Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard
COTTAGE GROVE - The first few days of Cottage Grove High School's new, all-girl Engineering Technology class had to be a little discouraging for teaching partners Kerry Clawson and Chris Medina.
They, along with district administrators, started the year with high hopes for the class, the cornerstone of a fledgling project aimed at giving young women the technical skills they so often lack as they enter post-secondary education or the job market.
But many of the girls were immediately turned off, intimidated by the brand new, state-of-the-art Amatrol Engineering Lab with its strange machinery and daunting manuals.
"I hated it at the beginning - I didn't like it at all," said Angie Goodson, an articulate, outgoing senior with a checkered academic record. "We were mostly just having to learn all these things ... I wanted to leave but they wouldn't let us."
By the second week, though, Goodson was intrigued. Now on her second "lap" through the lab, Goodson and her partner, senior Blanca Urenda, have spent much of recent class sessions working at the Electrical Systems station, one of 17 units designed to teach technical skills and concepts such as pneumonics, hydraulics, structural design, robotics and more.
Since September, Goodson, who knew a little about electrical wiring before from her brothers and father, has become proficient at the station's various skill tests - wiring a fan, for example, either for real or on a simulated computer program.
"It's pretty cool," she said.
One of the best things about the class, said Goodson and other students, is the absence of boys.
"I think it's good because you don't feel intimidated," she said. "You feel like you can mess up and it's OK."
The Career Connections Project targets girls identified as having "barriers" to attaining well-paying jobs, career training or a college degree after high school. Several, like Goodson, are behind on credits.
"I never came to school," Goodson said - a habit that put her 30 credits behind at the start of the school year.
Others have babies, or come from unstable or foster homes. A few are homeless, and some have learning disabilities.
Of 24 girls in the program, 21 are enrolled in the Engineering Technology class; the others had scheduling conflicts this year but will likely join it next year, Clawson said.
The program also offers the girls employment skills, paid summer internships and transition assistance once they graduate, and it pairs them with women mentors working in nontraditional fields such as construction, engineering and manufacturing. …