Sponsored by Oregon Business

Vernonia stakes future on new school

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011

But Vernonia also produces extraordinary students. Katy Stevens was a sophomore when the flood destroyed her home. She “lived all over the place” while finishing high school. “We didn’t have a lot of books, no labs. We didn’t have a gym for a while. Oh, god. I would have loved to have had lockers,” she says. “But at the same time, all these challenges just drove me harder toward college. It was inspirational in a way. I saw all these people working hard to make life normal. If everything had been really easy, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

Despite the disadvantages, the 19-year-old Stevens is now on a four-year scholarship at the University of Portland and is majoring in both social work and psychology, turning the flood trauma into triumph. “I want to work with displaced families, orphans, foster kids,” she says. “Homeless people, like I once was.”

1011_Vernonia_Map_01The new curriculum and the rural sustainability program are meant to lift overall student achievement, and also benefit college-bound students. “I see our high school kids working with college and professional people,” says Aaron Miller, the principal of Washington and Mist elementary schools and the coordinator of both efforts. “I see us being a leader in natural resources research.”

The rural sustainability program originally was to be housed in a separate building next to the new school, which would include high school science labs and space for research partners, and be a magnet for tourism and green-minded industries.

But in May, P&C Construction said cost increases had pushed the project to $42 million and the $2.8 million stand-alone center was cut. “I’ve been pushing really hard that we deconstruct the Washington grade school and use those materials for a center because it really walks the walk,” says Hyde.

“The new campus and the whole community have become the rural sustainability center,” says an equally undaunted Miller, whose son is a senior at Vernonia High and daughter a recent graduate. “We have miles of linear park, all these rivers and streams, several outdoors schools. Every single part of our natural surroundings can be our classroom.”

The school district so far has partnered with the Upper Nehalem Watershed Council on stream restoration projects and is working with Oregon Fish and Wildlife on fish programs. A Bureau of Land Management nursery in Molalla plans to relocate to the new school, and the district wants to create a native plant nursery and garden.

Some partnership building with universities has started: OSU’s extension service has helped with the natural resources curriculum, and its rural studies program will track the school's impact as part of a Vital Vernonia study. PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions planned to develop classes using Vernonia as a case study, but that has stalled.

“There are some areas where we’ve taken some baby steps, and some giant steps,” says Miller. “University partnerships are baby steps. The No. 1 thing is our K-12 education.”

Two steps forward, one step back. It’s a ratio that can look pretty good to a town like Vernonia.


More Articles

Video: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon 2015

The Latest
Monday, October 05, 2015
100-best-NP-logo-2015-video-thumbVIDEO BY JESSE LARSON

Profiling some of the organizations featured in the 2015 list.


The Harder They Fall

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Storyteller-in-Chief by the managing partner of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.


Photo Log: #TillamookSmile

The Latest
Friday, October 30, 2015
103015-cheesethumbBY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR

Against a changing backdrop Patrick Criseter’s infectious grin remained constant. It’s a cheesy (pun intended) beam that begs for a hashtag.


Straight shooter

Linda Baker
Thursday, October 08, 2015
100815-bradleyBY LINDA BAKER

In an era dominated by self-promotion and marketing speak, John Bradley, CEO of R&H Construction, is a breath of fresh air.


Reader Input: Made in Oregon

November/December 2015
Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Two trends dominate the manufacturing sector: onshoring and the rise of small-scale production manufacturing, known as the "maker economy."



November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The world's second-largest wind energy project yields costs and benefits for a sheep-farming family in Eastern Oregon.


The Love Boat

November/December 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Vigor’s values don’t stop at truth. Walk into a company office, conference room or on any shipyard site and you’ll most likely see a poster inscribed with the words “Truth. Responsibility. Evolution. Love.” Otherwise known as TREL, Vigor’s culture code and the prominence it is accorded can be a bit surprising to the unsuspecting shipyard visitor.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02