It starts as far back as my earliest memories, when I took toy train sets and made the most elaborate scenes my young mind could image with them. I was drawn to creating something grand with my bare hands, even if it was just a toy set from Ikea.
Luckily for me, my parents encouraged my passion for working with my hands. My father stumbled on Forged in Fire, a tv show the two of us would watch for hours as blacksmiths competed with skillsets that I didn’t even realize could lead to a career. By the time I reached high school, my parents were pushing me to explore career and technical education (CTE) classes where I could learn using my hands.
One day in Mr. Walmer’s woods and metals class at Wilson High School, and I was hooked.
I discovered a class that didn’t just peak my interests above the rest – I discovered a class that made my other classes relevant to me. I can remember taking a test in Geometry – a subject that had been a snooze-fest for me – and realizing that I knew answers to questions that would have stumped me before. As I stared at the page, I thought to myself: I know this – I just used it an hour ago to size my latest woods project.
There was a time when I thought I was born too late for the skills I was learning, but that fear couldn’t be further from the truth. When a tree fell in our backyard, those same skills allowed me to turn the trunk into planks, and the planks into a shield. I used a CNC machine to carve a crest into it to symbolize the care my parents gave me growing up, and gave them a gift from the heart, built by my hands, with the wood they grew.
I’ve learned that your own creativity is the only limit to what you can make in a woods and metals shop, but the most important things I’ve forged are friendships and a career path. I made fast friends with classmates who shared my passion for working with their hands. I partnered with someone who soon became one of my best friends, and together built a bench that’s still in use at Wilson High School today.
People sit on it at lunch all the time, and when I walk by, I think to myself, “I did that.”
It will come as no surprise to you that I joined as many woods and metals courses as I could, even becoming a T.A. to continue my work senior year. And now as my time in high school draws to a close, I’m off to Oregon State University to major in education and become the woods and metals teacher that inspires the next generation of kids who are driven to create with their hands.
But that future also depends on Oregon’s commitment to career and technical education (CTE) funding. You can help by making sure lawmakers know you want full Measure 98 funding in 2019. Those funds help support CTE courses like woods and metals in every school district in the state.