When Cascadia Tech Academy first opened its doors in 1983 (at that time known as the Clark County Skills Center), Dennis Kampe was the coordinator of student services and “quickly went up the ranks,” according to David Cole, current director of the Cascadia Tech Academy Foundation.
Early on, Kampe became one of the assistant directors at the school and eventually became the director in 1991.
“That is when the school just took off,” Cole said. “Under Dennis’ leadership is where the school just grew in size and its impact on young people. If you think about some of the major schools where they have statues of the coaches, when people think of this school (Cascadia Tech), they think of Dennis Kampe. He has given of himself his time, his treasure, all in support of these students.”
Eventually, Cole said that a committee was created within the school of staff members who worked to do some fundraising to meet any of the unmet needs of the students. The committee was eventually named the Kampe Cares Committee, as they wanted Kampe’s name there long after he wasn’t with the school anymore.
“On the first day of school, Dennis was always the first person there waving the buses in and saying ‘hello’ to the students,” Cole said. “He was always there at the end of the day saying ‘goodbye’ to them and he was always there at the beginning of summer saying, ‘see you next year.’”
Kampe retired from Cascadia Tech Academy in 2013, which was the same time that the Clark County Skills Center was renamed as Cascadia Tech Academy. He then moved over to the Cascadia Tech Academy Foundation, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, as the organization’s director. As a regional career and technical high school, Cascadia Tech Academy is not part of a school district, so the school doesn’t receive levy funds or bond funds. The Foundation exists to take the place of bonds and levies so that the staff at Cascadia Tech Academy are equipped with the instruments and tools that they need to teach their students.
“Once he retired from Cascadia Tech and went to the Foundation as our director, Dennis did so at minimum wage, 20 hours a week, so he wouldn’t take any money away from the students,” Cole said. “He wanted the Foundation to be able to be run at the lowest cost possible and he did that for 10 years. He put far more into it than what he got paid. As a Foundation we’re not helping out anything else other than our students and our programs. When Dennis took over the Foundation, it was a struggling foundation just getting its start. Anything Dennis touches turns to gold, and he turned it around and got it into a significant fundraising foundation for the school.”
Cole said that Kampe always excelled at reaching out to industry partners and people in the community, and basically being a voice and champion for the importance of career and technical education.
“Dennis was one of the first and loudest people in the community saying, ‘college is great, but it’s not the only path,’” Cole said.
In December of 2022, Kampe retired from the Cascadia Tech Academy Foundation after 40 years of being involved with the school. Over the years he has received numerous awards and honors, and also led the school to national honors when it was still the Clark County Skills Center. At one point, Cole said Cascadia Tech Academy was listed as one of the top five schools in the nation in Rolling Stone magazine.
“None of these types of recognition were happening before Dennis’ leadership,” Cole said.
“I had the best job in the world,” Kampe said of his years with Cascadia Tech Academy and the Foundation. “I loved working with high school students, watching and participating in their growth from high school student to skilled industry professionals with a family wage job by the time they’re 19. It just can’t get any better than that.”
This coming Saturday, May 6, the Cascadia Tech Academy Foundation will hold its annual dinner and auction at ilani. The event will include a special tribute to Kampe, honoring him for more than 40 years of service to Cascadia Tech Academy and the community. The event will also include a Cascadia Tech student presentation, student keynote speakers, silent auction, live auction and a dessert dash.
As a part of Kampe’s tribute at the event, the Foundation set up a survey to ask for words to describe Kampe and to provide him with any well wishes, fond memories or appreciation. The survey can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/R6PT2B3.
“Dennis wants to see the school be successful,” Cole said. “He wants to make sure that the community continues to come out and support Cascadia Tech and the students.”