Running with it
Students smile as Cheyenne Lefever, Kids on the Block site leader, walks through the halls of Columbus Elementary School.
“I passed! I passed my OAKS test!” a boy named Blake called.
“That’s awesome!” she said.
“By one point!” Blake added.
“You did it! You passed!” Lefever said.
She knows the value of sticking with your studies and making sure you pass all your tests. In fact, nine years after graduating from McMinnville High School, and a decade into her KOB job, she models those values every day.
Lefever is a student herself, doggedly working her way through college. She’s had a few challenges over the years, but is determined to earn her degree.
“A college degree is important so I can have the career,” she said. “I want to provide a more stable home for my kids.”
Lefever, 27, was still in high school when she started helping Kids on the Block with the after-school activities it offers for elementary students.
As a junior, she volunteered. As a senior, then-director Linda Dollinger hired her as a recreation leader at Cook School. And she moved to Sue Buel when it opened.
“I wanted a job because I needed to make some money,” Lefever recalled. “I wanted a job with KOB because I really enjoy working with children.
“It’s different every day. But it’s fun all the time.”
It’s also a great program for children, she said. It gives them a safe place to go after school and structured activities, including Power Hour homework sessions, snacks and a variety of crafts, games, music, sports and special presentations.
Later, she was promoted to an assistant site director. Four years ago, she became site director at Columbus.
In her position, Lefever oversees the KOB staff, which includes Linfield College students as well as others. She oversees the students as well — approximately 60 enrolled in the Columbus KOB and another 30 who stay just for the Power Hour part of the program.
She plans activities, crafts and games. She also schedules visits from OMSI, the “Bug Lady” and other special guests.
Lefever enjoys seeing the children learn and grow over the course of each year. They become more aware of different cultures and of themselves, and they develop empathy, she said.
“I didn’t get to go to KOB,” she said, remembering a childhood filled with frequent moves. “But my kids will go.”
Lefever’s two daughters, ages 7 and 6, will start KOB next year at Buel.
“They’ve seen it,” she said. “They’ve come to work with me, and they want to keep coming.”
Her daughters want to keep going to school, as well, thanks to the example Lefever has set in pursuing her college degree.
After graduatng from Mac High in 2004, she enrolled at Chemeketa Community College. But when she learned she was pregnant, she dropped out.
Still wanting to go to college, she started an Everest University online program when her daughter was still an infant. That worked out pretty well at the time, she said, but after her second child was born, she had to give up studies temporarily.
She tried getting back into the routine at Portland Community College, but that didn’t fit with her schedule. So she signed on with Everest again.
The online school had changed its program to make classes and deadlines more flexible. This time, she was able to fit studying around her work schedule and her time with her kids.
“I earned my AA degree in October,” Lefever said proudly. “That felt surreal. I never thought I’d be able to accomplish that.”
Now she’s on the way to a BA in criminal justice. She chose the field because it will give her a chance to help young people.
“I can relate to the kids,” she said. “I can help them, advise them, lead them to a better path.”
Her goal is to become a juvenile probation officer, a job that’s as much about counseling as about the law, she said. Toward that end, she’s taking all sorts of courses related to criminal proceedings and juvenile rights.
She’s looking forward to getting her diploma.
Earlier this school year, she was starting to worry that she might have to quit again. She thought she might need to take another job to make ends meet.
Then her boss, KOB Director Janet Adams, and retired boss, Dollinger, stepped in. Both Soroptimists, they encouraged her to apply for one of the scholarships awarded annually by the women’s service organization.
The Women’s Opportunity Award is reserved for a female head of household trying to improve her education, skills and employment prospects.
Lefever was named the 2013 winner. She received $3,000, which she may use for tuition, books, gas, rent — anything she needs while pursuing her degree.
“This will allow me to finish my schooling,” she said, pleased and still amazed at her good fortune.
Completing college will be wonderful, she said, except for one thing: It will eventually mean leaving KOB.
“That’s kind of sad,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot, and it’s got me through some tough times.
“And I love the kids. When they say hi or thank you to me, it means a lot.”
Starla Pointer, who is convinced everyone has an interesting story to tell, has been writing the weekly “Stopping By” column since 1996. She’s always looking for suggestions. Contact her at 503-687-1263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diana Williams, a senior at McMinnville High School, won the Violet Richardson Award, which recognizes young women for their community service. She received $500.
Williams is a leader in the 4-H program in general and in her clubs, the Homesteaders and the Saddle Dusters. She also has made efforts to help young children. She helped organize a horse show that raised $1,000 for the fight against children’s cancer.
She plans to study hydroelectric engineering next year at Portland Community College or the University of Idaho.
Janet Lebold won the Ruby Award for her volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that builds homes for families. On her behalf, the Soroptimists made a monetary donation to Habitat.
Lebold is known for her sense of humor, work ethic and abilities on the job, said Doreen Pitman of the Soroptimists in announcing the award. “She is an inspiration to other women,” Pitman said.
A retired teacher, Lebold said she began volunteering with Habitat because she “wanted something meaningful to do.” At first, she said, she made many mistakes, but now she hammers and does other building tasks with confidence.
In addition to helping with builds in McMinnville, she traveled to Guatemala with a Habitat group that constructed five houses there.
“Everyone who helps with Habitat ... it’s so great to be around them,” she said. “I hope I’m an inspiration, too, especially to women and girls.
“It’s such a good feeling at the end of the day to go home and know you’ve made a difference.”
Cheyenne Lefever won the Women’s Opportunity Award, given to a woman who is studying to boost her skills and employment prospects in order to improve her life and that of her family. She received $3,000.
Penny McCloskey, last year’s Women’s Opportunity Award winner, became the first recipient of the club’s new Moving Forward award. The award offers additional support to Opportunity Award members as they continue their efforts to improve themselves.
McCloskey, who received $1,000, is working for a dialysis clinic and preparing to study nursing.