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By Emily Coleman

What a year it’s been! Despite this past year’s challenges, we have seen our community work together to remind us of what is possible.

The Bus Project, which started as an idea to engage students in career-connected learning by converting a retired school bus into housing, has developed into so much more. Not only are students involved in career technical education pathways, but they are also applying this learning to give something tangible and meaningful back to their community, a home.

Talent Maker City and South Medford CTE teacher Justin Eager took the lead on the first two bus conversions. Starting in the Spring of 2021, Talent Maker City, working with students from Armadillo Technical Institute and Phoenix High School, began the journey to convert a bus into a home. TMC’s lead builder worked with small groups of students who experienced installing plumbing, electrical, and cabinetry. The first bus is now nearing completion, and Justin Eager’s CTE classes will add the final touches. We should see the first bus to home conversion rolling out this spring. Julie Akins, founder of the Skoolie Home Foundation, will take the lead on placing the first bus with a fire-impacted family in need of housing.

In addition to the first two buses, Ashland School District donated three additional buses. The third bus conversion is happening at WorkSource Rogue Valley with Career Coach Shawn Wonnacott. The fourth bus is going to North Valley High School, and CTE instructor Ken Klumpp will oversee the construction with his SkillsUSA students. Schools and community partners will collaborate to convert the fifth bus into a mobile medical unit. Finally, to help make this a sustainable program, Talent Maker City designed plans, curriculum, and instructional tricks and tips available on their website that other communities can replicate.

Without our community’s collaboration, support, and vision, this project would not be possible.

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