Jocelyn Quintal-Lepinski designs desks for district students to use during virtual learning
When schools closed in March this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, MMSD migrated to virtual learning instruction and swung into action by providing devices and internet services to many of our students. But an ongoing challenge that some of our young scholars still face is having a dedicated workspace at home to do their school work. That’s when Jocelyn Quintal-Lepinski, a universal systems coach for MMSD started building desks for district students - to ensure students who need a dedicated work area for their device and school materials get one.
One of Jocelyn's friends urged the avid woodworker to take her love of furniture making to the next level by helping students create a virtual learning space at home. “My good friend, Lori asked me to build some furniture for her cabin several months ago out of wooden pallets,” said Jocelyn. “I like a good challenge, so I said yes. Turns out building tables and desks is fun and keeps me sane during this pandemic”.
Jocelyn built the first desk for her son Lane, an eighth-grader at Black Hawk Middle School on Madison’s north side. Then she built two desks for her neighbor’s children and another desk for her best friend’s fifth grade daughter. Through Facebook and word of mouth, the requests for student desks began rolling in with Jocelyn and Lane spending most of their summer evenings in her home woodshop, sometimes making three desks in one day.
Jocelyn's son, Lane and her youngest son, Keaton help with tearing down the pallets and sanding while she works on the overall construction. Together, the furniture making family makes desks in various sizes to accommodate smaller spaces, and most weekends this summer they delivered their wooden works of art to students from several schools including East, Sennett, Capital, Schenk and Gompers. Labor Day weekend was their biggest delivery yet, dropping off desks to nine local families. Students and families even came from Columbus, Green Bay and Wausau to pick up a custom desk from Jocelyn.
Donations from friends, colleagues, fellow educators and people who support Jocelyn’s mission to make a difference is how she purchased supplies to build 45 desks for students with a standing order of 35, and counting. When Jocelyn first began designing desks, the wooden pallets were donated by a longtime friend. Now she buys the pallets at a discounted rate from a local tractor-trailer operator to maintain uniformity in the materials and to meet the volume of requests. Jocelyn also uses the money that is donated to buy brad nails, screws, sawzall blades, wood glue, sand paper and many other tools and materials.
"I don’t charge any of the families for a desk,” said Jocelyn. “I ask that they donate what they can or what they want. I use the proceeds to purchase more materials, and anything extra goes to local teachers and their requests for school supplies. I’ve also started donating to organizations like Urban Triage in Madison and the Alzheimer’s Association”.
With the start of the school year, Jocelyn’s new focus is supporting her sons and her students with virtual learning at MMSD. She still plans on building more desks on the weekends for students who need them, but will slow down on the quantity to spend much needed time with her family.
"The pandemic and staying at home has been really hard for all of us; our families, our students, our children,” Jocelyn said. “I hope I’ve been able to make an impact by preparing our children for school with a new desk for their personal learning space and a new enthusiasm for virtual learning with the district”.
- Marlita Bevenue, MMSD Communications