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Archives for September 2014

My Second Chance

“I know where you are coming from. I sat in your seat,” stated Zeb, addressing current attendees of Rawhide’s Starr Academy. Zeb is a Rawhide alumnus who returned to offer encouragement and inspiration to Rawhide guys during their weekly meeting called Str8UP (Straight Up).

Str8UP meetings are for all students and teachers at Rawhide’s Starr Academy. Guest speakers offer hope for a better life and usually address overcoming difficulties, making wise choices, and persevering.

As a guest speaker, Zeb talked to the guys about the stress and feelings he had before, during, and after his year-long stay at Rawhide.

One Poor Choice Led to Another

Zeb grew up in a small Wisconsin town where he was bullied at school. He joined a gang to protect himself, but that choice led to other poor choices.

At age 13, Zeb was locked up in a detention center and soon thereafter, he landed at Rawhide for a year-long program. He lived in the Aylward House and attended Starr Academy.

The Walls Come Down

At the beginning of his stay at the ranch, Zeb recalls hating his parents, especially his father for not spending enough time with him growing up. Zeb’s father worked long hours, leaving him little time to give Zeb or his siblings the attention they craved.

However, as he spent more time at Rawhide, his resentment towards his father turned into forgiveness. Zeb realized that his father was merely trying to provide his children with the American dream, and at the time Zeb was too young to understand.

Students attend church while living on the ranch, and through this, Zeb learned how God can have an impact on one’s life. When Zeb was younger, he viewed church as a “social thing.” Rawhide changed Zeb’s view about God and church, “The Lord really did save me.”

Transitional Foster Care

When Zeb’s residential program ended, he entered Rawhide’s Treatment Foster Care program. This program helps Rawhide students transition back into a community. Foster Care provides these guys with a loving, stable family atmosphere while they either attend the community’s public school or Starr Academy on Rawhide grounds. Zeb choose to attend a community high school and graduated with a high school diploma.

Second Chances

Zeb talked to the students about second chances. “A second chance allows you to realize you did something wrong and fix it. Second chances also mean you acknowledge your wrong doings towards other people.” Zeb confessed that he had wronged many people before going into the Rawhide program, and he obtained healing by confessing his wrongs, making amends, and not repeating his mistakes. Zeb ended the speech with a challenge for the students stating, “This is your second chance and wake up call. Seize the opportunity right now. You guys are all my brothers; I want to see you all succeed.”

Zeb’s New Life

After Rawhide, Zeb graduated from high school, was accepted to college, and graduated with a major in Business and a minor in Accounting. Zeb is happily married and currently working in corporate finance.

To help Zeb and others like him, please consider making a donation today

Donated Car Inspection Team: Assessing Value

In the award winning film, Forest Gump, Tom Hanks’ character lived by the motto “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Like Hanks’ character, our donated Car Inspection Team at the Pennau Prep Center lives by this motto daily—they never know what kind of car they’re going to get—or in what condition. After all, we do accept all cars, running or not. And, sometimes we need to find out what’s causing the “not” if the vehicle is deemed worthwhile to fix.

Since we like to inspect a donated vehicle in a timely fashion, we have several regional inspection sites to help when the need arises. For vehicles that do come to the ranch, we thought you might like a glimpse into our process. Our car inspection team includes Rawhide mechanics as well as guys in our Work Experience Program.

The Process

Whether you’ve donated your late model or rusty beater car, every vehicle donated to Rawhide goes through an inspection process. A car inspection team member performs a standard inspection, similar to the inspections by your local repair shop, and looks for:

  • Condition of basic functions
  • Drivability
  • Exterior condition
  • Quality of vehicle

Once your donated vehicle has been inspected, our team assesses the vehicle’s value “as is.” They determine whether or not it’s worth doing minor repairs or better left as is.

We’ve been asked over the years if the main purpose of donating vehicles is to teach auto mechanics to the guys. While a few guys MAY wash and detail a car here and there, Rawhide does not restore cars. The primary purpose of vehicle donations is to fund programs that help troubled youth and their families in local Wisconsin communities.

Sales Venues

After your car has been inspected and the offering price has been assessed, it is listed for sale through one of our auction venues. Our auction venues include:

Our eBay store is available to the general public—internationally. Anyone with an eBay account can bid on our cars, boats, RVs, motorcycles, and unique items. We’ve sold vehicles to overseas buyers, sending six boats to the Maldives!

Why Inspections Matter

Performing inspections on all donated vehicles is important for our donors, as well as our mission. For the donor, inspections allow us to maximize your tax donation. For our mission, they indicate sale values and the amount we can expect to apply towards Rawhide programs. Because at the end of the day, that’s why we are here—to give our guys a second chance in life.

To make a difference in a Wisconsin youth’s life, please consider donating a car or other vehicle today.


The Power of Art Education

Have you ever tried something new and discovered a hidden talent or ability for it? If so, chances are you stood a little taller, held your head a little higher. And, so it is when our students discover new aptitudes in art education classes here at Starr Academy. We love it when our students’ art projects surprise us. We love it even more when the results surprise them!

Art Education Instills Confidence

What doesn’t surprise us is the lack of confidence that students express at the onset of new art projects. They often state “I can’t do that.” Many don’t believe the ability is within them. Most of our students haven’t been previously encouraged to explore talents or abilities. Our art teacher, Terri Simpson, provides the much-needed encouragement to get them started.

As students proceed and appreciate what they see, they are amazed at their emerging creative abilities. Terri’s favorite aspect about teaching is seeing students eyes light up when they realize they “can do that.” She believes this realization builds each guy’s confidence and instills a personal sense of accomplishment.

