Written by Tara Swartzendruber
HCS Customs is a student-based business at Heartland Community School which teaches various aspects of accounting, digital design, agriculture, and industrial technology. The goal of this business is to provide real-world experience for all students involved.
In a recent interview with HCS Superintendent, Brad Best, he explained how and why HCS customs began, how students are involved, and what they can do for the community.
HCS Customs began in 2018 after attending conferences where schools shared about students using computerized machinery to produce items for the public. Mr. Best and a group of teachers decided to look into this possibility for Heartland. Following their research, Mr. Best, Mr. Buzek (Industrial Technology), Mrs. Miller (Agriculture Education), and Mrs. Most (Business Education) began to implement plans for HCS Customs, which officially opened for business in February of 2019.
A Rural Education Grant provided the funds to purchase a laser engraver and plasma cutter, the machines which are used in this program. This money comes from a Federal Grant which is designed to help rural school districts, who may not otherwise have funds available, with innovative programs and projects designed for learning. In recent years, this grant has provided Heartland with money to upgrade computers in the business lab, redesign the courtyards as learning spaces, and purchase a 3-D printer and new drafting software.
Interested Heartland students are able to get involved with HCS Customs in a variety of ways. Most obviously, skills in technology are learned by running the equipment, but they also learn how to talk to customers, quality control, and to take pride in their work. They also gain experience in accounting and finance as they learn about input costs and profit margins.
A look at hcscustoms.com gives a quick overview of items available to the public, including engraved glassware and other drinking containers, keychains, plaques or boards, plasma cut signs, and wall art. The laser can engrave on most any surface including metal, glass, leather, plastic, wood and paper. The plasma cutter is able to cut larger pieces of metal for items such as yard signs. You can purchase items shown on the website, or the students involved are eager to create custom pieces for the public. All prices are only slightly above cost and they charge only a nominal fee for design creation and set up for custom designs. For many companies, this is a high-cost area for the customer.
Although the main goal of HCS Customs is not to make money, all money made is re-invested in the program. Mr. Best would like to see this program take off on a larger scale. A potential future investment would be in sublimation printing which would allow for full color vinyl printing for various items including vehicle wraps and billboards. The ability to powder coat items at Heartland is also something being considered for the future. This is an area of production that is currently being sent to another company. “Demand will dictate future investment.”
HCS Customs partnered with Henderson Health Care for new signage this past year and with the City Council for engraved nameplates. They hope that by getting the word out, other local businesses will turn to HCS Customs for their various promotional and in-house needs.
As the holidays approach, HCS Customs would like community members to consider them for personalized gifts. Students have recently come up with the idea to create personalized phone cases. To see what is offered and to place an order, visit the website at hcscustoms.com. You can also call the school at 402-723-4434. If you wish to place a custom order, please call the school and a student will return your phone call to get details from you. October is a great month to place your order with HCS Customs!
While most of these are examples printed with Heartland/Huskies on them, you can personalize them with your own names or words!
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