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USA: 35 new ambassadros in Vancouver, Washington

Students from Oregon and Southwest Washington participated in the first Academy in southern Washington State. It took place in Vancouver, Washington and was supported by the nature education nonprofit Columbia Springs, where it took place, and by P’nai Or Jewish Renewal Congregation. The Academy was led by Michael Foster, Pam Vergun, and Ambassadors Miko and Isaac, Tory, and Jeremy, who put in many hours preparing; for Tory and Jeremy, it was their first time to lead an Academy.

Thirty-five students from eight cities (Camas and Vancouver in Washington and Beaverton, Portland, Hillsboro, Cornelius, Forest Grove, and Salem in Oregon) represented twenty-one schools: 10 elementary schools (Illahee, Benjamin Franklin, Ellsworth, Fisher’s Landing, Fruit Valley, Jacob Wismer, Scott, Silver Star, Stephenson, Truman), 7 middle schools (Evergreen, Jackson, La Center, Neil Armstrong, Shahala, South Meadows, Thomas Jefferson), and 4 high schools (Forest Grove, Glance, Hillsboro, Union). A group of students who are part of the nonprofit program for girls, Adelantes Chicas came with the program staff to participate in the Academy.

Jenna Kallestad, who is the Education Coordinator for Columbia Springs, made the Academy possible, arranging for Columbia Springs to host it, obtaining donations of organic produce, wonderful pizza from Stark Street Pizza and By Design Pizza, and more. Columbia Springs Board Members and staff like Maureen Montague and Kaley McLachlan-Burton gave us the support we needed to have the Academy at Columbia Springs. 350PDX has supported us with their endorsement of Plant-for-the-Planet. P’nai Or of Portland helped fundraise to cover additional costs of the Academy. Kaley Judd dedicated her day to taking photographs, and others took additional photos and video. Before the Academies on the 23rd and the one in Portland on the 25th, Metro Parent Magazine did a lovely piece on Plant-for-the-Planet. The Columbian newspaper sent their education reporter and a photojournalist to the Academy and published an article in the Sunday paper and online editions. Both pieces are available through our website ClimateChangeRecovery.org.

Students arrived and were delighted to be greeted by Ambassadors and hot chocolate. With the background smell of baby fish from the fish nurseries on either side of our classroom called SWIFT, Michael introduced Plant-for-the-Planet and showed “Now We Children Save the World!” Isaac, Jeremy, Tory, and Miko gave the presentation. Then, we took a break in the garden, playing among the ponds for trout to grow
bigger before being released. Then, we came back inside to listen to the very special comments of David Anitok, President of the Oregon Marshallese Community and Board Member and Former President of CANN, Compact of Free Association Alliance National Network, who participated with his oldest children in most of the Academy day.

We played the World Game, followed by taking turns reading a story of Climate Change. We discussed what makes a speech effective and gave out the slides. We all enjoyed the delicious organic produce, first-rate pizza, other snacks.

We then trouped out to a field from which Columbia Springs volunteers have reclaimed enough space from invasive species to plant 7 small Douglas Fir trees. The children learned from Michael and the Ambassadors how to plant their little trees, and many were named (Pablo, Hope….:-)) Then, we heard from special guest and volunteer Cecilia Girón, Program Director of Chicas Youth Development, Adelantes Mujeres, who was introduced by Miko.

We returned, and students divided into two groups, one to do the World Café in SWIFT, and the other went to a yurt-style classroom called the Cordwood Classroom to practice for the afternoon slideshow. Because more students registered for the Academy than we easily had room for (which is why we had to cut off registration the week before), Michael worked with two teams of presenters for the afternoon presentation when we split into two groups, one with Michael in SWIFT and one with Pam in Cordwood.

The presentation in SWIFT was attended by many families and Vancouver Port Commissioner Eric LaBrant who spoke to this group and attended the graduation ceremony, staying afterward to talk with Pam and her students. SWIFT was filled with students’ posters of ideas. The simultaneous presentation by Pam and students was commended by our special guest Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt who listened and spoke. Then, students received their appointments as Climate Justice Ambassadors, along with certificates, Tree by Tree, and Everything Would Be Alright. And, of course, we got some great photos and videos.

We would like to thank all those involved in this wonderful Academy. The Ambassadors said they were grateful for the dedication of Michael and Pam. Everyone agreed that Miko, Isaac, Tory, and Jeremy did an awesome job leading the Academy. Special thanks to the adults who served as assistant leaders and to all the generous support of community volunteers who volunteered at the Academy and in other ways.          We deeply appreciate the kind donation by Jenna Kallestad and the Board and staff of Columbia Springs of their time, effort, and space. We are also grateful for the donation of great food arranged by Columbia Springs. Special thanks to the staff of Metro Parent and The Columbian, as well as many other organizations.

More academies in this region are being planned for 2016. Upcoming Academies will be announced on the Plant-for-the-Planet website and at our local site: ClimateChangeRecovery.org.

More photos can be found at flickr

This article is over a year old and may not reflect latest facts and figures. If you have any questions, please contact media@plant-for-the-planet.org