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Lending a helping hand

Crossroads, Work Crew students help at the Atta Boy 300 races

by: LORI KIMBELL/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Students from Crook County High School Work Crew and Crook County Middle School Crossroads class helped at the Atta Boy 300. Shown in the photo above, Tyrell Cooper stands ready with musher dogs.

Alex McAlister and Karen Johnson braved the elements last week and took 10 students to the Atta Boy 300. These kids did not go so they could stand around and watch the races; they went so they could be part of the excitement.
   The middle school students came from a Crossroads class while the high school students came from a Rotational Work Crew class. These students, with hard work and good behavior, earned the right to go work with the dogs and their mushers. Some of the students who did not earn the trip were left behind.
   McAlister's Crossroads class has helped out at the Atta Boy 300 for the past two years along side the high school Work Crew class.
   "It was amazing," said Omar Toledo, a middle school student. "It was better than school," he said smiling.
   "The kids were great that day," said Karen Johnson, the Workcrew leader. Johnson has taught the Work Crew class for six years. "This type of activity helps them to build social skills and they learn to get along with each other."
   "It was awesome," said Robert Corbin. "It was a new experience for me."
   The students helped the mushers take their dogs to the starting line. With 12 dogs to a team, the students had their work cut out for them. The three minutes between each team's start gave the Crossroads crew just enough time to take one team of dogs to the starting line, then run back down the hill to help the next one.
   "We couldn't do this without them," said Jerry Scdoris, Atta Boy 300 race director. "These kids need practice doing good things and all of these kids did a wonderful job."
   "I told the students it would be non-stop running and they should be prepared to shed a few layers of clothing," said Alex McAlister, advisor of the Crook County Middle School Crossroads class.
   Mikel Harris said, "It was really tiring."
   "I thought it was great getting to take the dogs up there," said Kyle Mann.
   Tyrel Cooper thought it was a great experience working with the mushers from different cultures.
   "This is one of the best groups I have ever had," said McAlister. "They support each other and really do a good job."
   "The kids were great that day," said Johnson.
   The entire day was not dedicated to work however. The kids made time for sledding, snowboarding and playing in the snow.
   "Robin Corbin was a total natural as a snowboarder," said McAlister. "All the kids were still pretty amped up on the way home."
   McAlister has been working with the Crossroad students for five years. One of his goals with the students is to help them acquire skills that will help them do better in frustrating situations.
   "Life is frustrating; they need to learn how to handle these situations," said McAlister, "getting angry isn't going to help."
   Aside from helping out at the Atta Boy 300, the Crossroads class also goes to the Humane Society of the Ochocos each week.
   "We go to the Humane Society every Friday and exercise the dogs and train them to do tricks. This helps them to be more adoptable," said McAlister, who is in need of a vehicle for the program, so the Crossroads class can get out and about more.
   The Work Crew class spends time each week working in various ways around town. Through the Human Resources Department, they help elderly in need. The students also help at the BLM and the Forest Service as well as the Humane Society. On Fridays, Johnson teaches the class how to cook.
   In October the Work Crew class was awarded the SOLV Citizenship Group of the Year award by logging between 1,700 and 3,500 hours of outside cleanup during the year.