“If a student asks to take his art piece home when he leaves Rawhide, the answer is always yes,” Terri says. “Because that indicates he takes pride in his accomplishment—enough to show someone else.”

Popular Projects with Students

Naturally, students favor some projects more than others. One particularly popular project is the cartoon abstraction. Students must draw an abstract image of their favorite cartoon character. Terri believes students enjoy this project because the cartoon characters are familiar and therefore are in students’ comfort zones.

Another popular project involves producing an abstract drawing of a No. 2 pencil. Students can draw anything they want as long as it relates to a No. 2 pencil in some way such as color or form. Students have excelled with this project, drawing life-like bumble bees and crosses in the form of a yellow pencil.

Art that Heals

Recently, students worked on a more personal project—one that offered some creative healing. On individual canvases, each student painted a mural of his own hometown. As they painted pieces of their lives, our students talked about the cities in which they grew up and their childhood communities.

Each finished mural is placed in the Student Center. Terri hopes that this project will remind our students from where they come, and help them make a difference in their communities when they return home.

More Than Pretty Pictures

Our art class teaches students much more than how to paint a pretty picture—it opens up a whole new world of self-expression for them, and more.

Studies link art education with improved critical thinking and decision-making skills which can then lead to better academic performance and financial achievements. (1)

According to a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) report (2) , The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, at-risk youth who receive art education tend to have “better academic results, better workforce opportunities, and more civic engagement.”

How You Can Help

Your vehicle or car donations help fund important programs and educational classes like our art class. Learn what you can donate.

  1. The Importance of Art in Child Development, By Grace Hwang Lynch, PBS.org
  2. The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, NEA 2012

Gabrielse Woodworking Shop: Building Opportunity

Our Gabrielse Woodworking Shop is a blessing for our students in many ways. They have an opportunity to explore their creative talents and learn skills for a possible career path as well—both of which serve to give them a better future. Woodworking classes are available as an elective at our on-site school, Starr Academy.

A Diamond is Forever—Especially for Bart and Cherry Starr

Occasionally, students craft a special woodworking item, as was the case for Bart and Cherry Starr’s 60th wedding anniversary this year. In honor of their “diamond anniversary,” students constructed a tall, wood, diamond-shaped table for Rawhide’s Bart and Cherry Starr museum.

Jerry Trzebiatowski, our woodworking teacher, explains how students developed the table’s concept and design. “The most impressive aspect is that the students designed the table. They were excited about this project and took ownership of it. They wanted it to be perfect for Bart and Cherry.”

Ten different students worked meticulously on the table, building and sanding it to perfection. They worked as a team and finished the project within two weeks.

Works in Progress

Currently, students are creating 13 sets of a wooden lawn game called Kubb, or Viking Chess.

According to Jerry, this game was a huge hit with students and their families during our Intensive Family Weekend.  Once the games and other projects are finished, you can purchase them from the Rawhide Gift Shop.

Thanks to George Gabrielse

Our Starr Academy added the Gabrielse Woodworking Shop in 2007, when George Gabrielse generously donated state-of-the-art woodworking equipment to Rawhide, plus an initial supply of wood. Since then, students have been crafting quality wood pieces, including:

  • Mantel Clocks
  • Book Ends
  • Cutting Boards
  • Birdhouses
  • Benches

Many of these items are sold in Rawhide’s Gift Shop, located in our visitor center. A few larger pieces, like benches, are sometimes donated to nursing homes and churches, or are placed on the ranch for residential use.


Your donations help fund programs and classes like this for troubled youth in your community. Learn how you can help.

A Bit of Local History Docks at Rawhide – Boat Donation

Every now and then, we get a boat donation with its own kind of specialness. An item worth noting. An item worth talking about. And it happened again the other day. An area resident dropped off an older fiberglass fishing boat—the kind you might have seen on the Andy Griffith show set in the fictional town of Mayberry during the 1960s.

Upon closer inspection, we realized we had a bit of local history on our hands. A local company manufactured this basic fishing boat in the late 1960s a mere 15 miles from our ranch.

The Local Company: Glass-Fab, Inc.

Glass-Fab, Inc. set up shop in New London, Wisconsin in 1965, specializing in fiberglass fishing and sport boats. One of Glass-Fab’s first products was a motorized boat-float for parades. The New London Chamber of Commerce purchased the float, added the phrase “Drop your anchor in New London” along the base, and used it as a promotional item. Sadly, Glass-Fab, Inc. closed its doors in 1975.

The Boat Donation: Winnebago Fisherman

Upon finding online images of an old Glass-Fab catalog, we identified the donated boat. The catalog, dated 1969,  describes the boat as a “large, deep, roomy boat designed for those who like to fish big waters.” Coincidentally, the boat model is “The Winnebago Fisherman.”  We suspect the boat is named after Lake Winnebago, the largest lake within Wisconsin. One of the lake’s primary tributaries is the Wolf River which runs through the city of New London.

Imagine the fish tales if this boat could talk!

Original Characteristics Preserved

While this donated boat has had some upgrades throughout the years; it still sports the original sea-green color and has matching seat cushions. A swivel seat was added in the front, but the original charm has been preserved. The owner took good care of this boat.

This is a great little fishing boat with many years of life left, and we are grateful to receive this boat donation.

How Boat Donations Support Our Mission

All of the boats that are donated to us are sold on our ebay store. The proceeds from these sales are used to support our troubled youth programs and family counseling which benefit communities across the state.

Learn how you can help support our mission with a Wisconsin boat donation.