Jack of all trades

By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For Craig Urasaki, volunteering at St. John the Baptist Catholic School is not rocket science. Until it is.

The 55-year-old father of recent St. John’s eighth-grade graduate Alexander and Cardinal Newman student and St. John’s graduate Christopher has been volunteering at the Healdsburg campus since 2002, doing anything school officials ask — including rocket science.

St. John's Catholic School parent volunteer Craig Urasaki checks the laptops on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

St. John’s Catholic School parent volunteer Craig Urasaki checks the laptops on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

“He does bottle rockets with the seventh grade and they have to learn to measure the distance and find out if the rocket doesn’t shoot up high enough what the reason was,” Principal Donna Garcia said.

Urasaki, an engineer by training who works in general operations in the medical device industry, described himself as “financially secure” and able to spend time on campus doing tasks as disparate as installing computers, building ball walls, repairing benches and refereeing intramural sports.

“I had the ability to help, and I don’t know how you don’t help. I was brought up that way,” the Windsor resident said. “Most parents, most people, they want to make it better for their kids.”

In addition to ongoing technology support around campus, Urasaki runs weekslong science and engineering lessons in upper grades directing students in the design of Rube Goldberg machines, trebuchet devices and bottle rockets.

He also runs a stock-market simulation and entrepreneur project.

“They are very accommodating to new ideas,” Urasaki said of St. John’s teachers.

In addition to his ongoing lessons, Urasaki can be counted on to support almost any project and spend nearly the hours equivalent to a full-time job on campus, Garcia said.

“He just gets in there and does it and he’s finished, and you don’t have to spend weeks trying to figure it out. He doesn’t even hesitate,” she said. “He listens and asks a few questions and says, ‘Not to worry, I’m going to do that,’ and he gets it done.”

Last spring he chaperoned 19 St. John’s students who traveled to the Washington, D.C., area for a week.

But now that his younger son has graduated from St. John’s, Urasaki said that he’ll begin to plan his exit strategy from years of volunteerism on the Fitch Street campus.

“I believe in term limits,” he said. “I believe there is another volunteer who has new ideas, better ideas.”

“There is normally not a shortage of things to do,” he said.

Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.