▶️ 1st ‘Fast Track’ class graduates, helping with local child care crisis


Central Oregon is in the midst of a child care crisis. Workers are greatly needed. Just ask the owner of six child care facilities in Central Oregon.

“I think as far as staffing goes, it’s hard to compete,” said the owner of Boulden Rogen Early Childhood Academy, Heather Rogan. “(It’s) hard to compete with those other industries that pay higher wages.”

But one local program called Fast Track is doing what it can to help with the issue.

“I wanted to take this course because it gives you a head start to becoming a teacher,” said Fast Track program graduate Mary Rodriguez.

The free, six-month program consists of a 12-week training course followed by coaching and technical assistance. It gives graduates the skills to become lead teachers in preschool or infant/toddler classrooms, enabling them to obtain teacher training, experience and qualifications without a college degree.

At 64 and nearing retirement, college didn’t seem like a viable option for Rodriguez. She worked as a janitor and quickly moved up the ranks to bus assistant to kitchen aid.

While she enjoyed her jobs, she longed to work with children in the classroom.

“I loved this course,” said Rodriguez. “The classes were wonderful, lots of different teachers. Lots of knowledge, and I learned a lot of stuff.”

“Our coaches work one-on-one with the candidates to help enrich their learning process, help implement things into the classroom, and just really give them a solid foundation into the work field,” said Kenzie Kihs with the Fast Track program.

Twelve participants graduated from the program and three came to the graduation ceremony on Tuesday.

The Fast Track program already has 18 signed up for its next course, which starts in a week.

The program also encourages graduates to continue their education in the field and supports them by providing college scholarships.


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