, Stephanie spends more time in the shop than she does at home. She has made a logo for the high school, a screwdriver, a dustpan, a hammer and more. The shop is where she feels creatively inspired.

“I feel like I can truly be myself there,” she said. “There’s no limitations for me.”

When Stephanie was a sophomore, a car accident injured her back and temporarily limited what she could achieve in the workshop. She couldn’t lift the heavy metals and operate some of the machinery.

“The car wreck took away my motivation for doing things, but the staff here brought me back from the edge,” she said.

During her junior year, Stephanie’s stepbrother was killed in an accident. Again, the metal shop assisted in her healing.

Stephanie wanted to make something for her stepmother to remember her son by. Stephanie’s metal shop teacher, Myron Ryan, helped her with a metal cutout of a lion, her stepbrother’s favorite animal. The project let her express her emotions through her work.

“Throughout everything that has happened, all my teachers, counselors, friends and peers – everybody was there for me,” Stephanie says. “I know now how important it is to let people know they are not going through things alone, and I feel like this is a lesson I’ll take with me the rest of my life.”

Stephanie walks through the metal shop, passing metal lathes, mills and drill presses. She stands in front of her favorite machine: Franklin High’s computer numeric coding plasma machine, the shop’s most expensive tool, which allows students to create their own designs and cut them into a sheet of metal.

“Stephanie, quite literally, can do things on that machine that I can’t,” Ryan says. “She approaches everything with determination and enthusiasm.”

He shifts his attention to Stephanie.

“I’m heading over to PCC tomorrow to check out their machining program,” he says. “If you had one question, what would it be?”

“What,” she asks, “are they looking for in a student?”

“Both of those things that I just told you that you already have,” he says. “Enthusiasm and determination.”