It’s been quite a while since I’ve forced myself to sit down and do some personal writing. But, this week, I feel I must rant about how wonderful it is to live in a place like Portland, Oregon.
Some of you who know me personally know that I have a teenage son. And if you know me well, then you know he recently wrote for a grant to restore a small plot of land in the neighboring town of Gresham. This is no surprise to most of you, especially if you know how I feel about hands-on learning and the power of service-based learning. I confess the Big Son followed through on this grant opportunity at my urging. He, however, did all the legwork, including contacting a wildlife expert in the area, lining up volunteers to help with the removal of invasive blackberries, choosing, purchasing, and planting the native plants to restore the habitat. I was there for moral support, transportation, and well some serious hard work, too. But for the most part, he completed his project on-time and under budget, and I think he gained a lot from the experience, not the least of which is a sense of what he can accomplish with persistence and focus on a goal.
When he received the grant, the cool thing about it was that in addition to receiving $500 to complete the “project”, which was to restore the habitat of a known population of threatened Oregon Slender Salamanders, he also received an internship stipend of $500 after he completed an 80 hour summer internship related to conservation. The only problem was, the organization is not in the Portland area – it was a nationwide grant – so they provided no help or facilitation in finding an internship.
So here we are, nearing the end of our summer, and after returning from a 4 week wilderness camp, Big Son realized he hadn’t heard back from any of the organizations that he contacted about a possible internship and he had only the month of August to complete his 80 hours. As a mom who wants to be sure her teenager 1) follows through on his commitments and 2) doesn’t waste the little summer time he had left laying around the house, I did what any mom would do and sent off a frantic email to the Oregon Urban Environmental Resource Council email list-serve, of which I am a member. Here’s the gist of my email:
I’m wondering if anyone on this list can use a volunteer during the month of August? My son received a Youth Conservation Grant from Planet Connect to restore a part of Johnson Creek to improve the habitat for threatened Slender Salamanders. He completed his project in June and part of his award includes $500 scholarship for an 80 hour internship with a conservation organization or initiative. However the organization did not give him any guidance or connections for organizations in need of volunteers. The net of all this is he needs to dedicate 80 hours to a conservation effort in order to receive his award. He is 15, so not driving yet, and we live in Lake Oswego. He can get pretty much anywhere in the Portland Metro area. Any ideas?Thanks in advance for any help you can offer,
Imagine my surprise when this community sprung into action. Here are some of the many amazing emails I received in response:
We could use his help with some things around the office if he wants to come here. – Amy, Johnson Creek Watershed Council
I have work he could do!! Give me a call, numbers listed below, and we can talk. Thanks, Chanda S., Volunteer Specialist I Restoration Coordinator, City of Tualatin
Try the watershed basin councils. -Mark M., Clackamas County
Three things I can think of near where you are:
Have you tried the watershed councils? Specifically, Johnson Creek Watershed Council? Or maybe Tualatin Riverkeeper? The only other idea I have in your area is the Soil & Water Conservation District in Hillsboro. If he doesn’t mind more driving, there are also the East and West Multnomah SWCDs and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, maybe the Clackamas SWCD although that is far out. Let me know if you’d like me to put you in touch with my contacts at any of these places – they may be able to help pass him along to others as well!- Jen
I might have some habitat restoration projects he could help with if he could get out to the Sauvie Island. We have bus service to the bridge and I could pick him up there. I’m on vacation next week, but will be back on Aug. 9. We are going to have some work parties to remove ivy and other invasive weeds, but he could also help with plant propagation.- Jane, Sauvie Island Habitat Partnership
I have room on my Summer youth Eco-Team the week of August 13-17 (which would be 40 hours), plus we could definitely find some projects for your son to work on for an additional 40 hours. (Entering bird survey data, assisting our staff with daily activities, assisting me with some volunteer programs preparation and documentation…) If this sounds interesting, please let me know! – Susan H., Portland Parks and Rec
Any luck finding an internship for your son? If not, does he have a resume, bio, or what he’s looking for out of an internship?- Thanks, Laura P., Watershed Management, Clean Water Services
I am the project coordinator for the Blue Heron Wetland Restoration Project that is located in NE Portland. We conduct our management and research in the Blue Heron Wetlands located off of Marine Dr. and adjacent to I-5. The purpose of the project is to eradicate the invasive species Ludwigia peploides (aquatic primrose) from the wetland ecosystem. The work that your son would be involved in would include data collection in an aquatic environment, native planting, soil relocation and plot construction. The work is being carried out in a swamp environment, is labor intensive and would definitely make him earn his hours (no surprises). Please feel free to call me for more information. — Alex S., Project Coordinator, Blue Heron Wetland Restoration Project
We also received personal phone calls from the North Clackamas Urban Watersheds Council and a project coordinator from SOLV with a restoration project in Lake Oswego (the town where we live), however by the time the latter came in, the Big Son had already selected two organizations he wanted to work with. In the end, he applied for the Summer Eco Team through Portland Parks and Rec (watch the video at the link), and the remaining hours he committed to working with the N. Clackamas Urban Watershed Council on some education and outreach activities to engage youth in the area. Both opportunities sound like amazing experiences and I’m looking forward to hearing what he gets out of them.
But more than anything, this week has proven to me that Portland is not a beautiful city by accident. There are environmental stewards all over the city and the state, really, working hard to preserve the precious natural resources that make the Pacific Northwest such a beautiful place to visit and live, much of which we take for granted. If nothing else, for anyone interested in getting involved with some citizen science or environmental volunteering, this list can definitely get you started!