New skills: Kennedy students hope to sell garden shed at Wurstfest

January 2018 Posted in Community, School
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JFK students building their first garden shed, which they hope will be sold during the Mount Angel Wurstfest Feb. 9-10 at the Festehalle in Mount Angel. Proceeds will be used for materials for their next project. Steve Ritchie

By Steve Ritchie

In a time when some industries are having challenges recruiting workers, Kennedy High School is taking steps to help its students gain practical skills and get an introduction to a variety of career areas.

One of the first visible fruits of the school’s efforts is a garden shed, constructed by students in the first year Occupational Survey class. The shed will be displayed and, the class hopes, sold at the Wurstfest on Feb. 9-10 at the Mount Angel Festhalle. The proceeds from the sale will be used to purchase materials for another structure to be sold, making the process self-sustaining.

Former Oktoberfest president and community volunteer John Gooley got involved with JFK’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program early on, and is excited about what the school and the students are doing.

“To me, it’s a dream come true,” Gooley said, while standing in the school’s shop on a recent school day.

The large warehouse-like room  was built as a shop class in the 1970s, then later converted to a weight room when Kennedy discontinued shop classes about 10 years ago.

“This was built when I was a freshman at JFK, and we were the first class to get to take shop in high school,” Gooley said. “There’s people in this town, like Terry Berning, who makes cabinets, he went through the shop classes here. I started at (Withers Lumber) yard three months after I graduated from JFK and I’ve been there 42 years. I could do things like use a table saw or cut a piece of plywood for a customer, so the school helped me a lot. But in the last 10 years we haven’t given kids those skills, kids who might not be going to college.”

While the high school has been moving forward with several CTE initiatives, like the Science/Technology/Engineering/Mathematics (STEM) Program, a $283,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education jump-started the effort to bring back Agriculture classes, Future Farmers of America (FFA), and beginning shop classes.

The grant also provided funds to make the school’s Ag teacher position full-time. and to hire a CTE Program Community Coordinator.

Korrie Shull, who teaches Intro to Agriculture, along with the Occupational Survey and Animal Husbandry classes, is use to covering a lot of different subject areas, and that seems like a necessity for the job.

“Ag teachers are jack of all trades, masters of none.” Shull joked. “Agriculture is a huge part of CTE. But we also need to introduce these kids to the trades, and help them realize that, for example, you can become an electrical apprentice and take classes and work without going to four years of college.”

Gooley and others stepped up to provide tools, equipment and materials that Shull needed in the beginning.

“She (Kori) walks in here with no tools. So my company donated $1,000, and Home Depot kicked in $400. We went to the Chamber of Commerce and they donated $2,500. So the public-private partnership that was created brought in the tools to get them started building stuff. And the materials, too, to build this shed.”

Shull was delighted to welcome another community volunteer, local home builder Tommy Riedman, who offered to help students build the garden shed.

“John asked Tommy to come in and talk to the kids and contribute some time,” Shull said. “He’s gone way beyond that, actually coming in two or three times a week to oversee the project and teach construction skills to the kids… Having an industry person come in and show things to the kids – that gets them a little more excited about what is being taught.”

Riedman says he has also enjoyed the experience.

“They seem really interested. I think they like the hands-on aspect of it where they can physically do something…. it seems like it is refreshing for them to have someone from the outside come in and talk to them about how to do things,” Riedman said.

Everyone of the 14 students showed up on a Wednesday during finals week at 7:30 a.m., an hour before school, to paint the shed and put the finishing touches on it for display at the Wurstfest.

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