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Umatilla School District Piloting Online Program

Currently, high school age students do not have many opportunities to learn computer coding, programming or even creating an iPad application. Umatilla Superintendent Heidi Sipe is looking to change that.

Sipe said she recently learned about Tree House, an organization that specializes in technological education training for adults. Sipe said she thought allowing students to participate in such a program would be a good opportunity for them.

“We wanted to find something that zoomed in on what teenagers were interested in because when they do find something that they are interested in, they take off in it,” she said.

After meeting with Tree House CEO Ryan Carson, Sipe said she was able to arrange for the district to pay $9 per student instead of charging students the normal rate of $25 per month to work their way through the program.

The program, which began last week with nine students, will provide them online instruction in coding, web development, application development and more through video, online activities and projects.

They earn points and badges in the program, which are displayed on the website.

By Thursday, Sipe said one student had already earned 15 badges, which takes hours to complete.

“Through this program, students are developing truly job-ready skills that they will be able to use after high school and beyond,” she said.

In addition to keeping track of student progress, the website also allows interested potential employers to view the students’ progress. Job opportunities are also listed on the site, and students can apply for those jobs directly from the site. Sipe said because their skills and qualifications are already

She said in the fall, the district will offer two class periods at Umatilla High School where interested students may earn credits for completing projects and objectives in the program.

“As long as they keep up with the program, we will continue to offer it for students,” she said.

In order to be awarded the credits, however, students will have to complete the specific course requirements.

Eventually, Sipe said she wants to connect the program with Eastern Promise, which is a program that allows high school students to earn college credits through classes taught at the high school.

“I believe that Umatilla is poised to be the tech center for all the Pacific Northwest,” she said. “All that is missing is the employees. I really believe that we are a hidden gem.”

Sipe said, for that to happen, the district just has to identify opportunities for students and employees. Currently, she said, people move out of the area because of few new job opportunities in Umatilla. She said, because of Umatilla’s proximity to airports, highways and the river, if additional opportunities can be created, she thinks the city will have unlimited potential in what it can offer to the region.


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