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By Jim Cornelius
News Editor 

Youth program builds opportunities


Last updated 1/18/2022 at Noon

Jerry Baldock

Evelyn Lopez of Sisters cut the ribbon on a new Heart of Oregon classroom and shop facility in Redmond last week. She plans to transition into a new child development program.

A little over a year ago, Evelyn Lopez was falling way behind in school.“Public school was not my calling,” the Sisters youth told The Nugget. “Not enough teacher one-on-one time, which I really needed.”Fast-forward to January 2022, and Lopez is thriving. Last Thursday, she was selected to cut the ribbon on Heart of Oregon Corps’ new child and youth development training classroom and pre-apprenticeship construction classroom in Redmond.As she works to catch up on credits to gain her GED or diploma, she’s transitioning into the brand-new career track program in child and youth development. And she’s excited.

“I’m in YouthBuild construction,” she said, “and I’m transitioning into the child development program… Construction is great; I like it, but it’s not what I’d want to have a career in.”

Child development and child care, however, is.

“I just kind of want to be a role model… and make kids happy,” she said.

Through the new career track program and its partners in the community, Lopez and her peers will get hours of hands-on experience, learning to engage appropriately with a range of age groups of children. They will learn CPR and sleep-safe protocols and become well enough versed in child and youth development to move into the field.

Program Director Kara Johnson told The Nugget that the organization considered a variety of potential career tracks to add to its successful construction program. They settled on child and youth development in part because there is a tremendous community need.

Sisters Oregon Guide

At Thursday’s open house, Child and Youth Development Trainer Tanner Rohne told the assemblage that Central Oregon is “a child care desert,” with one slot available for every three children that need it. That’s a big burden on working families, and Heart of Oregon hopes to add to the available pool of qualified providers.

The YouthBuild program has proven a successful model, providing practical education and credit recovery to many students for whom the standard education model just doesn’t fit. YouthBuild has worked on Habitat for Humanity homes in


Some of the youth move on from the program to careers in the trades.

Sisters Schools Superintendent Curt Scholl was on hand for the open house.

“We have several Sisters youth in here,” Scholl said. “We’ve been partners with YouthBuild since I’ve been here, actually.”

Lakeview Millworks 541-549-0968

Sisters schools administer the school credits earned by local students who work through the program.

The ability to recover credits through the program is critical.

“Their credit recovery program is amazing,” Lopez said. “I was able to make up so many credits — for which I am so grateful.”

The Sisters senior said that she had originally planned to make up enough credits to get her GED, but now she’s almost certain she will be able to get her high school diploma.

Jennifer Lopez of Tumalo (no relation) has a similar story. She’s been in YouthBuild since October 2021.

“When I was back in high school, I was really behind in my credits,” she said.

Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce

A teacher told her about YouthBuild.

Jerry Baldock

Jennifer and Evelyn Lopez (no relation) have both thrived with YouthBuild.

“What really caught my attention was the hands on,” she said. Hearing (about) youth building homes — honestly, that was mind-blowing to me.”

That’s the difference that YouthBuild makes for students who aren’t best suited to a classroom


“I learned things that school couldn’t teach me,” Sisters student Mark Holden told the assemblage at the open house.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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