Construction of the Orrin S. Estebo Career Development Center has moved along at a rapid pace. It is hard to believe we began construction May 22, 2018, and our students began classes in the facility Jan. 7, 2019.

The significant rains we had last summer slowed down some of the outside work, but once road weight restrictions are lifted this spring, the parking lot, sidewalk and the remainder of the outside work will be completed, and the construction phase of our project will be done – on time and on budget.

However, our work is not done.

The next phase of this project has already begun, and that includes planning the educational programs for area youth and adults. That’s right, for both youth and adults.

The leadership of our school district met Feb. 13 with 13 regional leaders from Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Adult Basic Education, Southwest Private Industry Council and Southwest West Central Career and Technical Service Center. Our discussion focused on how we can work together to provide career and technical training programs right here in the Estebo Career Development Center.

In addition, we are also meeting with leaders from area school districts and from a variety of businesses including health care, manufacturing, agriculture, construction trades and banking.

All participants in these gatherings agree that a collaborative partnership with Minnesota West Community and Technical College will be an important component in providing educational programming for youth and adults alike beginning as soon as the summer of 2019.

This programming will include classes that can be flexibly scheduled during the school day, after school, on weekends and during the summer months. Very soon, we hope to see high-school students from RASD and surrounding area schools taking classes alongside adults of all ages.

We will begin seeing sequences of classes offered that can lead to specific certifications, licenses and/or degrees. Our dream is that the Estebo Career Development Center will be available for public use just like the Redwood Area Community Center is – 24/7 and by adults and youth alike. Regardless of your age, if you have interest in developing work or recreational skills in any of these areas (construction, plumbing, electrical, health care, agriculture, welding, manufacturing, robotics, etc), stay tuned. Many opportunities will be coming your way.

We have tremendous gratitude for taxpayer support of this project. Our local school board deserves significant credit for the leadership it has provided in moving forward with this idea. Orrin Estebo’s generous gift of more than $1 million and his ongoing vision and commitment to this community are amazing.

These things remind me of the Greek Proverb “Plant trees under whose shade we will never sit.” Indeed, all of these collaborative efforts have propelled us to begin “planting the trees” the Greeks spoke of years ago. It is exciting to think learners of all ages, and area businesses needing skilled employees, will soon begin “sharing the shade.”

– Rick Ellingworth serves as superintendent of the Redwood Area School District