2015-16 Community Fellow Hunter Pluckebaum ’17 writes about her experiences at Planned Parenthood

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Hunter Pluckebaum handing out a chocolate kiss at the kisses for consent booth at the Safe is Sexy event at the Walla Walla Community College.

When I tell Whitman students that I work with Planned Parenthood, the primary question asked is ‘wait, there is a Planned Parenthood here?’ And yes, there is. I have known for a longtime about the ‘Whitman bubble’ but never realized how enveloped I was in this eclipsed and incomplete experience of Walla Walla until I got outside of it. My time with Planned Parenthood has given me a chance to finally engage with the community that I have lived in for three years but never tried to become part of.

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Participants taking a fun quiz to test their knowledge about sexual health at the Safe is Sexy event at the Walla Walla Community College.

This year Planned Parenthood has re-established itself as an educational presence in Walla Walla, and I am thrilled to be part of this process thanks to the Whitman Community Fellowship. My supervisor, Taylor Wolf, and I have spent this year working hard to build partnerships and provide quality education and outreach to teens and young adults. Some exciting relationships we have built over the course of this year include the Juvenile Justice Center (JJC), the YMCA, the YWCA, and Walla Walla Community College. These newly fostered relationships are the beginning of an initiative to bring comprehensive sex education to the Walla Walla community through partnerships and community building.

Throughout the duration of this year, my main role has been to work with both the JJC and the Walla Walla Community College. The opportunity to work within both of these communities has enriched my experience as a Community Fellow. Working at the JJC has given me the opportunity to work with teens to foster change in communities, which is something I am passionate about. There is this common belief that teens are apathetic, and this belief is particularly salient for at-risk teens, and this experience at the JJC has further reaffirmed how erroneous the stereotype is. At the JJC, Taylor and I met weekly with two different groups of teens. In these meetings, teenagers engage in thoughtful discussions around sexuality and sexual health. Topics include consent, STDs/STIs, birth control/sexual protection, anatomy, health relationships, sexuality, and abuse. The teens at the JJC, while at times a little uncomfortable, approach all of these subjects with maturity and intrigue. It is having these kinds of educational conversations within communities, particularly with teens, that creates positive. I am thankful that this fellowship with Planned Parenthood led to the partnership with the JJC because it has allowed for the continuation of important conversations around sexuality and sexual health with a significant and often wrongly overlook part of the collective Walla Walla community.

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Group photo of (almost) everyone who helped the Safe is Sexy event happen.

In addition to the JJC, part of my fellowship has been to collaborate with the Walla Walla Community College to host events at their campus. In the beginning of April, Planned Parenthood and the Associated Student Body at the Community College partnered together to host an all day event titled Safe is Sexy – starting with an all morning tabling carnival and culminating with a screening of The Hunting Ground that night. The overarching purpose of this event was to engage students in conversations about consent and healthy relationships and to promote Get Yourself Tested/Talking, which is Planned Parenthood’s April campaign to encourage sexually active individuals to get tested for STIs/STDs.

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A participants own definition of consent at the Safe is Sexy event at the Walla Walla Community College.

The event was incredibly successful and a great way to engage the community in a conversation about sexual health. My favorite booth was the kisses for consent booth, in which a participant had to say how they would ask for consent for a kiss and would then receive a chocolate kiss for asking. This particular booth sparked productive conversations about verbal consent and the importance of mutual and ongoing consent between individuals. Fun and successful events like this highlights the strength of collaboration between communities, and how this form of collaboration can bring about change and conversations in ways unachievable without community partnership.

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Promotional poster for Safe is Sexy event at the Walla Walla Community College.

This experience as a Whitman Community Fellow for Planned Parenthood has helped me gain a better appreciation for collaboration and community building. Before this internship, I had always seen the value of collaboration but now I see the necessity of it. Collaboration is a catalyst for change and without it progression would be all too slow. Going forward with any new initiatives I take one, I will focus more intently on engaging collective voices to create change. This experience has not only given me the opportunity to get out into the community but I now fully appreciate the value of getting out into the community.

