ONTARIO — The Poverty to Prosperity: Career Technical Education Project in Malheur County received a big boost: a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Education.

Cathy Yasuda, Treasure Valley Community College Foundation executive director, said she was notified Thursday of the award.

“As you can imagine, we are thrilled and ecstatic,” she said.

Yasuda said Education Department officials extended the notification date due to the overwhelming response to the grant. They received 90 applications for funding, she said.

Creating a career technical education program is one of the key parts of the Poverty to Prosperity: Malheur County Recovery Plan, an initiative to boost the county’s economy. Yasuda is a member of the

Career Technical Education Action Committee, which is made up of people in education, business and state agencies.

The initial step toward development of a technical education center was establishing a welding/fabrication pilot program at TVCC. The two-year program started in fall of 2013 and involved students from Ontario, Vale and Nyssa. The Malheur Education Service District is also a partner.

The technical education committee is also working to develop an allied health program for high school students.

The grant application was submitted by Greg Smith, Malheur County economic development director, for funding to expand the welding program and to start developing the health program.

In addition to the career technical education program, the action committee is working toward increasing the availability of college credits in the smaller school districts around the county.

“This was critical to keep the welding program going,” Abby Lee, TVCC public information officer, said of the grant. “We would have had to stop.”

Lee, who is also a member of the Career Technical Education Action Committee, said TVCC is hosting the first high school welding program, with 20 students signed up this year, To keep the program going, another group of 20 juniors has to start another class next fall. But TVCC does not have the capacity, Lee said, so Ontario High School has offered space for a TVCC satellite location for the welding program to host the first-year welding students.

“It was also critical for timing,” Lee said, as schools are now working on their budgets for the next fiscal year.

“Ontario High School was very generous,” Lee added, noting that the satellite welding facility will have a sign saying TVCC and have its own entrance. Students from Nyssa and Vale will not have any other classes there, she said.

The grant also will pay for a person to begin developing the curriculum for the allied health program.

The original grant request was for $250,000, but Lee said the action committee has several options to fill in the gap. Having a free-standing technical education center is still the main goal.

“This is just the first step,” Lee said. “We really need a new facility.”

Poverty to Prosperity is an initiative launched by a group of local residents, businesspeople and organizations. Other components of the program include expansion of industrial land, utilization of natural resources, retention of local business and expansion of the agricultural trade sector.

The initiative has gained the attention of Oregon state officials, including Gov. John Kitzhaber and first lady Cylvia Hayes. The Career Technical Education program has been designated an Oregon Solutions Project, which is providing support to the local initiative from the state level.

Larry Meyer is a news reporter at The Argus Observer. He can be reached at (541) 823-4813 or by emailing larrym@argusobserver.com. To comment on this story, go to www.argusobserver.com.

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