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Performers rally for homeless youths

To start building a chain of nonprofit residential centers for homeless youths, former Miss Oregon and opera singer Tricia Leines Pine of Medford and several Ashland musicians are holding a benefit concert of classical music and show tunes on Saturday, April 2.

Tricia and husband Steve Pine hope to raise money from concerts, donations, grants and the diversion of state foster care funds to create what they call Pine Academy — their vision of a stable, caring environment in which youth can develop life skills and learn about art, music, the environment, health care or other areas.

"The present approach (with foster and homeless minors) isn't working," Tricia Pine said.

"They have nothing long-term to remove themselves from their toxic environments. It's so crucial they have a safe home, no worries about food and an education that speaks to them.

"They don't have employable skills when they get out of the system at 19 — and nothing they're passionate about. They don't have the earning potential and social skills to navigate for a job."

The couple envision Pine academies in receptive locales anywhere in the U.S., and consider arts-rich Ashland as a potential spot, she said.

Pine will join pianist Kristina Foltz and Ashland High School juniors Elise Hansen and Paige Whitaker in putting on the benefit concert, set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the Havurah Shir Hadash, 185 N. Mountain Ave., Ashland.

The concert, titled, "Can Music Make a Difference?" features works by Ravel, Beethoven, Gershwin, Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Tickets are $15 general admission, $5-$10 for students, and are available at Music Coop, Ashland. Proceeds will benefit both Pine Academy and the Havurah.

Steve Pine, now working in Alaska as director of the Alternative Learning Network, said there is a great deal of funding available for placement of foster and "marginalized" youths — and his vision is a national network of residential Pine academies that are "integrated into a societal setting, offering a positive environment, with hope and tools they can use in their lives."

The money raised in the first year, he said, would create a facility and curriculum. "I'd love to see it be in Southern Oregon," he said.

Steve Pine, a former Rogue Valley resident, taught at Medford's McLoughlin Middle School and was superintendent of Butte Falls schools.

"We're trying to fund the academies with money that's already being spent for the 13 to 21 age population on foster care alone," he said. "When they age out, which 5,000 do every year in Oregon, and hit the streets without requisite training for employment, it's going to cost society a lot more."

Tricia Pine was Miss Oregon in 1996-97 and was second runner-up for Miss America in 1997. A graduate of North Medford High School, she earned graduate degrees in music and sang in lead roles with Rogue Opera. She also has been a reporter for KTVL Channel 10.

In recent years, she lived in Hoonah, Alaska, a mostly native town of 500 where her husband is school principal, and she did grant writing and a Facebook page for the school. "We were the first school in Alaska to have a Facebook," she said.

Pine also is a photographer. Her website, Legacy Design, shows her work and is a portal for donations to Pine Academy.

The problem of homeless, foster and adjudicated children is important to her, she said, because "children need new and innovative ways to reach their potential and make their dreams come true. They need to believe they can craft their destiny.

"We've been told, 'if you build it, we will send you the kids.' Our system wants the building to be made first."

Foltz is a soloist with the Rogue Valley Symphony, piano teacher at Southern Oregon University and facilitator of Feminine Paradigm, "a community that explores the deep issues facing our community and world, such as homelessness and educational issues, by delving into myth and philosophy from new and visionary angles of perspective."

Hansen and Whitaker note that, though they're high school students from a "privileged home and city," they are keenly aware of homeless youths around them.

"This is an opportunity to step up and make a difference," Hansen said.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Correction: The time of the concert has been corrected in this article.

Front, from left, Ashland High School juniors and pianists Elise Hansen and Paige Whitaker, along with singer Tricia Leines Pine, back left, and pianist Kristina Foltz, will be performing a concert Saturday, April 2, at the Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore