LEBANON — Sydney Richmond admits the reason she was getting “straight Fs” while attending Lebanon High School was because she “had no motivation and wasn’t studying.”
But the 17-year-old is now thriving as she works toward a GED through the T3 — Training Teens for Tomorrow — program, a cooperative effort among the Lebanon School District, Community Services Consortium and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Greater Santiam.
“I was given a second chance,” Sydney said of her newfound dedication to learning.
She’s also spending time back in the regular classroom, volunteering as a third-grade aide at Green Acres School.
Sydney is one of 33 students in the T3 program, which is funded in part by a $92,000 grant from the state of Oregon.
The students were identified as potential drop-outs and given the opportunity to attend the Lebanon High School Alternative Ed Center, which is housed at the Boys & Girls Club’s Teen Center, the former Lebanon Public Library.
Mike Hillman coordinates the program and works closely with Denise Downer, principal youth advisor with Community Services Consortium.
Downer said the students attend classes — which are primarily Internet-based — working at their own pace from 8 a.m. until noon, and then either volunteer at local businesses and schools or go to work at various job sites.
“They are learning about financial literacy, and we help them get certifications, such as CPR and First Aid, so they are prepared when they find jobs,” Downer said.
She added that the students are excited about working.
“They are seeing a connection between getting an education and finding a job,” Downer said.
Educationally, most are working toward getting a GED, and several want to tie into the Beyond LHS program and pick up college credits as well.
“The daily attendance rate is more than 85 percent,” Downer said. “That’s probably better than at the high school.”
After the students complete 60 hours of volunteer work, they become eligible to receive $6 per hour as a training stipend for up to 120 hours of work experience.
The program is modeled after a pilot programs at the Salem and Corvallis Boys & Girls Clubs.
Isaac Gorskikh, 17, said his school troubles began when his parents divorced. He bounced around schools in Washington and Arizona. The last straw came when he went to a party and wrecked his father’s truck.
“I got kicked out of the house,” he said.
He moved to Lebanon and lives with his sister and brother-in-law.
“This is great,” Isaac said. “I was behind so many credits and I had bad grades.”
Isaac said he likes the new program because he can see the end goal after he gets a GED.
“I like working with my hands,” he said. “I want to work on cars.”
Isaac is one of two students volunteering at Habitat For Humanity and the Lebanon Soup Kitchen.
“Many of these kids come from families that don’t have any experience with secondary education,” said Kris Latimer, Boys & Girls Club executive director. “Most are going for a GED, but some want to go on to get a college degree.”
Latimer said the students recently went on a field trip to the Oregon State campus and will soon visit LBCC.
Drugs and fighting were problems for 16-year-old Trevor Wheeler.
“I had a lot of violence issues,” Trevor said. “By the time I was 13, I was kicked out of the house and have lived under the bridge at Gill’s Landing.”
Trevor said he attended Lebanon High School for a year, but was caught with drugs and directed to the alternative ed center.
“I like it because I can show up, get stuff done and get out,” Trevor admitted. “I’ve been working toward my practice GED and am nearly done.”
Trevor said he’s been sober for about a year-and-a-half.
“He’s actually been a good mentor to the other kids,” Downer said. “He shares his story with them.”
If he can clear his criminal record, Trevor would like to enlist in the Navy.
Cody Reagan, 20, said he realizes now that he “needed to mature” when it comes to school work and that he “got distracted easily” while in the regular school system.
“His new goal is to get his GED and then enroll in a welding program, perhaps at LBCC.
“We had a trades class in high school and I found out that I really like to weld,” Cody said.
Like Isaac, Cody volunteers at Habitat Restore.