'Every kid is going to be successful in here'

NORTH BEND, Ore. (AP) The day North Bend High School announced it was bringing back a wood shop class, Tyler Aaron headed for the main office.

"I was the first to sign up," Aaron said. The 15-year-old stood in the middle of the high school's wood shop Tuesday morning with a grin on his face. Around him, students sanded basic jewelry boxes.

Aaron moved to North Bend from Grants Pass before beginning high school. In Grants Pass, he took a woodworking class and quickly discovered it was his bliss.

"I like using power tools," he said, and seeing the final product. He plans to work in the wood construction industry as a career.

But his first year at North Bend High School, there wasn't a woods program for him to participate in. North Bend lost its woods program two years ago when the instructor left and the district couldn't find a replacement. Aaron and his classmates would have remained without wood shop this year, too, except former Coos Bay woodshop teacher Brad Cohn decided to come out of retirement and help North Bend.

"To me, it's a lot of fun," Cohn said, his woods students surrounded him, busily sanding their boxes. "I'm having fun. I like working with kids, and it's making a difference in their lives, I think."

Because North Bend went two years without the program, Cohn's starting all the students off as beginners, teaching them how to use hand tools to build small wooden boxes. Soon, they'll learn to use the bigger tools: the sander, the table saw, the planer.

Then it will be time to start on their final projects: boats.

As a woodworking teacher at Millicoma Middle School, Cohn taught his students to make prams, canoes or driftboats. He's going to do the same thing at North Bend.

"I'm going to make a boat," Aaron said, still smiling. "Then I'm going to take it out on the river."

The students are responsible for providing the wood and epoxy needed to make the boats, or any other final project.

But if the kids can't afford the materials, Cohn finds a way to pay for them.

"We work something out," he said.

A community member recently donated a wooden sailboat to Cohn's class. He plans to have the students refurbish the boat and sell it as a fundraiser to buy supplies for the students that need the help.

"Every kid is going to be successful in here," Cohn said. "I make sure of that."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press