Woodside's Future

Eagle Pines Academy

Woodside Trails campsite under construction in the early Eighties
Woodside Trails campsite under construction in the early Eighties (Photo Courtesy of Bebe Gaines)

Woodside Trails may be gone, but the wooded acreage for which it was named still remains – and now that many of Woodside's former campers have "aged out" of the foster-care system (at 18 years old), half a dozen have returned to the rustic setting they once called home. The transition from state care to independent adulthood can be especially tricky for foster kids, and Bebe Gaines hopes that she can ease that transition. Gaines has been trying to help them in any way she can, she says – "help them find cars, help them find jobs, help them with relationships" – and in the process, she seems to have hit upon a win-win idea for the kids, the land, and the surrounding community: an educational program in which young adults can learn skills for sustainable living.

Living sustainably was always part of the Woodside experience, to a degree – campers learned carpentry and self-sufficiency as part of their therapy. The kids who have returned are carrying on that tradition, but they're updating it, too. Now, they want to learn how to build adobe, straw-bale, and cob houses, as well as learn about photovoltaic installation, organic gardening, and biofuel technologies. Green skills, says Gaines, are a particularly good fit for former foster children: "It's a brand new field. It doesn't require extensive formal education and credentialing, plus there's a lot of funding available right now. Many of these kids end up not being able to pay their bills. Many never get to own anything. We can teach them how to live frugally and how to give back, as well."

The school's mission is multifaceted: It will be a "trade-school, demonstration-project, community education center for sustainable living," says Gaines. It is coordinated through the Eagle Pines Academy, a former Smithville boarding school, and will eventually provide six-month, one-year, and two-year programs – but right now, the program is more modest. Earlier this month, students held their first workshop – on rainwater harvesting – funded by a grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority. About 35 people showed up from the surrounding community, a mix of people there to learn, to share their knowledge, and to donate money to the school – a nonprofit organization. The rainwater collection tank that they built will be used, among other things, for watering the garden and washing clothes.

"Older [foster] kids are an underserved population," says Gaines. "They need marketable skills, but they're kind of an unusual work force. They need more attention. They have a cross between being entitled and having low self-esteem. They're a very challenging group of kids." Of course, says Gaines, these kids aren't really kids at all. But though they range in age from 18 to 24, some are not quite grownups, either. The hope is that Eagle Pines will change that.

To learn more or to make a donation to Eagle Pines Academy, e-mail bebegaines@gmail.com.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Nora Ankrum
Public Education Under Fire
Public Education Under Fire
New doc Starving the Beast uncovers ideological clash

March 11, 2016

Forward Compatible
Forward Compatible
Silicon Cowboys details how Compaq took down IBM

March 11, 2016

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Eagle Pines Academy, Bebe Gaines, Woodside Trails

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle