At Central Oregon Community College, high school students from across Oregon are learning basic trade skills and getting a college student experience simultaneously.
Admittedly, they aren’t experts yet, but the students say they’re improving with each new cut.
“I’m not very good at cutting straight lines yet, but I did OK,” La Pine native Leona Holloman said.
Some of the equipment may still be intimidating, but this week has been one these students won’t forget.
“The table saw was terrifying,” Holloman said.
“It’s just the idea of your hands getting so close to it, is just creepy,” Redmond native Emilee Stanley said.
The eight students in the program are staying in the dorms. Holloman and Stanley are the two Central Oregon-based students.
“It’s different. I’ve never been in a class like this before,” Stanley said of staying on campus.
“It’s really cool, I never thought I would stay in a dorm before I went to college,” Holloman said.
An online charter, the Oregon Destinations Career Academy, started this pre-apprenticeship program to teach students widely applicable trade skills.
“We’re giving students an opportunity, especially students in the virtual setting, to meet other kids to gain confidence, and to have another pathway besides just college,” Principal Carrie Quinn said.
“We had students that were nervous to pick up a drill and haven’t left home for the first time,” she said. “Today here they are, using a table saw. They’ve made friends. They’ve gained confidence. These are experiences that give them that belief in themselves they can take anywhere.”
Holloman says the student experience has helped create tight bonds in the group.
“The first day, I was super nervous because I’m not a big people person, and then we just all became friends,” she said. “This is really fun.”
Bonds may turn into rivalries once the final cuts are made. Competition is in the program’s curriculum.
“We’re working on cornhole boards,” she said.
The students and instructors plan to compete after the final product is completed.
The students will finish their hands-on work at COCC on Thursday before going home and completing the online portion of the course in the fall.
The academy hopes to bring back the program next year with new students. For those interested, enrollment is available through the Destinations Career Academy website here.