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The Steel Yard named Champion in Action for community arts

The Weld to Work program gives students at the Steel Yard some valuable workforce training. (WJAR)

The Steel Yard in Providence was named the 50th honoree in the Citizens Bank-NBC 10 Champions in Action program.

Recognized in the category of community arts, the nonprofit received a check for $35,000 on Wednesday and will benefit from promotional support on NBC 10.

The Weld to Work program gives students at the Steel Yard some valuable workforce training.

"Learning metal working and learning fabrication as a skill is something these students can take anywhere with them. It's highly transferrable," said Howie Sneider, executive director of the Steel Yard.

Some come back to work here, like Weld to Work graduate Anita Jackson, who's now a teaching assistant.

"It's like one big happy family. The people are awesome. They teach you well," Jackson said.

What started as an artist in residency program has evolved to include classes in the industrial arts that have reached more than 5,000 people.

"These days we include fire performance, cooking, lots of things that bring people together around the industrial arts," Sneider said.

Giving people access to tools and equipment and a shared space that includes all levels of artists and students, where mentorship is key.

"Whether somebody's just starting out as a student, getting into it for the first time, or they're a seasoned professional, they're shearing the same equipment and they can see each other working, learning," Sneider said.

Weld to Work is one of the many programs at the Steel Yard. Their work is displayed around the state as part of their public projects.

From bike racks in Peace Dale to trash cans in Bristol and a park bench in Central Falls, the Steel Yard uses local artists to make pieces that are both creative and functional for the communities that commission them.

All of it makes the Steel Yard a Champion in Action for community arts.

"So exciting for the Steel Yard to have gotten to a place where we can be recognized for the impacts we have on people's lives," Sneider said.

Lives made better for their time spent at the Steel Yard.

"What was given to me, I'm here to give back," Jackson said.

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