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Community Investment Sparks Creativity and CTE Pathway

Community Investment Sparks Creativity and CTE Pathway
Chakris Kussalanant


Seed funding from community doctor and wife leads to expansive CTE media arts program, successful alumni

Digital arts and graphic design are the practice of combining different art forms to express ideas in unique and innovative ways. It’s the ultimate blend of art and technology. It’s only fitting that the Digital Arts and Graphic Design Career and Technical Education (CTE) Pathway at Springfield High School (SHS) formed thanks to a unique partnership that combined community with student interest.

When SHS Principal Jose da Silva took over the direction of the school in 2013, one of the first things he set out to do was connect with the local business community, including coordinating career and technical education tours for business owners. His goals were simple: land a few internships for students and maybe funding for some programs.

Those community connections blossomed just two years later when Dr. Kenneth Singer and his wife Kenda approached Principal da Silva with a request to tour the school. The couple, enamored with the CTE programs, wrote a check for $100,000. The seed money was intended to fund the start of a new CTE program.

Principal da Silva was left speechless.

After a labor market survey and a few meetings with the district, the SHS presented the Singers with a proposal for a brand-new graphic design program.

Dr. Singer, who is an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife, do not have a background in fine arts or graphic design. However, both understood that they were contributing to an education and community need, not a personal project.

"The graphic design idea sort of evolved as something that was not already here and yet had some promise,” said Dr. Singer. “I think the administration probably is more to be credited—they brought the proposals to us. We didn't come up with the idea of graphic design. I think it has persisted and grown in ways that we hadn't anticipated thanks to the efforts of the community, the faculty and the administration."

The project quickly amassed support from several businesses and local leaders who provided services pro bono to help make the vision of an SHS Graphic Design lab a reality. As many as 15 local businesses and partners provided logistical and construction assistance to build the CTE area, including Sherwin Williams, Camp Creek Electric, Paradign Engineering, and Steadman Sheetmetal.

In fall of 2016, a handful of students started learning and experimenting in the program. Fast-forward nine years later, and the original graphic design program has evolved to encompass a much larger CTE Pathway in Digital Arts and Graphic Design.

During a recent and informal visit to SHS, the Singers got a chance to meet again with Principal da Silva, graduates of the program, and many new students learning digital arts and graphic design. Alex Lowe, teacher, led his students on a discussion with the Singers, showcasing class projects and the different creative styles on display in the classroom.

“We were just sort of the seed and they really made it flourish and grow,” said Mrs. Singer.

During the visit, the Singers and the entire class also had a chance to meet two recent SHS graduates who completed the CTE Pathway in Graphic Design: Darrel Harrison (SHS Class of 2018) went on to earn an advertising degree with a minor in multimedia from the University of Oregon (2023) and currently works as a designer for local company Richardson Sports; and Keyan Carlile (SHS 2020) who became an independent creator on YouTube and has successfully monetized his channel.

"It is something that you cannot put a dollar amount on, because the ripple effect of the generous donation is going to have an impact for many years to come,” said da Silva.  “And that's why it's important to have students come back and tell their stories, you know, so we can see how the experience has served students in different ways."

For Harrison, the opportunity to study graphic design in high school helped define not just a talent, but also a career.

“I’m so thankful. I knew a few things, but once I got into this program, I was handed all the tools I needed, from there I was able to make all the connections and my high school projects catapulted me into the workforce,” said Harrison.
Dr. Singer hopes the project inspires others to action, and particularly, support high schools and CTE programs.
“Our hope has always been that any efforts in the field of education are really the solutions to so many of our nation's problems, be it poverty, medical care, inequity,” said Dr. Singer.  “So any support for education at any level is an investment that just pays so many dividends. We often get focused on education being college education, but there's so many other areas of education that are vitally important and really need support.”