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HRVHS instructor receives statewide community works award

peterPeter Lawson, Hood River Valley High School (HRVHS) community works instructor, received the Statewide Excellence Award at the annual Oregon Statewide Transition Conference earlier this month. Lawson has led the community works program at HRVHS for the past five years building a classroom with students from a decommissioned fire station. 

The Community Works Program at HRVHS, which is a part of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, started with a remodel project where Jack Miller, a program volunteer, taught students construction skills. At that time, the program included six students in it compared to the current 89 students. 

Lawson said one key component of the program’s success has been getting students off campus and applying what they are learning. The community works program resides in a city-owned building on the Heights in Hood River. The fire department occupied it but was not using it. The city of Hood River, Hood River Fire Department, and Hood River County School District (HRCSD) worked together to create a Maker’s Space for the students to learn and apply what they are learning.

HRCSD provides transportation for students from HRVHS to the building on the Heights (the firehouse) each day. There are three class periods offered daily, and some students attend two of those three class periods depending on their course schedule and requirements. Students enrolled in these courses range from at-risk to high-achieving. 

Community volunteers are an important part of the program, offering their time and expertise every week. Students identify both indoor and outdoor projects they are interested in, including building skateboards, making stained glass, learning how to stucco, basic electrical, making jewelry, screen printing, and building garden beds. Lawson said the community also helps by donating supplies for students to use as a part of these projects.

Lawson began his career in education as a special education teacher. He has worked for three school districts, including HRCSD. At each of these school districts, his focus has been on helping students build vocational skills. 

To learn more about the Hood River Valley High School career and technical education program, including the community works program, please visit https://sites.google.com/hoodriver.k12.or.us/hrvhs-cte/home