Nate Farrell talks to all the staff at Cottage Grove High School. So when the senior approached principal Mike Ingman last week, it wasn’t out of the ordinary but Ingman thought it extraordinary.
“I was just telling him that I think it’s (the fair) really cool because freshman can focus, not tunnel vision, but focus more on what they want because I think it’s a heavy thing on seniors’ minds right now and they have four years to think about it, four more years to ask questions,” Farrell said.
“He’s one of our superstar students,” Ingman nodded to the senior as the two stood just outside of the hubbub circling in the school’s gymnasium as students made their way from booth-to-booth at the first career fair Cottage Grove High School has held in six years.
“You know,” Ingman said, “I’m going to cliche you really quick but the cliche is that I get to live out my dreams every day and a lot of our kids may not even know what their dreams may be so we wanted to give them the opportunity to see where they’re going.”
On Wednesday, March 21 they were going to the gym where dozens of booths provided information on post-graduation opportunities from the University of Oregon to Yogi Tea to Chambers Construction. Students filed in and were set free to explore and ask questions after spending the morning hearing from four different presenters.
“Some of the students have said they would have preferred being able to pick which presentation they attended but that’s something we will look into for next time,” said Nick Finley, who signed on as Cottage Grove High School’s career and college specialist this year. He also serves as the boys’ basketball coach.
“I think from my understanding, things are changing a little from, when I was in school everyone was pushing us to go to college,” Finley said. “Not that it’s changing but I think the trades are becoming more and more popular because college isn’t for every kid and so having opportunities to go out and look at careers that don’t need a degree is valuable. The fair opens the door to the kids to see what’s out there.”
Cottage Grove High School has seen a push towards its Career Technical Education (CTE) program, funded in part by Measure 98, which allows students to learn outside of the classroom through internships and opportunities with community businesses. The program also provides students with career-relevant curriculum, aided this year by new equipment funded by the Woodard Foundation.
In December of this year, the foundation donated $45,000 to the school’s CTE program in the form of a top-off grant that paid for a new motor for the jet milling machine for the drafting classes as well as a laser engraver and new electrical outlet installations. A new front load washer and dryer for the culinary classes was also funded as well as a microwave and pots and pans. The woodworking department welcomed two saw stops at an estimated value of $3,899 each and a 10” sliding miter saw.
The program is crafted to create opportunities for students who may not pursue higher education or students like Farrell who prefer a different path.
“In freshman year I thought, ‘oh man how am I going to go through a college opportunity if I can’t do hands-on learning’ because that’s what I’m good at,” he said. The senior ultimately found himself weighing the options of a Lane Community College Technology Program and a Chambers Construction apprenticeship.
“It was a lot to think about,” he said.
There was a lot to think about in the gym on Wednesday as well with companies like Walmart, Peace Health, Les Schwab, State Farm, Cottage Grove Police, Coast Fork Nursery, Kimwood and several others handing out information. Jasmine Ward was one of the students manning a booth on Wednesday, excited to tell her peers about her experience in the teacher cadet program--part of the education track at CGHS that gives students classroom experience and college credit towards a degree in education. It was just part of what Ingman called, planting seeds.
“What we’re doing here is, some seeds grow the next year and when they went into the pyramid they found these seeds that had three different pods. One would grow the next year, one would grow two years later and one would grow as soon as it got the moisture that it needed so it could grow at anytime and so that is what we’re doing. There are seeds being planted, some may germinate and grow right now and some may be a few years from now and that’s ok too.”