Joseph O’Brien is an intern in the OSU Extension office in Umatilla County.
In mid- to late July, I had the chance to work with community members from Umatilla and Morrow counties at Nuts, Bolts, and Thingamajigs Workshop Camp (NBT), a two-week day camp with 10 new students each week. During this camp, my role was to put on a team-building activity each weekday for at least 15 to 30 minutes for the middle schoolers attending – sixth through eighth grade – and help throughout the day. The purpose of NBT camp was to educate the youth about the workforce positions available within the Port of Morrow located in Boardman as well as positions available in Hermiston, and also teach them about apprenticeships, how to be entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and get them to start thinking about their future, all while following state safety regulations. Examples of workforce jobs we talked about included electricians, food manufacturers, diesel mechanics, etc.
One thing I took away from this camp was not only are these jobs going to be around for a very long time, but also, it is up to Generation Z to make sure that these jobs are filled. None of this would have been possible without Kalie Davis, workforce training manager at Port of Morrow and her two interns; Leah Harris at the Port of Morrow, Anna Browne, my internship supervisor and the 4-H/Juntos Latino outreach coordinator and acting Umatilla County Extension Service agent; Ruben Lopez, an Extension intern in Umatilla County; educators from Blue Mountain Community College and Pendleton School District, and workforce presenters from Umatilla Electric Cooperative and Boardman Foods.
Another interesting job I had was being part of the OSU TRACE-COVID-19 project in Hermiston. I thought this would be an important experience to provide my services and share with you. A commonality between the TRACE-COVID-19 Project and Extension Service is providing the community with resources that may not be present. In this case, OSU provided free COVID-19 tests for residents whose addresses were randomly selected. My role as research assistant was to help a team leader by driving to houses, collect materials and tests needed, and organize and distribute forms.
From my many work tasks and experiences, I can say that OSU Extension in Umatilla County exceeded my expectations. From providing hands-on experience in the wood shop to youth to providing educational/medical resources to nearby communities, I am truly blown away. I’ve learned that the Extension Service is not only here to help with the Umatilla County Fair, but it provides so much more than I ever thought.
In the beginning of this internship, I feared that my main tasks would revolve around helping with the 4-H program and I would have very little room to explore my interests of community health and education within the surrounding communities. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I am glad that these experiences have proved otherwise. With that said, I am disheartened that my internship experience may not be all that I wished it could have been due to COVID-19. When I say that, I am referring to the return of Umatilla County to baseline status, meaning we were restricted to traveling outside our homes only for necessary travel. This prevented Ruben and I from being able to record videos for our STEM Saturday series that we have been working on this entire internship. This is only another roadblock and based on all the opportunities I have encountered; I am determined to make the most of my remaining weeks working remotely.
Stay safe everyone and remember to practice social distancing and wear your mask!