Students remodel school buses for Almeda Fire victims

Local educators, organizations and students begin remodeling school buses for families impacted by the Almeda Fire.

Posted: Apr 14, 2021 3:21 PM
Updated: Apr 15, 2021 9:26 AM

MEDFORD, Ore. – Local students are transforming school buses into homes for families who lost everything in the Almeda Fire. The Bus Project is the first of its kind, and just started a couple weeks ago.

Talent Maker City, Skoolie Home Foundation, Southern Oregon Educational Service District, Medford School District, Phoenix-Talent School District, Project Youth Plus, Armadillo Technical Institute and industry partners are all teaming up to make The Bus Project possible.

Skoolie Home Foundation, which transforms school buses into homes for the homeless, donated two school buses to get the project started.

What began as an inspiration in the wake of the Almeda fire has transformed into a far-reaching community project that can not only provide much-needed housing to families in need but also teach students construction skills.

The students know first-hand the impact the Almeda Fire had on our community.

“I was one of the ones affected,” said Bryan Flores, a senior at Phoenix High School who is a part of The Bus Program.

“I feel like I’m contributing and doing something for the community,” said Ami Safady, a sophomore at Phoenix High School who is also a part of The Bus Program, “It’s been fun but also kind of scary because you don’t want to mess up.”

Community partnership between industry, education, and nonprofit organizations has come together to pro-mote STEM education and Career and Technical Education: SOESD, Southern Oregon STEM HUB, Talent Maker City, Medford School District, Phoenix-Talent School District, Project Youth Plus, and Armadillo Technical Institute.

The first two “skoolies” are expected to be completed by June as part of a pilot program.

“We’re hoping this is just the beginning,” said Alli French of Talent Maker City, “If all goes well, we’ll be back in the fall creating more opportunities for teaching and housing families.”

Students from SMHS, PHS, and ATI are participating in converting these first two buses as prototypes so that this process can be repeated across Jackson and Josephine counties next year.

Student Construction Interns are being paid a stipend through Project Youth Plus to complete the project using employability skills rubric.

“They’re learning employability skills,” said French, “They’re learning about having a good attitude, working in a hot bus; I mean, the temperature got a little warm in there the other day so it’s dirty, it’s hard work and they’re learning construction skills.”

One of the highest needs in our region is skilled workers in the construction trades. The Bus Project provides exploration and training in the trades allowing students the opportunity to get to know local professionals in the process.

“We want this to impact and influence all of Southern Oregon, our entire Valley in a really positive way for years to come,” said French.

Right now, The Bus Program is looking for more industry partners. You can find a list of needs and opportunities to get involved HERE.

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