James Smith Swims with Sharks

     Oregon School for the Deaf teacher, James Smith, brought a fresh, new vision to prepare graduates for employment.  But he needed a professional grade piece of technical equipment to do that.

    More and more, the construction and manufacturing industries depend on technology.  These businesses are in need of workers who know how to operate Computer Numeric Control (CNC) systems.  As of this writing, there are 142 businesses seeking workers with knowledge of CNC operation listed on the Oregon Department of Employment’s statewide job listing, with entry level pay ranging from $15 to $25 an hour.

    In CNC production, the item or product is designed on a computer, then sent electronically to a robotic router head that can cut, drill, machine and carve (even 2 and 3 dimensional) a variety of materials—wood, plastics, metals, etc.  CNCs can produce items that are consistently precise and of high quality.  They improve productivity by reducing waste, frequency of errors, and the time required to get the finished product to market.  But, CNC systems are expensive, and the School’s budget could not support such a large purchase.

     James sought the help of Friends of OSD (FOSD) to bring his vision to reality.  FOSD was established 10 years ago as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to enhance the educational programs and services for students at OSD beyond the basic level of state support.  They agreed that helping Oregon’s young people with hearing impairments become productive members of society is a worthwhile goal.  But, never did James or FOSD think that would mean swimming with sharks!

    In April 2017, the Center for Community Innovation in Salem announced an opportunity for nonprofits to participate in a Nonprofit Share Tank event, modeled after the TV show Shark Tank.  FOSD applied and was chosen as one of 4 presenters.  On June 29 at Salem’s Elsinore Theater, James, the School’s director Sharla Jones, and FOSD’s vice president Linda Couoh, had just 5 minutes to convince a panel of 5 local philanthropists (the “sharks”—but NICE sharks) that a CNC router was worthy of funding.

    In the audience was a wonderful group of supporters from the Oregon Deaf Community, including James’ family, Lynell and James Jr., Tammy Keen, Rebecca Funk, and many Friends of OSD members and friends. After the presentation, the “sharks” schooled (or huddled) to deliberate.  When they surfaced a few minutes later, they announced that they would personally contribute $4,750, their second highest contribution that night, toward the purchase of the $45,000 CNC router for the School’s Construction Technology Academy.


The audience also was able to make donation pledges via their cell phones during the event, and some donation was pledged that night.  FOSD received $1,000 from the Center for Community Innovation, which is earmarked for the CNC router.  FOSD also has applied to several other foundations for funding, but donations still are needed.

    If this CNC router could be purchased during the summer of 2019, James could begin training students during the coming 2017-18 school year.  With this technology in place, OSD’s students will be more fully prepared to compete for positions in the workforce with current skills and self-confidence, having been trained on the very equipment that they will see on the job.

We are pleased to confirm we are able to make the purchase of $45,000, thanks to all donors and Oregon Measure 98 state fund.

Friends of OSD
PO Box 15053
Salem, Oregon 97309

For more information about Friends of OSD and other projects they have funded for the School, go to:


Friends of OSD


OSD Construction Technology Academy