2015-16 Community Fellow Rachael Rapp ’16 writes about her experiences at Community Council

Sometime during my past seven months interning with Community Council, I had an epiphany: I want to be involved with organizations like this for the rest of my life. Community Council has me feeling passionate about local civic engagement. I’m invested in this community, which wasn’t something I’d really been able to say until this year.

Community Council is a regional organization committed to open dialogue, solid research, consensus-building, and effective advocacy. Every year hosts a new study topic, with two years of implementation and a review to follow. This year the question was, “how can we strategically invest in education in order to drive economic growth in the region?” I had the privilege to work with the dedicated and inspiring Community Council staff, Mary Campbell and Catherine Veninga, as well as the volunteer study management team. In the following 16 weeks, we worked on the fly to create a syllabus of relevant speakers for the study committee. Each weekly meeting felt like an accomplishment, a tangible move towards answering the study question. The resulting report, filled with conclusions and recommendations, will be circulated throughout the region, and hopefully put into implementation.

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The almost year-long process is both daunting and exciting.  There’s been a lot of research, phone calls, emails, voicemails, and tracking down individuals. As the months passed, I got more comfortable with outreach, and better understand how much coordination is necessary to make such an impactful organization function. I’ve always said I’m interested in nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations (I’m a politics major, it’s expected). Until Community Council, I didn’t really understand what that meant on a day-to-day, local level.

I’ve seen the positive reverberations in the region from previous Community Council studies. It makes me incredibly hopeful for the culmination of this one. I’m thrilled to say that my time with Community Council broke down some of the typical cynicism I feel when discussing politics. This is largely due to the individuals I’ve encountered. Each new perspective – be it a public school principal, local business owner, or director of workforce training – highlighted the multiplicity of ways in which one can attend to their community. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have shared in the knowledge and experience of individuals throughout the region. I’m also really good at phone calls and voicemails now, which is hard to list on a resume but really helpful for my self-esteem post-graduation.

 

2016 Spring Intern Lydia Petroske ’18 writes about her experiences at the Blue Mountain Land Trust

Lydia Petroske pic 1With support from the Whitman Internship Grant, this spring I have been fortunate enough to intern for the Blue Mountain Land Trust, located in downtown Walla Walla. I spent my past summer living in Wallowa County, whose Wallowa Land Trust is a thriving example of community engagement. I returned to school knowing that I wanted to learn more about land trusts as a conservation tool. I researched the local land trust, and set up a meeting with Tim Copeland, the man that would become my supervisor. Together, we designed an internship that would allow me to learn more about land trust work while also contributing to their development with some administrative tasks.

Land trusts are a unique blend of conservation, politics, and real estate. The Blue Mountain Land Trust works to protect landscapes that stretch from southeast Washington to northeast Oregon. They work with landowners to create tailored conservation plans that meet protection desires and financial needs called conservation easements. Conservation easements are legal agreements between a land trust and landowner that limits the use of the land in perpetuity. Typically, this restricts the amount of future development of the land, but conservation easements can host a variety of other environmental protections and projects. Easement donors implement these protections for a multitude of reasons: sentimental value, cultural history, wildlife habitat, protecting the land for future generations, or other conservation values. Individuals can donate their land (and often receive tax benefits) or receive a payment for the land which money sourced from local environmental organizations.

Lydia Petroske pic 2One thing I was interested in learning more about through working for a land trust was how conservation easements are navigated politically and socially in practice. I wanted to watch the formation process of a CE unfold. In the first weeks of my internship, I was fortunate to be able to tag along in visiting a prospective CE donor in Touchet. Landowners interested in developing contact the Blue Mountain Land Trust, and then go through a collaborative design and appraisal process. The woman we met with owned over 200 acres of workable farmland. A stream runs through her property, providing valuable riparian habitat. When we walked down to the river, a group of whitetail deer jumped out in front of us, and we saw multiple raptor nests in the trees above our heads. As the woman is aging, she is concerned about the future conservation of the land she has loved for so many years. A conservation easement would ensure the protection of this ecosystem, and zone her land with different requirements: farmable areas would not be able to be developed, but would stay working land, and the riparian zone would remain free of all interference. The BMLT will work in the coming months to appraise and seek funding for the easement that satisfies all parties.

