Program Description

Throughout the past 50 years, women have played a major role in the building of infrastructure and community that now comprise the Steger Center campus and ethos. But this experience is not unique to women; during this time, both men and women have apprenticed at the Steger Center under skilled craftspeople, and many have gone on to find a career in the trades.

Steger Center programming does more than teach skills. The subject taught, whether it be stone masonry, timber framing or finish carpentry, becomes a catalyst for personal inspiration and activates individual potential. Learning happens in a wilderness setting, surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals. Setting and community are key values of the Steger Center, and help students to see potential, not only in themselves but in the world around them.

In 2021, the Steger Center launched its first women-specific construction course, taught collaboratively by Beth Halverson, Aurora Wahlstrom, Nolen Sherman and Jenna Pollard. This course brought together eight students from varying backgrounds and skill levels to build a log cabin from foundation to roof. A robust scholarship program and support from Patagonia allowed half of the students to participate without cost, reducing a barrier that may otherwise have prevented them from participating in this skill-building opportunity.

Beth Halverson brought decades of experience as a construction program instructor at Summit Academy. Beth continues to bring her students to the Steger Center for 2-week sessions; the wilderness setting is a first for many of them. Aurora, Nolen and Jenna apprenticed at the Steger Center in the early 2010s and have practiced and gained skills working on projects together over the past 10 years. The skills and relationships they developed at the Steger Center have inspired and empowered them to pursue careers in the trades. Aurora is now a professional stone mason and arborist, and instructs women’s stone masonry courses at the Steger Center. Nolen is a professional carpenter and instructs stained glass, finish carpentry and dovetail cabin building courses. Jenna is a professional timber framer and teaches dovetail cabin building and timber framing.

At the Steger Center, our goal is to provide educational opportunities to a diverse cohort of students and increase accessibility of training in the trades to those who are struggling financially or living in poverty. We aim to provide all courses tuition-free, so anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in the trades can participate and advance their skills.