News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Scio book fair expands reading choices, creativity, service

Contributing writer for The Canyon Weekly

Buttons, bookmarks, hot chocolate and more were all part of Willamette Connections Academy’s first in-person Scholastic Book Fair at the online school’s headquarters in Scio.

According to WillCA leaders, dozens of students, family members and teachers participated in the three-day event, held Dec. 12-14. Participants got to pick out new books, read holiday books, make crafts and carry out service projects.

December was Read a New Book Month at the statewide tuition-free, K-12 online public charter school sponsored by the Scio School District.

“Winter break is a great time to share the joy of reading with your kids and our Book Fair offered some wonderful opportunities for students and families to explore literacy together,” said Kelly Schaeffer, WillCA High School Language Arts teacher. She helped students find books and picked out several books for her own children. 

“I encourage reading of all different genres to enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and to communicate more effectively. Finding the joy in reading is truly a lifelong gift.”

Angela Larsen from Salem is the mother and Learning Coach for her daughter Lexi, a fourth grader at Willamette Connections Academy. Larsen appreciates how the full-time virtual charter school keeps students connected. 

“Bringing all the fun of public school – field trips, book fair, crafts, online clubs – it’s amazing to be engaged in each step of the learning process for the kids,” Larsen said. “Meeting with other families and learning how they do school and find new things to integrate into our home and schooling.”

During the book fair, crafting items were donated for the Scio Youth Club’s after-school program. Students created handmade holiday cards for residents at senior living facilities.

The projects fit in with WillCA’s motto that refers to giving back year-round: “We will grow. We will serve. We will explore.” The school provides students and families with several ways to volunteer throughout the school year. 

One of the leaders of the Scio Youth Club, Amber Kutsch, said the program is very thankful for the support from families and staff at Willamette Connections Academy. The Scio Youth Club offers after-school care and sports programs for K-6th grade students. 

“The Youth Club kids always love using their imagination to create new projects,” Kutsch said. “They will all be excited to have more supply options to expand their artistic and creative minds! This donation will help the kids grow and explore new creative ways.”

Elementary school teacher Michelle Squires, who organized the greeting card project, said she is happy to work at a school that has services as part of its mission.

“Teaching children at a young age the impact of community service develops empathy for others and pride in their own abilities,” Squires said. “As my students were making cards, they were imagining how much joy it would bring to elders. It warmed my heart to be a part of their good work.”

The cards were delivered to Evergreen Senior Living and Avamere Riverpark Nursing and Rehabilitation in Eugene. 

For more information about the Scio Youth Club, visit, and to find out more about WillCA, go to 

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