Student Highlight: Ben Ortegon

1 Building furniture and building a future have a lot in common.  Denver Online High School freshman, Ben Ortegon, is doing both.

Ortegon has created a small business in crafting wood furniture.  While he has built and renovated many pieces, he primarily designs and sells lamps.

4The fourteen-year-old’s love of building comes from his uncle who completes interior work in houses.  “He’s actually a craftsman and taught me to do all of this,” he said.

When Ortegon begins a lamp project, he first goes out and gathers his resources, sawing down rough timber to work from.  From there he said, “I have to cut the size of the lamp.  Then I have to shave the bark off.”  He likes to make each piece unique by adding a picture or pattern: “I get a design off the internet and trace it on.”  Using a burning tool, he carefully shades inside the silhouette, the color of shading determined by how hard he presses down on the wood.  He originally used a dremel tool but said the lines sometimes got crooked if the wood was rough, saying, “It takes longer but 6you get a better shape,” using the burning tool.   The finishing touches include drilling the holding space for the lighting wires, staining it, and then finally adding the base and lampshade.

7Making these creations is similar to his educational path.  As he enlisted his uncle for woodworking help, he looked to his mom for academic leadership as he and his brother were homeschooled.  She helped form them into independent learners, Ortegon noting, “My mom would give us a set number of pages to get done every day,” with consequences if they did not complete their required coursework for the day.

2As he grew his strengths in being an academic craftsman, Ortegon worked more often on his own, gathering his own resources and asking for help when needed.  He said, “The last two grades my mom didn’t have a lot time to help us.  So we’d do most of it on our own.  But if we were doing it wrong she would come help us.”

3Just as each piece of furniture is unique that Ortegon constructs, so was his education.  Once his learning style was cut and shaped into being an independent learner through the homeschool program, his next step was finding a path that was as unique as the lamps he designed.  That’s when Ortegon found Denver Online High School.  Similar to the ability to shade darker or lighter when he is coloring the silhouette on his furniture, he also enjoys the ability to work longer or shorter days on his schoolwork, saying, “Probably the best thing [about online school] is that I can get it done on my time.”

Whether it’s designing furniture or an academic plan, there’s something special about having the flexibility to personalize it.

His favorite subjects at Denver Online High School are History and English.  He continually reads and said, “I watch a lot of documentaries on history.”  This passion flows into his future goals, saying, “I want to be a marine,” taking after his grandpa that passed away last year.  “He was a good man,” Ortegon said about his grandfather, “He was in the marine core and helped a lot of people.”  Ortegon carries that same mentality, saying, “I think helping people is better than helping yourself.”  He showed his character by volunteering to help lead the Denver Online High School hosted Tie-Dye Party at Children’s Hospital Colorado in the spring.

5He eventually hopes to work either as an “infantry or tank man,” with a goal to earn his Bachelor’s degree in order to serve as an officer.  Taking steps towards his Bachelor’s degree, he plans on pursuing Denver Online’s concurrent enrollment program as a sophomore to take tuition-free college courses, including a welding course at the Career Education Center and then welding certification courses through Pickens Technical College.

8Student academic success can sometimes get shaky, just like the lines from a drumel tool, if forced to follow the traditional brick-and-mortar pathway that’s been carved out for most students.  But as we will one day salute Ortegon for serving our nation, he is a prime example that our students can be a light to others if given a solid foundation, the right academic wiring and pathways, and opportunities to plug into resources that illuminate their passions.

Whether it’s furniture or students, we can all help build something great.