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Program helps dropouts earn a GED or diploma

CORVALLIS — RC Phillips, 19, dropped out of high school in the ninth grade.

So did Kenny Ferguson, 17.

Annie Avery, 19, waited until her junior year.

But June 27, the former Lebanon High School trio will graduate from CSC Youth Build, having gained entry-level construction skills in the program designed to help Linn County dropouts earn their GED or high school diploma.

Thursday afternoon, they were busy constructing classroom space at the CSC laboratory at 240 S.W. Washington St. in Corvallis.

“I wanted to get my life straightened out,” Phillips said. “I’ve participated in Youth Build and the Santiam Wilderness Academy over the last three years. I’ve learned to work with other people and to not just try to do stuff by myself.”

But most off all, Phillips said, he has learned to deal with authority and rules.

Avery said she participated in Youth Build because she needs her GED to go on to become a juvenile probation officer. “I’ve learned how to follow directions and to stay on task,” Avery said.

Sharee Cooper, CSC operations manager, said applications are being accepted for another round of Youth Build students.

“We will accept seven in the summer and seven in the fall,” Cooper said. “In a year-long cycle, we will have about 28 youth involved because they can move on as soon as they get their GED.”

Applications for the program’s next round, which starts July 1, can be found online at or call 541-758-2633. Applications can also be dropped off at the CSC office at 380 Market St. in Lebanon. Applicants must be from 18 to 21 years old, reside in Linn County, live in a low-income household and be drug-free.

“Applicants shouldn’t be worried about transportation,” Cooper said. “We will pick them up in Lebanon and Albany and take them to the work sites or to our lab in Corvallis.”

In addition to job skills, students can earn incentive stipends of up to $2,500, as well as $1,250 in educational awards through AmeriCorps. The program also pays for any professional trade certifications earned by the students.

Beginning with the next training cycle, students will also be introduced to energy-efficient weatherization techniques that previously had been taught through a separate program.

Cooper said the class will also work with the First Story program that helps repair or construct low-income housing.

Program instructors are Dennis Feeney, John Moody and Blake Gordon.

Although the program focuses on building trades, students also work with staff from the electrical and laborers training programs in Adair Village and Tangent, Cooper said.

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Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or