Their Dream Keeps "Building"

Harris Junior Academy is building the dream of Alton Olson. His dream is build a top-of-the-line technology building on the campus, and add a shop class to the school curriculum. Olson, a recently retired shop teacher and local elder in the Pendleton (Ore.) Church, presented his vision to the HJA School Board and local church congregation where it was positively embraced and became a goal for the 2008–09 school year.

Olson plans to teach small engine repair and have students work on lawn mowers and other small engines. For woodworking classes, students will construct storage units and play houses available to the community for purchase. These construction skills will prepare students for becoming entry-level team members in any general contracting business. Naturally, before either class takes place, basic safety and tool handling will be taught in the classes with small project assignments and close instruction.

During his 30-year career as a public school shop teacher, Olson (Mr. "O" as the kids call him) developed a career education program that is being used as the model program for the state of Oregon. He is volunteering his time to teach the program and has been the driving force and project manager for the new building.

HJA board and faculty feel this program is needed for the Pendleton and surrounding community youth who are often faced with no realistic alternatives if they fall short academically. Teaching these type of practical skills is just what some kids need to help them be successful. For those that do not continue on to college, this program will provide them with the skills necessary to earn a good living and become thriving members of the community and church.

The new building will also be useful for outreach ministries, "Community Connections," and other community purposes such as gardening clubs, horsemanship meetings, motorcycle clubs and other classes open to Pendleton-area residents.

Funding has been a challenge, but donations continue to come in—in dollars, volunteer labor and prayers. While the project will need additional funding, the faith to complete it is in ready supply. "We are continually astounded by the generosity of people who want to be a part of the dream," a board member notes at a recent project update meeting.

Like all schools, both public and private, HJA faces challenges such as budget shortfalls and low enrollment, and in thinking outside the box, they have come up with a vision. So, they're literally "building" it, and they believe it will happen.

February 01, 2009 / Upper Columbia Conference