VetsWork: Coalition of Hope!

 

In my journey thus far as a VetsWork AmeriCorps intern with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) through the partnership of Mt. Adams Institute (MAI), I have had opportunities to embrace nature, learn valuable professional tools, and build confidence towards a career path in strengthening partnerships between education and the natural resources–especially for our youth.

My background that brought me to this program is from serving 4 years active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard, and I am receiving my education currently at Oregon State University as a double major in natural resources and sustainability, with a focus on conservation biology through community outreach, and education initiatives.

 

Getting In Touch With Nature

As a developed recreation site surveyor, I have traversed hundreds of miles over the last month through sand, hills, dunes, mountains, paved hiking trails, and beautiful recreation areas throughout the Siuslaw National Forest. This is truly a rewarding job for anyone, even in the rain and cold.  I have seen bald eagles, Coho salmon, newts, slugs, called out to birds of all kinds, and have had the opportunity to just connect with nature through my work. The work is of high importance since my cohort and I are assessing all recreational units for accessibility to those with disabilities. We are also assessing the overall condition of these areas to help improve their accessibility to the community and those who travel far and wide to see the great Cape Perpetua!

Two bald eagles spotted in the Siuslaw National Forest.

Field Trip with USFS!

I’ve got to say we all got lucky this day, it was an exciting and informative day for everyone, with BEAUTIFUL weather. I say this wholeheartedly because it has “been a flood” here on the southern coast of Oregon!! A few weeks ago, my coworker (Jeff) and I attended an INTERP event with the USFS and a local 4th grade class at Whitaker Creek Campground, in Walton, OR on the Siuslaw River. INTERP or Interpretation is the platform in which the USFS can reach out to the community through education initiatives by spreading awareness through schools about wildfires, or stewardship days on the dunes. If you have ever been to Cape Perpetua and asked those nice folks about the watershed, or the old spruce trees, they would gladly share- which is another valuable component of the INTERP department at the USFS.  The students on this particular day learned about macro invertebrates and water quality as they netted out “water bugs” with a USFS biologist. They also learned about salmon runs and their current ecological health in regards to harvesting or fishing. Finally, the 4th graders were instructed on the anatomy of a Coho salmon and the importance of the breeding cycle to perpetuate the food chain. At the end, each child was allowed to place a part of the dissected fish into the water to say thanks to Mother Nature as the native Indians of this area once did.

Leading and interpretive table at Whitaker Creek campground.

 

The Siuslaw River.

An additional opportunity that has felt nothing short of a blessing is that I have been assigned a Community Action Project (CAP) in order to complete my internship for Mt. Adams Institute. My CAP will use this blog as a platform to keep you a part of the “Coalition of Hope”. This will allow me to combine missions of MAI, AmeriCorps, USFS, and my own.  My fields of study have allowed me to look at communities from a sustainability perspective in regards to natural resources, and I have identified that educating our public through community outreach and education initiatives is our upfront weapon of defense to a cleaner, brighter, sustainable, and more accessible future.

With that said, I am creating a CAP based around the core mission of the agencies that have so kindly allowed me to participate in the program. The project will help others in the community (AmeriCorps), connect more people with the outdoors (MAI), help create a sustainable future for our natural resources (USFS), and fulfill my own personal mission that I mentioned above. Together it feels like there is hope for everyone’s future in regards to the huge potential impacts of ecological changes that will undoubtedly affect economic capital globally. I am calling my CAP “Coalition of Hope” because it will involve multiple organizations, with potential lasting power with the right stakeholders involved.

The Coalition of Hope is going to create a program that allows youth who are rehabilitating from social, economic, physical, mental, or any other trauma to have a free, safe, and educational opportunity to connect with nature through stewardship, education, and just having fun being outside connecting with nature. This is a community outreach and education initiative event that should occur monthly or quarterly.

To get the party started I have begun organizing a smaller event at The Family Fun Day in Coos Bay, OR with Kids Hope from Bay Area Hospital, and the USFS on April 29 to raise awareness about my project but more importantly to have an opportunity to reach out to families and get them connected with their natural resources in a fun and healthy way! The goal is to have a story time, and to raffle off cool posters of fish, flowers, and bats, while learning about macro invertebrates or mammals that live in the Pacific Northwest. Possibly even meet Smokey Bear.

My hope is that this event will stimulate enough participation that organizations will join me in creating another avenue for a larger minority of people than we would like to think that really need this connection, an in fact for many is a matter of life or death. I want to give these children who are facing these battles hope too, and I believe they can with a Coalition of Hope advocating for their best interest. Won’t you join me?