August 06, 2001 11:00 pm
BIG PROJECT: Laura Stauffer is taking her senior project at Elgin High School seriously. She is planning to rebuild her community's recycling center. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).
BIG PROJECT: Laura Stauffer is taking her senior project at Elgin High School seriously. She is planning to rebuild her community's recycling center. (The Observer/PHIL BULLOCK).

By Rachel Wesche

Observer Intern

Like the other members of Elgin High Schools rising senior class, Laura Stauffer could have chosen to do almost anything for her senior project.

If you can think of it and get it approved by the board, you can do it, she said.

Gary Bridgeman and Evelyn Spikes, teachers and advisers at the high school, recall a wide variety of ideas among students: rebuilding a motorcycle, organizing a whitewater drift trip, learning what it takes to become an FBI mortician and writing a movie script, among others.

But Stauffers project is unique.

Its big, she said. Im kind of going out on a limb.

Her goal:

I plan to reconstruct, maintain, and design the Elgin recycling center.

When Stauffer chose her project, the center was nothing more than two bins in a mudhole, she said.

In the spring, its pretty much impossible to get out there.

By the time shes finished in late October, the facility will include four bins on a 56-foot-by-27-foot concrete pad, a high fence on three sides, and a graded road for easier accessibility.

I wanted to do a civic project, said Stauffer, whose father, Elgin City Councilor Marc Stauffer, originally suggested the recycling center.

At first I thought it was a little big, but then I got excited about it, she said.

Although the high school requires its seniors to log 25 hours working on their projects, Stauffer has already put in 80 hours of work, according to Bridgeman and construction hasnt begun.

Besides getting rid of trash and weeds at the site, Stauffer has contacted city, county, waste management and railroad officials for permission and approval, and is involved in a lengthy fund-raising process.

She has raised $850 from private contributors, an amount which the county recently promised to match, but the project will cost nearly $3,000.

Stauffer is counting on the City of Elgin to provide matching funds for the money she has already raised. She will present her request to them at the Aug. 14 meeting.

She can rely on the city for support, according to Joe Garlitz, Elgins city administrator and Stauffers project mentor.

The council will back her up, he said. The community has recognized it as a needed project.

Garlitz said most of his mentoring so far has been only to encourage Stauffer and point her in the direction she needs to go. Shes done an excellent job doing this by herself.

Her project is unique among her classmates in its interaction with the community and her local government and is teaching her how to work with a variety of agencies.

Shes not only gaining the knowledge, shes meeting a need for the community, said Bridgeman. Shell benefit a lot from going through the process, he said. When shes done, its going to be a very attractive and

nicely enhanced facility for the community.

Although many of the seniors projects are personal, one-time endeavors, Something like Lauras is going to last, said Spikes.

Still in its first year, Elgins senior project graduation requirement is modeled after the programs already established in Wallowa and Imbler.

The projects give the students a chance to pull together all the things theyve learned into a practical application, Bridgeman said.

Its a transition from academic skills to practical real-life experience, said Spikes.

Throughout the beginning phases of her project, Stauffer has focused less on what she can gain and more on how she will benefit the community around her, she said.

I want to conserve our planet in a practical way, said Stauffer.

Every town should have a recycling center. When you have a nice one, more people will use it.