'These kids are absolutely wonderful'

'These kids are absolutely wonderful'
Students from Community Transitional School watch as work officially gets under way on what will be their new basketball/sport court. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.

PORTLAND, Ore. - A Northeast Portland school dedicated to serving kids who don't really have a place to call home is getting a new basketball court.

Community Transitional School was recently the beneficiary of a new track and on Tuesday there was an official groundbreaking for a new basketball/sport court that is planned as well. It comes courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office and a host of sponsors who donated money and gave their support to the project.

"Since the beginning of the year when I first started here, I was like 'why don't they have any basketball hoops up?' But then after the sheriff's party when they started saying that there was going to be a basketball court put up, I started getting really excited," said student Ramiro Ruynoso.

"It's been a pretty exciting past 10 months or so - planning, coordinating, getting people together to do this project," Captain Rai Adgers with the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office told a crowd that had gathered to break ground on the new court.

The sheriff's office, which has worked closely with the school for over two decades, spearheaded the project. Multnomah County Sheriff Dan Staton, who was also at the groundbreaking, said they simply saw a need and decided it needed to get done.

About The School

The school teaches kids who are homeless, living in shelters, or tend to get moved around a lot by their families. Every school day, four buses span out across the city to pick the kids up and get them to class - no matter where the students are staying that night, that week or that month.

The idea is to keep the kids at the same school so they don't have to keep changing schools every time their life gets turned upside down and they end up in a new place. So the buses go where they go.

"Every single time somebody changes schools, they take a step back," said Principal Cheryl Bickle, who has been with the school the entire 22 years of its existence. She was actually the first teacher who taught there back in 1990. "And nobody wants to be the new kid."

So the students get a stable, supportive learning environment and a chance to feel like they belong somewhere. And Bickle said once the kids get used to being at the school, they start to blossom.

"The typical characteristic is that they sort of don't have a lot of self confidence," she said. "If they've moved around a lot, they have a tendency to give up easily because well, what's the chance I might not be here next week."

"And so you have to break that cycle right away," she added. "You have to hold them up to really high standards. You tell them 'you're here and there is consequences if you don't do your homework and there is consequences if you don't do the extra project.' And so you teach them in a way that they can't use their being homeless as a crutch or an excuse."

For Bickle, getting the kids past that point to where they start to see their potential is what puts a smile on her face and makes all the hard work she and others do at the school worth every minute.

"These kids are absolutely wonderful," said Staton. "It's hard to put into words," he added when asked what it's like to see joy in the kids' faces. "But you look at them and you start talking to them - they're very intelligent, very bright."