Heavy metal money: Metallica grant amplifies North Idaho College

The heavy metal band Metallica is about the last place North Idaho College President Rick MacLennan would have expected to find champions of the school’s career-technical education program.

But thanks to the band’s foundation, North Idaho College is one of 10 American community colleges participating in the new Metallica Scholars program. As part of the program, the band’s foundation awarded $1 million ($100,000 to each of the 10 colleges) to support CTE, workforce development programs and removing barriers students face while continuing their education and learning a trade.

“It’s not just a typical scholarship,” MacLennan said. “They’re directing support and resources toward obstacles students would not be able to overcome without this support.”

This spring, NIC officials used the Metallica Scholars program to benefit 38 students through tuition assistance as well as transportation and child care for single parents. This fall, MacLennan expects to support another 44 students, and he says, “funding is still available.”

NIC and Metallica came together through the band’s All Within My Hands Foundation and its partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges. NIC applied for one of the 10 Metallica Scholars grants through a competitive application process and was selected in December.

Metallica performs during the Helping Hands benefit concert and auction in November 2018. Through its All Within My Hands Foundation, the band supports career-technical scholarships at community colleges across the country. Courtesy photo.

Known for songs such as “Enter Sandman,” “Master of Puppets,” and “Nothing Else Matters,” Metallica is a Grammy Award winning heavy metal band that formed in 1981.

Each of the band’s four members, singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo, have donated to and serve on the All Within My Hands Foundation, which launched the new Metallica Scholars program.

“All of us in the band feel fortunate that music has provided us the opportunity to be successful doing something we are passionate about,” Ulrich said in a written statement. “We want to share our success with others so that they can find a job where they can do the same.”

MacLennan said he’s been blown away by the response to the Metallica Scholars program and the way the band has embraced it. Attaching rock stars to NIC’s CTE program has reached prospective students and families in ways few other initiatives could.

“I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the students who are responding to this, I think they responding as much to the support and value they get from the band Metallica as from the programs and services that NIC has available.”

How so? In addition to waves of national and regional publicity the band’s program created, there are personal touches.  Each of the initial 38 NIC students received a Metallica Scholars certificate and a video from the band itself.

“I’ve never seen any organization be quite as excited about the work they’re doing,” MacLennan said of the band’s foundation, which also regularly donates to area foodbanks at each tour stop.

The grant program benefits five NIC programs: aerospace advanced manufacturing, industrial mechanical/millwright, machining and CNC technology, mechatronics and welding technology.

“The band is leveraging the influence and the leadership of Metallica to elevate the importance and dignity of career-technical education,” NIC Aerospace Director Patrick O’Halloran said. “People do a double-take just about every time they learn about it. They hear ‘Metallica’ and they’re doing what?”

Although the whole partnership has been unexpected, MacLennan says it’s the type of outside-the-box thinking that could slowly move the needle on Idaho’s 60 percent education attainment goal. The $100,000 grant is making a positive impact for students, but it’s a comparatively small grant for an established college. Even more than the money, seeing Metallica promote a program has helped reach students that MacLennan said didn’t always see themselves as a fit for CTE programs or NIC until they saw the band’s message.

“It’s meant as much with Metallica lending its name to it as Metallica lending its money to it,” MacLennan said.


Clark Corbin

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