The BMLT has also expanded its operations to include environmental outreach, recreation, and education for the Walla Walla region. Learning on the Land is an educational series of summer events oriented on connecting locals with the land. Continuing the work of a past Whitman intern, I have helped with this year’s round of the Learning on the Land program, working on event advertising and website development. I believe that the drive to conserve land often comes through positive engagement with it. Learning on the Land allows people to see the benefits of land conservation. I have learned a lot about the ins and outs of land trust work this semester, and have valued the time I have had to experience field work, hear about the administrative appraisal process, and contribute to an educational initiative I align with.

 

 

2016 Spring Intern Shanley Miller ’17 writes about her experiences at the Frenchtown Historic Foundation

Shanley miller headshotThe time I have spent with the Frenchtown Historic Foundation has opened my eyes to the deep history of the Walla Walla Valley. As a Whitman student, I have spent 3 years on this land taking for advantage the many stories of sacrifices and prosperity that can be attributed to our surroundings. I think that part of the reasoning for this is the very prominent story of the Whitman Massacre and, understandably, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman. After all, our school is named for Marcus and it is not much of a stretch to say his story overshadows many others, even his fellow missionaries. Having said this, I must admit that I am a history major and being so I felt much guilt in realizing how much history I have neglected. But in the facing my failure, one that I admittedly share with the many other Whitties, I found solace in seeing how hard the volunteers and executives of the FHF work to make the Frenchtown Historic Site a respectable, appropriate memorial to the land’s history.

At the Frenchtown Historic Site we can see a prime example of the intermingling of local tribes and settlers, specifically French Canadians, to create families with mixed heritage, race, and religions. Historians are often fascinated by those conjunctions of two very different cultures, like at Frenchtown. However, a recurring issue with history within the Walla Walla Valley is its ethnocentric approach to retelling this past. More often than not, the retelling of the lives of woman and Native Americans misrepresent their actions and identities. Recently, the Whitman Mission encountered backlash for their updated exhibits that aim to present a fairer retelling of the conflict between local tribes and Marcus Whitman. In light of this conflict and the FHF’s intention to place more signs at the site, I was hired on to assist in editing their planned signage. This signage focuses on the “Prince’s Cabin” a newly refurbished but old cabin.

Shanley Miller houseRumor is that this cabin is the oldest remaining cabin in Washington. Our signs aimed to focus on the story of “The Prince,” a local Native American leader, while also showing the French-Canadian influences on the cabin structure. There are also other signs about the Battle of Walla Walla and the cemetery that I also edited. This project has since been placed a little farther down the to-do list because the Foundation wanted their website improved. For a majority of the past 2 months I have been focusing on this website. I have edited and restructured the content to better assist the Foundation website’s target audience, genealogists. You can see this improved website at: www.frenchtownwa.org.

As I stated above, this internship has given my many opportunities for reflection. I have grown as a historian. I have gained a deeper appreciation for the history of the West. I have found a challenge that continues to teach me how to be a better participant in current events, as we all make history together.

 

2016 Spring Intern Julia Buschmann ’17 writes about her experiences at the Juvenile Justice Center

Julia Buschmann pictureWalla Walla’s Juvenile Justice Center is unique in its approach to adolescents; when youth are sentenced to the JJC they are met with holistic attempts to change an individual’s behavior through school, structured activities, and special programs. The JJC attempts a subtle intervention through a trauma sensitive approach to working with youth, many of which have had adverse childhoods.

As an intern at the JJC, I assist in the classroom, shadow officers, attend court, and mostly observe. The most rewarding part of this internship has been the opportunity to spend time one-on-one with in-custody youth. Some come through for short periods or only on the weekends but some have longer stays, sometimes a few months before transferring elsewhere. Every interaction is an opportunity to support positive, pro-social behavior and tweak a youth’s mindset to understand their own capacity for change. Each interaction is an opportunity to empower them to be their own advocate. To help with this I employ motivational interviewing techniques, a philosophy of intervention intended to create sustained behavioral change by motivating the individual to change on their own.

Though I have these techniques in the back of my head, and I know the value of having a goal-oriented approach, another priority is simply providing the youth with someone to vent to or connect with. During my time at the JJC I have learned not only about the power of the institution in shaping the youth’s experience, but also the very human need for connection and compassion.