“New partnerships” could be the unofficial theme of Oregon City Community Education programs starting this fall.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: SUZ MAUS - NW Discoveries President Ken Barker leads locals on a kayak tour as part of an introductory course available through Oregon City Community Education.Aimed at preventing teen drug abuse, one new program started this season as a partnership between OC Together and the Willamette Falls Media Center. Teams of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders will work together to create 30-second YouTube and TV messages using such tools as their acting skills, stop-motion, claymation or animated chalkboards.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: SUZ MAUS - Frank Cusma refinishes an oak piano stool in preparation for the classes he is teaching in October at Eastham Community Center in Oregon City.Community partnerships extend outside Oregon City as some classes encourage regional exploration. Noting that we live surrounded by nature, Ken Barker of NW Discoveries offers $48 kayak tours through the program and enjoys introducing people to the nature in proximity to where they live.

“We appreciate our relationship with Oregon City Community Ed as we try to get the word to everyone in the community,” Barker said.

The Parent Empowerment Program, now celebrating its 10th anniversary in Clackamas County, originated from a desire to provide parents with an educational resource to prevent abuse within the home. The 10-week parent education program meets in class for two hours per week.

Tim O’Brien first provides foundations for basic parenting, then points out 13 ways parents give their power away before returning to a focus on positive reinforcement and maximizing effectiveness of strength-based interventions.

“Parents with children of all ages are invited to participate in the Parent Empowerment Program because our focus is on identifying patterns of behavior starting when children are infants and continuing oftentimes beyond the adolescent years,” O’Brien said.

Custom furniture work

Frank Cusma brings an interesting biography to his new furniture refinishing and repair classes. Cusma, who turns 70 on Sept. 14, emigrated to the United States in 1956, and attended school in New York City. At age 18, he joined the U.S. Navy and served for four years with two tours as a decorated Vietnam War veteran. When discharged in 1967, he traveled to Oregon, liked it and never left, working in the construction industry until 2005 as a structural ironworker.

“I soon found retirement too sedentary and not to my liking, so I built a shop and started a custom furniture-making and repair business,” Cusma said.

Working mainly in cherry, walnut, white oak and European beech, he makes build-to-fit cabinetry and free-standing furniture such as dining tables, side boards, occasional tables, hutches, dressers, bed stands, end tables, chests and desks. Having taken courses in restoration and refinishing at a conservatory in Venice, Italy, and through private U.S. companies, furniture making and repairing has been Cusma’s hobby for more than 30 years.

He prefers to make his own custom oil stains and varnishes, but will give customers their wish should they prefer an off-the-shelf stain. He then presents customers with designs made using Google SketchUp.

“My favorite furniture styles are Pennsylvania Dutch and Arts and Crafts. I often make replacement pieces for broken carvings on ornate chairs, table legs and armoires,” Cusma said. “My biggest critic is my wife, Jeri. She is an accomplished artist and my go-to person for color schemes, matching and blending.”

Changing classes

Community Education’s bread-and-butter classes also are seeing changes.

Cascade Academics recently started a partnership with the school district to offer SAT Test preparation specifically for Oct. 5 and Nov. 2 testing dates this year. Then, Clackamas Community College sold the school district three driver education program cars, and OCSD pays instructors.

With the district in the lead, “registrations have exploded this year,” said Suz Maus, OCSD’s coordinator of the programs. Maus noted another benefit to the district: ODOT gives OCSD $210 for each student who takes safe-driving lessons.

“Our goal isn’t to make a bunch of profit, but rather to pay for the program,” Maus said.

Register for Community Education classes at by clicking on the OCCE logo. For more information, call 503-785-7993.

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