If college isn’t for everyone, then what’s the solution for students who aren’t headed down that path? That’s the question Heart of Oregon Corps is addressing with their Heart of Oregon Corps (HOC) Campus Campaign. Even in 2023, schools offer plenty of resources to help students attend college, but there is a noticeable imbalance when it comes to offering support and assistance to help them transition into stable careers after graduation. With Oregon’s Department of Education reporting that 56 percent of 2020 high school graduates enrolled in a higher education program by Autumn 2021, that means nearly half of Oregon’s students aren’t being set up for success as they enter the next stage of their young adult lives.
The HOC Campus Campaign is currently raising funds to develop a four-acre campus in the Central Oregon community of Redmond that will solve this problem. Like a traditional college campus, the space is designed to be a source of learning and personal growth, but unlike a traditional campus, in addition to classroom education, participants will be learning job skills that will allow them to transition into stable careers that pay a living wage.
“It’s basically taking that idea of a resource rich college environment and recreating it in a way that makes sense for local youth going from high school to the workforce,” says Laura Handy, executive director of Heart of Oregon Corps.
This new training center will have a positive impact on the local, rural community and region by providing youth with an alternative to college and helping them gain the skills needed to find fulfilling career paths. The Campus will also provide the community with a source of qualified job candidates, which will help local businesses grow and create more opportunities, ensuring that Central Oregon has the chance to thrive under the stewardship of the next generation.
The HOC Campus will offer a centralized space for HOC’s six career-oriented programs and resources to help young people explore their career options and gain the skills and experience needed to enter the workforce. Participants of HOC programs obtain their GED and/or high school diploma in addition to gaining industry recognized certifications in early education and childcare, natural resources, and construction trades. Most importantly, participants will have the opportunity to gain real-world experience that will help them build their resumes, earn solid references, and find success in the workplace. It’s all in the name of meeting young Oregonians where they are, creating diverse opportunities that meet their needs now, and in the future.
The Campus will also offer the opportunity for HOC to expand trainings and comprehensive support services such as mental health counseling, referrals for housing and accessing public benefits, and driver’s education. The Campus leverages trauma-informed design approaches to help participants overcome past and present obstacles so that they can instead focus on building stable and successful futures.
Leanna Williams, Heart of Oregon Corps’ Development Manager and a lifelong resident of Central Oregon is enthusiastic about how the Campus will make taking advantage of programming more accessible for the young people her organization serves. “Right now, our satellite locations are spread out across Central Oregon, so adding a centralized campus that will provide a stronger youth-centered culture and community is something I’m really excited about!”
The campus has already raised $3.6 million of their $8 million goal – –$500,000 of which came from the Roundhouse Foundation, a long-time supporter of Heart of Oregon Corps that values the organization’s commitment to introducing young adults to careers in the trades including forestry and sustainability.
“We are pleased to be able to support the next phase of growth for the Heart of Oregon Corps,” says Erin Borla, executive director and Trustee of Roundhouse Foundation. “This program ensures all of those young people, even those who may not have found their passion in the traditional classroom setting, are set up for success and can truly make an impact on their community and themselves.”
“It’s really not just about the building,” continued Handy. “Contributions to this project represent something much deeper — a commitment to ensuring every young Central Oregonian has the opportunity to achieve success. Every dollar we raise is an investment in their future, and affirmation that tells them, ‘we all recognize your potential, and we want to see you do well.’”
To learn more about HOC Campus’s campaign or make a contribution visit heartoforegon.org/campus-campaign/why-our-youth-need-a-campus.html.