STEVENSVILLE – Most weeks, Daniel Pacheco helps his father feed, clothe and care for his four siblings, after their mother was deported to Mexico.
This week he spent in Stevensville, building a chair and his future.
Pacheco was one of five students who attended the third annual Chidwick Scholarship Woodworking Camp at the Chidwick School of Fine Woodworking.
Each year, five North Salem High School students from Salem, Oregon, receive scholarships for the program started by Andy Chidwick and his friend Dean Mattson, who heads the North Salem High Woods Manufacturing Program.
Not only do participants learn technical woodworking skills, they also learn about leadership and teamwork, and how to observe and draw inspiration from their surroundings, said Chidwick, who owns the school and puts on the camp in Stevensville.
“What we’re trying to do is build men and women of character,” he said.
The kids who attend the Chidwick program are smart and talented, but come from disadvantaged households and have limited opportunities, he said.
“These kids are the ones who are overcoming so much to better themselves. We’re just the cheerleaders,” he said.
The weeklong program in the Bitterroot Valley complements Mattson’s program.
About 500 students go through the nationally recognized program at North Salem each year, said Mattson, who has changed the program from a dumping ground for unmotivated students into a program that inspires achievement and provides lifelong opportunities.
“What the world considered trash, we considered priceless,” Mattson said Thursday.
The woodworking program offers the equivalent of a national certification credential upon completion, as well as connections with manufacturing company leaders around the country who are eager to employ skilled graduates, he said.
Encouragement from industry leaders and recognition from various organizations reinforces for kids that what they’re doing – and who they are – is important, he said. “It all adds up and it all changes their hearts.”
“I probably wouldn’t want to do woodworking without their motivation,” said Tyler Johnson, the Chidwick program’s first female attendee.
Hearing from real-world mentors that she is good at woodworking reinforces the rising senior’s passion for creating objects from wood, hopefully as a career, she said.
Like Johnson, Pacheco has found reinforcement of his goals through woodworking classes and said he sees himself working in the industry.
“It’s something that I feel like I have more of a connection with than anything else,” he said.
Reporter Alice Miller can be reached at 523-5251 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.