Colville Tribal member Cole Stanger, left, at the graduation ceremony of the Tulalip Trade School where Stanger and his classmates built micro-houses for homeless.

Mark Mulligan / The Herald Cole Stanger (left) and Maurice Riley (right) celebrate with their fellow graduates of the Tulalip Tribes’ Construction Training Center during a ceremony at the Hibulb Cultural Center Monday morning on the Tulalip Reservation. The program, which is run by the Tribal Employment Rights Office, teaches carpentry, welding, wiring, framing, plumbing and other trades to native students. Photo taken 20150615

Colville Tribal Member Cole Stanger doesn’t just give up, no matter the circumstances.  

When he sees an opportunity he runs with it, so when he heard a program was available that would teach him carpentry skills he decided to go for it. 

“I’d done some carpentry before and just completed a welding class before this course. I saw it as an opportunity to get the certification for a carpentry apprentice,” Stanger said. 

The course was a 15-week session at the Tulalip Tribes’ Construction Training Center, a program that trains native students in carpentry, welding, wiring, framing, plumbing and other trades. The program follows Edmunds Community College construction trades curriculum.

“I wanted to know how to build my own house, help family with repairs if they were in need, maybe even help out at Public Works,” Stanger added.

Stanger is originally from Nespelem. His parents, Robert and Lily ‘Teen’ Stanger both work on the Nespelem Agency Campus, Robert for the TERO program and Lily for Office of the Special Trustee.

The family had four children, Cole, Brian, Michael and Nicolas. Nicolas passed away this last year in a car accident. 

Stanger’s brother Michael, who was involved in the same accident, formerly worked for the Omak Mill and was attending the same training in Tulalip.

He is still currently recovering at home. Their brother Brian works in Bridgeport at the Colville Tribal Fish Hatchery.

For Cole, following his brother’s passing, it was hard at first to return to his classes, hours away from home. An uncle passed away the same week.

“I thought about it and I knew if they were around they’d have wanted me to keep going. It’s always hard to lose someone you grew up with, but I knew they’d have been proud knowing I didn’t quit,” said Stanger.

“It took awhile after all of that to start to feel happy again. But I knew I had to stay strong. I couldn’t quit on it,” Stanger said.

Stanger completed the course and graduated with his class on June 15. 

Graduates who complete the program qualify to join various trade unions and their apprenticeship programs.

This year, for their final project, the students were asked to build two 120 square foot micro-houses, to be donated to the Nickelsville homeless encampment in Seattle. 

“Those were a lot of fun to work on.  At first we thought they were just going to be teaching projects, to be taken apart later, but then when we started working our instructor told us to do our best, because these houses were being donated.” 

Stanger and his fellow students completed the houses in approximately three weeks, bouncing ideas off one another and adding things like lights and fans. 

“It made me feel really proud to see our work being used to help people who don’t have homes,” said Stanger. 

The two student-built houses will be donated and moved to the Nickelsville encampment in the fall, where 13 more such houses, which are expected to be built by other volunteer organizations, will join them. The houses will form a kind of mini-village to house homeless individuals who would otherwise living in tents. 

Stanger’s mother Lily says his accomplishments have given the family much needed hope during their time of loss.

“It’s given us a feeling that there are still new opportunities and good things to come. We’re just taking it one day at a time.” 

Cole Stanger plans to join the carpenter’s union in Spokane to get started on his second year carpenter’s apprenticeship.

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