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Spring break was never like this

Local students get their hands dirty
by: Jim Hart, 
Wearing safety glasses, Alex Juarez of West Linn adjusts the controls on a large manufacturing machine that is responding to a computer-aided design.

Skiing Mount Hood.

Combing an Oregon beach.

Biking the Springwater Trail.

Watching a movie every day.

Hugging a cell phone for hours.

What did you do spring break?

A group of 16- to 21-year-olds all decided to go to school during spring break.

How unusual is that?

It's not that unusual, according to Amy Detter, youth transition coordinator, in the Youth Services office at Clackamas Community College. Detter organized a hands-on training class that was attended by a number of West Linn students this spring break.

In fact, Detter not only organizes classes during spring break but also during the summer. And they're all free, thanks to federal grants. The CCC manufacturing department elective college credit also is free.

Wendy Palmrose of West Linn enrolled her son, Osten, in the Spring Break Technology Career Exploration class so he wouldn't have a reason last week to lie around the house and do nothing.

Osten, a sophomore at West Linn High School, is now thanking his mother. He absolutely loved the class, and as a result found a new direction for his life.

The class was designed for hands-on learners. And that model fit Osten very well. He especially liked the welding segments of the class, as well as the computer-aided machine work.

Detter wrote the grant for this program organized through the Clackamas Technical Education Consortium (C-TEC), bringing college teachers in for four days of intensive classes during the break. She also handles a program for 150 kids who have obstacles that make it difficult to succeed.

'We do case management, and get kids from lots of sources, including the juvenile justice system,' Detter said. 'We get them sometimes when they're coming off probation; they might need to finish their GED, but it's helping kids who have barriers or handicaps get into training and jobs.'

That program is funded by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), but Detter says the WIA program has more eligibility requirements than C-TEC, which is for all Clackamas County youths ages 16-21.

Detter described last week's session as a mini-version of the longer Summer Technology Career Exploration class, which is scheduled daily, June 18 through July 3.

What made Osten like it so much? The hands-on teaching style matched his learning style, and the activities held his interest.

'I thought it was a great class,' Osten said. 'I found out that I really love welding, and I thought the mechanical segment where we built rocket cars was really cool.'

Osten wasn't the only West Linn High School student to spend spring break inside the buildings at CCC. WLHS junior Alex Juarez had previous experience with Web design, and therefore wasn't clueless when the instructor started talking about computer-aided design. Already a hands-on learner, Juarez was among the most interested in using a computer design to make a large machine operate according to detailed specifications.

'I'm interested in pursuing chemical or mechanical engineering, and I wanted to see what the fields entail,' Juarez said. 'I thought (this class) would be a good way to do that because it was free and I wasn't doing anything during spring break.'

But Detter says students do well in the C-TEC class because of the style of teaching and student interests.

'This class is vocational,' she said. 'It's for hands-on learners.'

The exploratory class included segments in automotive, gas and electric welding, and computer-aided manufacturing. They are all topics that Detter says often have been cut from the traditional high school curriculum.

'It's a different avenue of learning,' she said, 'and if they're not being successful or they want to do more with technology, this is an option.'

Osten said it wasn't hard to learn from CCC instructor Mike Mattson, who taught the computer-aided manufacturing segment.

'Before the class,' Osten said, 'I had no idea how things were built or mechanized like that. It wasn't difficult to learn; they explained it very well, and the hands-on part really helped a lot. We learned for ourselves by making mistakes and fixing those mistakes.'

But some of the students found that they already had some understanding and were able to extend their knowledge.

'It was an interesting class,' Juarez said, 'but I was familiar with a lot of the content and the type of computer programs that I already have used.'

Osten, for one, is not finished taking exploratory or beginning-level, skill-development classes, especially in his high-interest subjects.

'I'm thinking about taking more (CCC) classes in welding and engineering,' Osten said, 'over the summer or as soon as I can.'

He'll take anything he can get his hands on.

For information on C-TEC educational programs for Clackamas County youths, contact Detter at 503-657-6958, Ext. 2173 or write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..