By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
The Oregon National Guard Youth Challenge facility on Dodds Road east of Bend is rushing to complete a remodel before the next class begins on Thursday.
Concrete is still wet in some parts of the campus, but officials are confident everything will be ready to welcome new cadets and help them get started getting their lives back on track.
That doorway used to have a hardened six inch steel door that rolled shut in the event of an emergency. Today it’s one of many doorways through which Oregon Youth Challenge cadets pass.
“This is where the cadets will be separated from parents,” said Dan Radabaugh, director of the Oregon Youth Challenge Program. “Their personal effects will be inspected to ensure no contraband, cigarettes, etc. Get their handbooks so they know what’s expected to be successful in the program. Then go to supply area, get their initial issue of uniforms.”
The Oregon Youth Challenge is a non-traditional high school that operates similar to a military academy. The program is guided by military principles, structure and self-discipline.
This former command bunker just east of Bend is undergoing an $11 million remodel and expansion. The 7,000 square feet of new classrooms, bunk rooms, exercise and staff facilities gives 160 additional students, who were failing in conventional schools, another chance in a military style academy. Once complete, renovated campus will be home to more than 400 students a year.
“Modern instructional tools. Smart boards hooked up. Overhead projectors and sound systems in the ceilings. When I first started here we had a dry erase board, chalk boards and … what did they call those things? Overhead projectors with the plastic flip charts. Exactly.”
Radabaugh says 75% of the expansion funding comes from the federal government. The remainder from the State of Oregon.
“We were turning kids away. Had more applicants than beds. State legislators were interested in seeing the program grow because it serves all 36 counties,” he said. “This program helps young men and women get their education back on track.
A formal ribbon cutting ceremony will be held March 13. The building will be renamed after former Salem Sen. Jackie Winters, who helped spearhead the state funding for the expansion project.