Program supports career development
By Rebecca Spiess
The Western Washington University Sustainability Program will return to the Methow Valley this summer, this time with state funding and a larger group of students.
Joshua Porter, who piloted the program last year, is once again at the helm of coordinating the 16 interns who will be in and around Winthrop and Twisp for 10 weeks from the end of June until the end of August.
Career Connect, a state initiative created by Gov. Inslee to provide young people opportunities for career launch, will be supporting this year’s cohort.
“We’re building pathways across the state in every industry sector, and [Joshua Porter] is doing a great job in helping in the environmental space,” Project Leader Maud Daudon said of the WWU program.
The state funding came partly through Methow Valley connections as well: Daudon’s husband, Marc, works for the Methow Valley Citizens Council (MVCC) and both are long-time upper Twisp residents. Porter is their neighbor and applied for the grant at Daudon’s suggestion.
“There’s so many unexplored pathways for young people in the Methow that really make great lifelong careers, and a lot of them fall into this category of environmental resilience,” Daudon said.
Past partners like the MVCC and the Shafer Museum will once again be hosting students. Other organizations partnering with the WWU initiative include the Town of Twisp Tree Board, Classroom in Bloom and Red Shed Farm, the Foundation for Youth Resilience and Engagement in Omak, Methow At Home, Willowbrook Farms and Cascade Fisheries.
Olivia Kaulfus, a WWU student with a background in energy science and sustainability, will work with Winthrop Town Planner Rocklynn Culp this summer.
Culp said she plans on focusing Kaulfus’ energies on improving Winthrop’s “Complete Streets,” a planning term for incorporating bikes and pedestrians rather than focusing solely on vehicles.
“It’s a tight-built environment in Winthrop,” Culp said. “There’s not a lot of room for new streets so the question is, ‘How do we more efficiently move people around so that they feel more safe on foot and on bikes?’”
Zoe Hemez is a junior WWU student double-majoring in energy science and math. She will spend her internship working with Methow Trails.
“One of their main projects right now is developing a trail between Winthrop and Twisp,” Hemez explained. “So they’re going to be doing landowner outreach and community outreach; I’ll be helping with that.”
One of the biggest challenges for the students, once again, will be housing. Porter said the program will be looking for unique locations for the program’s 10-week duration so as not to compete in the Valley’s notorious rental market.
Last year the initiative utilized guesthouses and shared spaces, like the TwispWorks campus, to help meet student housing needs.
WWU’s program is already becoming a model statewide for Career Connect and has been showcased to other universities through webinars.
“We’re trying to get more colleges around the state to do what Joshua’s doing,” Daudon said. “The webinars were a huge hit, so maybe we’ll see Joshua’s program being transplanted.”
Porter is hoping to grow the program in other directions as well.
“One goal that we have: We’d love to see representation from locals,” he said.