Business News, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

WAC Citizens Funding Committee Weekly Report

The Willamette Activity Center, or WAC, now condemned, had been the home of many of Oakridge’s community services for decades. Herald photo

Middle Schoolers Lead the Way in Proactive Community Involvement

By LYNDA KAMERRER standing in for GUEN DIGIOIA/for The Herald  –At the May 13th meeting of the Willamette Activity Center (WAC) Funding Committee, the featured guest speakers were five middle school students.  They are in grades 6th through 8th, and members of the Oakridge School District Robotics Club.  The group came to share their vision of what a rebuilt WAC could look like.

Each student took a turn speaking to the adults working on finding funding to rebuild the WAC.  The presentation was supported by power point slides and introduced by the club’s advisor, Mr. Chad Harrison.

Oakridge Robotics Club excels

The Oakridge Robotics Club is centered around STEM education, (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  Three years ago, students entered a statewide competition with the specific task to ‘design an innovative solution.’  For this project, they selected the WAC as a site for a future community center. In the fall of 2019 and winter of 2020, the Oakridge club was successful at regional competition and progressed to the State level.

Chad Harrison, club advisor, said the judges were ‘impressed by the students’ selection of a community project.’  During this time, the club also presented their project to Oakridge City Council.

Project revised for current presentation

For 2022, students revamped their cost estimates for the WAC. The project revisited the idea list before addressing the Funding Committee.  In their research, they looked for answers to which services or activities could be part of a true community center and what innovations in design and engineering could be implemented.

After looking into the gaps and opportunities identified in this process, the students developed their prioritized wish list.  While there was a natural focus on activities for youth, all ages would benefit from the ideas presented.

Top Three:

  • A saltwater swimming pool as part of the community center
  • A community garden near the community center
  • Modular rooms made to be flexible for a variety of activities

The After School Robotics Club made a similar presentation to the City Council several years ago. Their work won at a regional competition and progressed to the Statewide contest.  To prepare for this presentation, club members reviewed their earlier work, updated costs, and took another look at priorities.  Here are the remaining ideas from their list for the WAC.

Remainder of the Top Ten:

  • Gaming lounge
  • A re-useable graffiti wall
  • Full court basketball gym
  • Remodel the skate park
  • Wi-Fi enabled snack bar with a maker space with 3D printer
  • Use solar energy to power the center
  • Create jobs for 14-year-olds at the community center
Lynda Kamerrer grew up in Eastern Oregon and spent 33 years in Seattle before moving to Oakridge in 2008. She loves gardening and is actively involved in Oakridge as a volunteer. Gary Carl photo
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