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SHS Career Technical Education program has far-reaching impact

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Speakers and students at the event laud its life-changing impact at annual CTE Night

BARBARA SHERMAN - During the Sherwood High School CTE Night on Jan. 25, junior Bryce Vaughn uses a band-saw to start creating a wooden bowl that he will complete with a lathe.Those who think technology isn't cool should have attended Sherwood High School's CTE Night on Jan. 25.

Students from Career Technical Education classes were everywhere in the Commons and in CTE classrooms working on projects and discussing them with guests. While visitors couldn't participate in some of the more dangerous activities such as welding, there were many hands-on activities, including playing an interactive FFA game to test their knowledge of Oregon agriculture.

The school's second annual CTE Night built on the success of the first one a year ago by adding more activities to show families and younger students in the district what they can do at SHS, which has a nationally recognized CTE program.

New engineering teacher Clark Farrand, who replaced John Niebergall, who also attended the event, explained, "We're trying to change the culture here into a professional workspace."

Invited to the event were two Oregon legislators: Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard), who represents District 35, and Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls), who represents District 26.

In one lab, students Peter Bigelow and Christian Birbeck, who created the Fourth Moon T-shirt printing company last year, were talking about growing their business to Vial and his son Nic.

The students started their business by printing team T-shirts using the school's vinyl cutter and heat press before purchasing their own equipment and expanding to custom offerings.

Nic Vial, who is a contractor, explained that the Association of General Contractors has set up a student chapter at SHS. It is only the second one in the state, but with the closure of the first one, SHS now has the only active chapter.

"I wish all the high schools had these programs that you do," Rich Vial said. "I'm going to come here to buy my legislative name-tag."

BARBARA SHERMAN - In a SHS CTE lab, Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls), who represents District 26 in the Legislature (right), talks to student Christian Birbeck (left) while Vial's son Nic listens.Nearby, two students in the robotics club were working on their robot for an upcoming First Tech Challenge competition. Sophomore Shaurya Gaur and junior Kyle DeFrene were busy programming the robot to put a 21-inch ball into a basket.

They explained that there were two SHS teams of five working on their robots for the competition the following Sunday, with winners advancing to the state and then regional level.

In the wood shop, teacher Jon Dickover showed visitors a few finished projects but lamented that students usually take their completed work done so there wasn't a lot to show guests.

Nearby, junior Bryce Vaughn was using a band-saw to saw off edges of a piece of wood on its way to becoming a bowl.

"I'll switch to a lathe to finish it," he said. "Making it will take a couple days. I couldn't get into this class when I was a freshman but I got in as a sophomore."

Next door in the welding lab, junior Bryce Parrott pointed out the different welders and plasma cutter as he worked on a project.

At the back of the Commons, FFA students were on hand to talk about their projects. They also had a flier that explained how agricultural education dovetails with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

According to the flier, 100 percent of Agricultural Science and Technology programs incorporate STEM, and 87 percent of AST programs focus on agriculture education, plant science, animal science, agriculture business management and agriculture mechanics.

Senior Sydney Wilson, who is the SHS FFA chapter reporter, said in the FFA program there is more emphasis on animals during the summer and agriculture and speaking during the school year.

"Part of what we do is speaking at events, in the classroom we study the anatomy of plants, and out in the greenhouse we grow plants from seeds and sell them in the spring," said Sydney, who added that students also study such issues as the prolonged drought in California and its impact on agriculture.

She plans to make her career in an agriculture-related field and has her own garden at home. "This class has taught me a lot of life skills," Sydney said.

SHS Principal Ken Bell and several of the CTE teachers also spoke at the event, with Bell noting that he is a former CTE teacher and added, "To this day, I know how to weld and sew – skills I learned in school."

Computer science teacher Terrel Smith said that he enjoys working with a school district "that is dedicated to a skill-based curriculum."

"It is a privilege to have taught my entire career in the Sherwood School District," he said. "We have a supportive board, and I have partners who help me and have influence at the state level. We're privileged here, and I'm honored to teach here.

"But there is an opportunity gap because nearby schools don't always offer these opportunities."

Another speaker was Eric Meslow, president of timbercon, whose business card reads, "Photonic design at the speed of light."

"I'm a business owner, but I wanted to be a school teacher," Meslow said. "I started my business 20 years ago and grew it organically here in Portland. My concern is why can't businesses find (qualified) employees when there are so many people looking for work? We need people with the ability to solve problems. We must invest in STEM and career technology education.

"You are so fortunate in Sherwood. I've been in schools across Oregon and the U.S. and can see that what Terrel and his colleagues have built here is very unique."

He noted that the current Legislature is facing budget cuts and is concerned that funding for CTE and STEM programs could be cut.

"The CTE budget has already been cut, and the STEM budget is under siege, so there is a high level of concern," Meslow said.

He urged those present to get involved, contact their legislators and go to Salem.

"Volunteer, donate and advocate," Meslow said. "(By maintaining CTE and STEM budgets) we will be more likely to have a robust economy in Oregon."