INDEPENDENCE -- Eric Coffman has a talent for shaping metal. During his time at Central High School, the tall, lanky senior has honed his skills and built a profitable after-school business.
"It kind of started off my freshman year. When I got here, I didn't know anything about welding. I had to learn," Coffman said.
In the beginning he worked on all his projects in the shop at school. Eventually, his grandparents recognized his drive and talent for designing and engineering, so they built him a shop.
Since then, Coffman has created a name for himself within his community. He has designed a number of yard ornaments, trailers, and even the public garbage cans in downtown Independence.
"I had to have a friend come in and help me with those -- the deadline was real tight, and there were so many," Coffman said. "basically, people just see my work in the community, and word gets around."
For the past four years, Coffman has been named the FFA agro-businessman of the year. His FFA adviser and shop teacher, Kurt Neville, said Coffman is one of the most motivated students he has worked with.
"If a program is successful it's because of the students," Neville said. "Likewise, if it isn't, it's often because of the students ... . I have a lot of seniors this year that have really done well and are an asset to the community."
Next Fall, Coffman plans to study engineering at Linn-Benton Community College. From there he has his sights set on Oregon State University.
Coffman said FFA not only gave him the opportunity to explore shop work and metal work, it also gave him the necessary tools to succeed. Literally.
Through a number of FFA completions, Coffman has managed to walk away with some pretty costly shop toys -- things like a plasma welder. Such a tool can easily run about $1,000 new. He won it though FFA.
The support of the program gave Coffman opportunities and direction he may not have otherwise had. He said that before his freshman year in Neville's shop class, the idea of engineering and welding hadn't ever occurred to him, much less be a career goal.
For more Information: Eric Coffman can be contacted at 503-838-2981.