Learning through service
During a recent Wednesday morning at the Estacada Area Food Bank, Gabe Harrel and Alex Simon move dog food from a large bin to smaller bags that will later be picked up by the food bank's customers.
Simon scoops food while Harrel holds open the bags. They're careful to not add more than three cups of the canine chow to each bag, as doing so will make them difficult to close.
Nearby, Abby Bates and Max Spiess package flour.
The four are students in the Estacada School District Adult Transitions program, designed for those ages 18-21 who have earned a modified or extended high school diploma. This year, six students participate in the program and focus on gaining more independence through work experience and volunteer opportunities.
"We help them develop a skill set that employers look for — how to get along, build relationships and take direction from a supervisor," said adult transitions teacher Sammie Beaton.
Students in the Adult Transitions program work at the Estacada Area Food Bank every Wednesday.
"This team brings such joy into the food bank, dedication to their work, and we are so grateful for this partnership," said Debra Bufton, food bank director.
Students also work at the Clackamas River Elementary School Food Pantry and Clackamas County Dog Services.
Additionally, students manage the Estacada High School recycling program to raise funds for outings like bowling, movies, hikes and lunch. Last year, students raised $1,500 for such endeavors. The funds remain in the Estacada High School student body bank account when they are not being used.
"We help students figure out what they might like to do for recreation," Beaton said. "We talk about the steps that go into planning a trip, and how to call a friend and say, 'Why don't we plan an outing?'"
Students in the transitions program often ride TriMet when visiting different locations.
"By the time they leave here, many are independent riders," Beaton said. "We had a student in the past who had never gotten on TriMet before, but now he loves it."
Those involved with the Adult Transitions program appreciate the time spent exploring different locations.
"I love that we're out and about in the world. The world is our classroom," said education assistant Terri McReynolds.
Students in the program gain skills from each of the program's activities.
"We try to establish what a strong work ethic looks like. There's work involved in being independent," Beaton said.
At the food bank, students stock the shelves, package food, mop, sweep and recycle.
"There are a lot of job skills they learn here," Beaton said. "We talk about how they're providing meals for local families in their community."
All of the students agreed that they enjoy working at the community center.
"I like to stock the shelves," said Bates.
Spiess said the best part is "having fun and doing jobs." Like Bates, his favorite task is stocking the shelves. They also agreed that they like working with Bufton.
Along with their work at the food bank, Simon enjoys volunteering with his classmates at Clackamas County Dog Services. Students feed the canines, wash and fold laundry and clean dishes, among other tasks.
For Simon, the most enjoyable parts are vacuuming and petting the dogs.
Students have also connected with staff at Clackamas County Dog Services. Simon recalled that employees once gave him and his co-worker gift cards to Taco Bell, where they later enjoyed a meal together.
Harrel, who loves birds, received a book about the animals from a staff member at Clackamas County Dog Services. He also spends time working with his leaf blower at the Carver Events Center.
Those involved with the Adult Transitions program enjoy watching the students develop new skills.
"You see where they start off and where they grow. You can see that they know how to do these things and they're excited to do them," said educational assistant Laura Frazey
"It's really empowering," Beaton added.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.