Nickie Shira is the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coordinator for the Malheur Education Service District. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ADRIAN – The first thing you might notice when you walk from the back parking lot at Adrian High School on a crisp, autumn Friday night is the crowd.

People garbed in Carhartt, jeans and sweaters congregate north of the packed bleachers. The line of Antelope fans extends around a small building that exudes the aroma of grilled hamburgers, hotdogs and popcorn.

It is a typical fall scene at this rural school, where Friday night lights create a sense of community. One of the many people who helped turn those lights back on probably isn’t known to a lot of people – and that’s just the way Nickie Shira likes it.

The lights – bought and paid for by the school district – mean a lot to many people but they stand as two clear signposts on the journey for Adrian’s Nickie Shira.

It was the loss of stadium lights to old age – and then the closure of the town’s only grocery store – that inspired Shira to join a group of local people and get involved to help create a civic action program called Adrian 2040.

“Adrian was in a spot where there were some struggles,” she said. “We’d lost our lights so no more night football games. We lost the store. And we were starting to lose some our senior citizens.”

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So, Shira decided to do something about it.

“Through conversations, we started to realize we needed to take steps to turn things around,” said Shira.

Shira is quick to point out that the Adrian 2040 isn’t about her. In fact, she’d prefer if her actions and ambitions to help her town were never recognized. She is uncomfortable in the spotlight.

Shira said her work is part of a collaborative effort, one that included key local folks and the Ford Family Foundation, a private nonprofit based in Roseburg.

Shira said a representative from the Ford Family Foundation, Maurizio Valerio, helped her organize a community meeting in February 2018 to kickstart Adrian 2040.

That town hall session was key, said Shira.

“We had tremendous community support,” said Shira.

The football field lights emerged as one of the top priorities for people, said Shira.

Later in the year, said Shira, the Adrian School Board approved the purchase of new lights.

“That meeting helped the school board make a decision,” said Shira.

Since 2018, Adrian 2040 helped get a local food pantry off the ground – open one day a week – and facilitated the creation of a farmers market on Fridays, through summer into fall.

“We have done several community events to strengthen relationships in the community,” said Shira.

Those events, she said, include annual town clean-up projects, a serve day and painting of buildings around town.

Those events are coordinated through separate committees of Adrian 2040, said Shira.

Shira is the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) coordinator for the Malheur Education Service District. She said she decided to get more involved in her town at a certain point in her life, when her four children were grown. She said she just wanted to help.

“I have been privileged to grow up in this area and raise my children in a community where we were surrounded by support,” she said, adding she was in a place where she could “give back.”

Shira said the success of Adrian 2040 isn’t about her.

“Adrian 2040 really is all about community and coming together for the greater good,” Shira said.

Shira said the program thrives on the input and drive from local organizations such as the Lions Club, Adrian Sports Boosters, Future Farmers of America, local emergency service providers and the school district.

She said that proves that good things can happen if people unite.

“There are people who want to make a difference and when we work together we can have a great impact,” said Shira.

Shira said there’s no secret behind her inspiration.

“I am a Christian and Jesus is my model. I have that foundation, my hope in Christ. When things are tough, I lean on him,” she said.

She also believes in helping youth.

“My passion, it is education and working with young people,” she said. “I have one of the best jobs ever. I get paid to support education.”

Shira said she wants to continue to help her town and county in the future.

“I have no plans to quit. I love our community and I love what I am doing,” said Shira.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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