When Tanya Kindrachuk and Seng Saechao joined the 4-H club at David Douglas High School more than half a decade ago, they didn't expect to start careers based on the experiences they had.
In partnership with the Forest Service, the club taught students about water and its importance on the planet which led both young women to pursue careers influencing other young people. Seng and Tanya were so impressed by their trips to the Oregon State University Corvallis campus and Hatfield Marine Science Center on the Oregon Coast as high school students, they're now paying it forward, delivering the same kind of programming to Portland teens.
Seng remembers clearly the time she and her fellow students made models of Remotely Operated Vehicles, aquatic robots used to pick up ocean debris. She hopes to provide similar memorable experiences to the young people she works with -- all free of charge.
Inner City Youth Institute (ICYI) Natural Resources campers visit Multnomah Falls.
"These programs are really beneficial in changing youth's lives," said Seng, who
graduated from OSU in 2016 with a degree in natural resources. "I wish I got this kind of education in elementary school. If we did, I think we would see a big change in learning in our youth, specifically the underserved."
"When I looked back at high school, most of my memories and what shaped me came through this club," said Tanya, who graduated from Portland State University in June 2017 with a degree in public health focused on community health and aging services.
Now, Tanya and Seng both work for OSU Extension Service as 4-H education program assistants. Tanya runs after-school health and rocket clubs at David Douglas High School, and a "makers club" for middle and high schoolers at Portland Community College's southeast Portland campus.
Seng channels her passion for the outdoors, developed as a Tech Wizards student and now oversees science, natural resources and "eco" clubs at Portland-area schools.
Seng and Tanya, along with 4-H Outreach Coordinator Stacey Sowders, also run the Blue Lake Young Rangers program each summer, in partnership with Metro Regional Government. The program focuses on empowering middle and high school interns to connect with and educate the public about the value of natural spaces, and to provide paid career readiness experiences for these underrepresented youth in East Portland.
Young Rangers work together to develop culturally relevant, hands-on natural gardening and environmental education programs for diverse families visiting the park.
Before her experience with Extension programs, Tanya had been to the beach a few times and on picnics with her family, but "had no education or connection to the environment. "Once I learned about the unique ecosystem and history of Oregon, I felt pride and a connection to it," she said.
Sowders, who started working at the Extension about five years ago, met Seng and Tanya on her first day. Through their college years, she continued working with them as interns and camp counselors.
"You meet people like Seng and Tanya and you feel like you're actually having an impact," Sowders said. "They are great examples of what Extension works toward. I feel so honored to work with them and grateful that they want to work with us."