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'Yes' vote on tech-ed measure will pave paths to success

Do you ever think about those forks in the road — things that change the course of your life? For me, it was a construction shop class at Forest Grove [High School]. Without it, I probably would have left and been in a different place than I am today.

Consider that FGHS, with its construction classes, welding shop and other basic vocational and career technical education (CTE), offers more than most Oregon schools. Knowing that, I’m not surprised that Oregon has one of the worst graduation rates in the country. One in four who start high school don’t finish.

Without the hands-on learning of a shop class or other CTE, how will most high school students get the opportunities I had for finding new paths and futures?

That’s why I’m supporting Initiative Petition 65, a measure that will be on the November ballot. It will establish and expand CTE so that all Oregon students have access to skill-building classes. IP65 also will provide funding for college prep classes and dropout prevention. Districts get to decide how to spend IP65 dollars, which amount to about $800 per student every two years.

At Forest Grove, shop classes provided me the basic skills in preparation for a hands-on, physically arduous career and helped me discover my aspiration for it. CTE classes teach real-world skills that are transferrable. Instead of leaving school, I stuck around and became an apprentice.

If it weren’t for CTE classes, I wouldn’t be aware of paths to good-paying jobs other than a traditional college path.

If not high school, where are young people going to get information about all the options for finding a career? It’s not fair to limit our understanding about our future to the “college path.” Shop class is what helped me realize there are many more options for people who are willing to learn and become trained.

Some of my friends who chose college are worried about getting jobs and paying back their school debt. I feel fortunate that I’m not in debt with huge loans to repay. My future gets even better when I graduate to journeyman and receive pay that is more than three times minimum wage.

The best part is I’m doing something that gives me satisfaction and a sense of purpose. I can look at the work I do and say to myself, “I built that.”

IP65 will give school districts the much-needed resources for hands-on learning that builds real world skills, whether it’s metals shop, construction, health care or medical technology, engineering, business or another sector.

IP65 doesn’t raise taxes or take money away from existing programs. Instead, it prioritizes new state revenue for our high schools. Learn more at ip65.org.

Shop classes strengthened my ambition. What about other students in our high schools? Will they have the opportunities to find something that they love, make enough money to live on, build something they can be proud of? Will they just drop out? Will they try to get through college and have to pay off loans for years at a low-paying job, constantly struggling?

Please join me in voting “yes” for our high schools so more students in Oregon get opportunities to get on a good path while still in high school and succeed.

Randy Avendano is a carpenter apprentice. He lives in Forest Grove.