Gov. Kate Brown spoke to a group of Bend High School students Wednesday morning about the importance of their hands-on learning classes, and how those classes are helping connect them to successful careers.

Brown told them Oregon’s economy is strong, especially in cities such as Bend, and yet the statewide high school graduation rate is a mere 75 percent, and those not graduating struggle to find work.

Students with access to career and technical education programs are more likely to stay in school and are graduating at an increased rate of 86 percent, Brown said.

“My goal for you is to make sure that every one of you graduates from high school with a plan for your future,” Brown said.

Brown addressed the students from the entryway of the school’s Center of Technology & Design, where students take hands-on classes ranging from engineering to graphic design.

The governor stopped in Bend while visiting high schools around the state and touring career and technical education programs. It was Brown’s second visit to Bend High School, where she toured similar classes May 23.

After her talk to the students Wednesday, she told The Bulletin how the school’s hands-on classes are unique and are being used as a blueprint for career and technical education programs across the state.

“They have made a conscientious effort to sustainably fund their career and technical programs,” Brown said. “As a result, they have increased classroom sizes and basic core classes.”

Brown also visited classrooms Wednesday and met with students while they were in class.

Two students told Brown they were struggling in classes such as math, but they each had an interest in photography. One of their teachers loaned them a camera and encouraged them to study photography.

“They are now both earning money using their camera,” Brown said. “They are very engaged in school. They’re just rocking it.”

Brown said her interaction with those two students is an example of how career and technical education programs are beneficial and are “truly a success.”

“It gives students hands-on learning opportunities,” Brown said. “It connects the classroom to career. It gives them a sense of what they might do.”

During her talk with the group of students, Brown asked them about what hands-on programs they like.

One student said she enjoys the school’s DECA program, which focuses on business and entrepreneurial skills. DECA hosts competitions around the state and across the country.

“I like that it helps me make friends as well as the competitions we go to,” the student said.

Another student said he learned about the litigation process and what it takes to be a lawyer while in a class that had a mock trial. He told Brown becoming a lawyer is one of his career options.

“It’s a good option to keep on the table,” said Brown, who earned a law degree from Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland.

Brown encouraged all the students to keep taking advantage of the school’s hands-on programs, and to continue to work toward getting their diplomas. She explained how they will graduate qualified for a variety of jobs in growing industries such as advanced manufacturing, biotechnology and renewable energy.

“Oregon high school graduates can do these jobs with the right training,” Brown said. “These are high-demand, high-wage jobs.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,