WARRENTON — For the past nine years at South Medford High School, James Veverka helped develop an automotive program that taught students the ropes of working on cars and eventually sent them to work at local auto shops and dealerships.

James Veverka

The Warrenton-Hammond School District used Measure 98 funds to help hire James Veverka and start developing an automotive and metal fabrication program in a new shop going up next to Warrenton High School.

Veverka aims to do the same in his new position as automotive and metal fabrication instructor at Warrenton High School.

Contractors have been erecting a new shop for Veverka’s four-year program, donated by its Idaho manufacturer and paid for by a career-technical revitalization grant.

Rod Heyen, the principal at Warrenton High School, hopes to have the building operational by Halloween.

“Both classes are full, a lot of interest,” he said. “I think there are a lot of students that have been just waiting for this to happen.”

Veverka will start the program out of a classroom, covering shop safety and the academics of auto work while the shop is finished and outfitted with machinery. He foresees a year to develop a full-fledged program with students working on vehicles. The high school will also offer a yearlong welding program, although Veverka’s specialty is in autos.

Veverka, who grew up in southern Oregon, didn’t take his first automotive class until he was attending Walla Walla University in eastern Washington, where he eventually earned a four-year degree in industrial arts with a concentration in automotive.

After college, he worked as a BMW and Porsche technician in the Portland area before realizing he wanted to go into teaching, the same profession as his mother.

“I taught a few university classes after graduation and realized I kind of had a bug for teaching,” he said. “I knew that in a technical field you have to have experience. That’s why I started off my career as a technician and planned for a few years. Then a job just happened to pop up in southern Oregon.”

Veverka joined a team of former professionals who had transitioned to career-technical instructors at South Medford.

“We built some really strong programs — a lot of students going straight into industry or straight into postsecondary training from those programs,” he said.

The first year’s classes start out with the basics of automotive to give students a taste before going more in-depth as sophomores. The more advanced levels spend most of their time in the shop. Students who complete at least a couple of years in his program can earn six credits from Clatsop Community College.

“That’s a big step,” he said of the college credits. “I had about three students last year who probably wouldn’t have continued on to community college, except they had that six credits in their pocket, and they already were registered. It made it a whole lot easier for them to move to the next level.

“For a lot of students, it’s that little boost beyond high school into the next level of training, whether it’s trade school or community college,” he said. “And then I did have a large number of students opting to work straight into the industry straight out of high school.”

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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