D.J. Durst works on an ornamental canoe paddle in the wood shop class at Soldotna High School earlier this month. Students in the class polish their skills working on projects for the community.
M. Scott Moon
Thanks to students in the Soldotna High School wood shop, participants in a diabetes prevention program at the Dena’ina Health Clinic in Kenai aren’t being left up the river without a paddle.
“We have a mural over the whole wall of the Kenai River,” said Heather Daniels at the clinic, explaining the significance of the paddles being created by Soldotna students.
Participants in the diabetes prevention class have a small paddle with their name on it which they move along the mural of the river as they make and meet lifestyle changes and goals.
“Once they get through the whole 16 sessions, hopefully, they’re close to the end of the river, then they receive the large paddle, which is meant to be a nice reminder for them when they are at home,” Daniels said. “The Soldotna students have been making these bigger paddles for us at pretty much no cost. It’s been wonderful; without them, it would be difficult to have such a nice thing.”
Daniels said the goals for the class include reducing weight and lowering blood sugar levels. Participants learn a variety of ways to accomplish those goals. The grant being used to fund the diabetes prevention class currently restricts participation to people over the age of 18, but Daniels said she’s hoping that will change so the class will be open to younger members of the community as well.
“If we can start at a younger age making those lifestyle changes, if we can reach folks at a younger age, it’s been proven that diabetes can be prevented,” Daniels said.
Doug Gordon, the wood shop teacher at Soldotna High School, said he frequently fields requests from different community organizations for a variety of items, and encourages students to take on community projects. Last year, the shop was hopping with Arctic Winter Games projects, including things like awards podiums and ski racks. Students currently are working on playing boards for a cribbage tournament.
“My students get to make whatever projects they want in class. When people from the community call, I look for volunteers, or students in class who need a project. (The paddles) are not such a big project that everyone has to help,” Gordon said.
Instead, a few students have been making a few paddles at a time. Gordon said the project was one where students learn as they progress.
“They’re not very difficult. The first paddle or so the student makes is the way they learn. Once they’ve made one, it gets easier. The more you do it, the better you get. Practice makes a big difference,” Gordon said.
Once the paddles leave the wood shop, Daniels has a logo and the class slogan, “Lead the way,” laser-burned into the wood.
“It’s a great incentive for the participants, and it’s nice to be able to work with the rest of the community making that happen,” Daniels said.
Will Morrow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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