Schools benefit from grant funding

By Dick Mason, The Observer February 21, 2014 10:35 am

Elgin High students Kanan Reeves, left, and Steven Roberts cut plywood on a table saw in an advanced wood class at their school’s shop Wednesday. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Elgin High students Kanan Reeves, left, and Steven Roberts cut plywood on a table saw in an advanced wood class at their school’s shop Wednesday. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)

Elgin receives $87,000 grant for house-building project By Dick Mason 

No new buildings are set to be built on Elgin High School’s campus anytime soon. Still, not all is quiet on the EHS construction front.

Elgin woodshop teacher Matt Adams and his students have building construction plans — big plans.



The Elgin School District has received a $87,000 Career Technical Education grant from the state for the start of what promises to be an eye popping and long-lived construction program. 

The school district will use the grant to have students in a construction class at its high school build a 1,300 square-foot home. The house, which will take about two years to build, will be sold and money from the sale will be used to construct a second home. Money from the sale of this and all other homes later built by Elgin students will go toward constructing houses as part of a perpetual process.

“This is exciting. We plan to make this a sustainable situation,” said Elgin School District Superintendent Wayne Herron.

All of the homes will be built under Adams’ direction. Adams is thrilled about the prospect of having his students put the skills they are learning in class to use in meaningful, real world projects.

“To see how (what they have learned in class) actually is applied is huge,” Adams said.

The first house to be built will be a single-story structure with a two-car garage, three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Work on the house is expected to start this fall after a lot is purchased this spring or summer. Adams believes that the project will be a confidence and pride booster for his students.

“It may be a little intimidating at first. They will produce a product that will always be there, one they will be able to look at 20 years from now,” Adams said.

Students who will be working on the first house include Steven Roberts. He is delighted to have the opportunity to help build a house.

“I like being able to create things. It’s really exciting,” Roberts said.

Junior Kanan Reeves has a similar sentiment about the upcoming project.

“It will be a lot more fun building a huge project,” Reeves said.

Students will receive high school credit for their home construction work and have the opportunity to earn credit from Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton and Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario.

Students will have an opportunity to earn certification from the National Center for Construction Education and Research in specific areas of home construction through this program. This certification could help students get started in construction careers. 

“This is a great opportunity to offer our students,” Herron said.

Presently, the high school woodshop program focuses on cabinet and furniture production. The construction project program will allow students to also learn about working with concrete, building frames and electrical systems.

“This will allow us to expand our woodshop curriculum,” Herron said.

The design for the first house will be created with major help from students in Elgin’s computer-aided design class.

The home-building project will be assisted by Boise Cascade and W.C. Construction of Elgin. Boise Cascade will help obtain materials, and W.C. Construction will provide advice and materials. The two firms are serving as community partners for the grant the Elgin School District received.

Steve Lyon of Boise Cascade said his firm will benefit from assisting the new program. He explained that the students’ work with all elements of home building will serve Boise Cascade well if they are later employed by Boise Cascade.

“When they join our workforce they will be better prepared,” Lyon said. 

Bob Wiles of W.C. Constriction said the project is close to his heart because he is an Elgin graduate who was greatly influenced by woodshop classes he took from the late Don Hendricks. He doubts he would be a building contractor today if it were not for Hendricks. 

“He jump-started me,” Wiles said.


Wildhorse grants making big impact in local schools

La Grande Middle School Librarian Keri Myer received a shock at the start of the school year when she opened her mail one morning

Enclosed in one envelope was a check from the Wildhorse Foundation for $2,450. 

A feeling of elation immediately rushed through Myer.

“You would have thought I had won the lottery,” Myer said.

The check from Wildhorse was in response to a grant application Myer had sent to the Wildhorse Foundation requesting $2,450 for the purchase of a 70-inch smart flat screen television for the middle school library. The 70-inch screen was later purchased and installed, replacing a 32-inch screen in the library. 

“It is phenomenal,” Myer said.

The screen is used by Myer to show videos students have created about their favorite books and to play educational DVDs. 

LMS student Kristi Chiles is among those impressed with the new screen.

“The graphics are better,” the eighth-grader said. 

Classmates Haley Hatley and Myshaela Rector said the screen is easier to see from a distance.

LMS is just one of many schools in Union and Wallowa counties which have benefited from the generosity of the Wildhorse Foundation, which was started in 2001 to act as the giving arm for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. 

Since 2001, Union and Wallowa counties have received more than $1.2 million from the Wildhorse Foundation, with more than $370,000 earmarked for education. In 2013 alone, nearly $295,000 was given to Union and Wallowa counties, with nearly $66,000 going to education, said Tiah DeGrofft of the community relations department at Wildhorse Resort & Casino.

Central Elementary School has been a recipient of a number of Wildhorse grants in recent years. 

“Wildhorse is extremely generous,” said Central Principal Reta Doland.

She added that Wildhorse makes applying for grants online easy.

“Their applications are user friendly,” Doland said.

Central third-grade teacher Kristy Boyd is among the beneficiaries of a Wildhorse grant. She has 12 iPad computer tablets in her classroom thanks to a grant from Wildhorse about two years ago. Boyd’s third-graders use the iPads to record video presentations about books they’ve read, create movies, do math problems and post blogs. Boyd said the iPads make it easier for her to target the different needs of students.

Since 2001, Wildhorse has awarded more than 1,300 grants totaling more than $7.5 million, with more than $2.7 million going toward educational projects. 

“The Wildhorse Foundation is passionate about making our surrounding areas as strong and successful as possible. That starts with our children, our future,” DeGrofft said. “We are committed to not only educating our youth but helping to educate our community members of all ages and education levels from grade school to continuing education.”

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