My name is Kiana Oos, and I am a Sustainable Pathways fellow from Western Washington University (WWU) interning with TwispWorks this summer. Sustainable Pathways was developed four years ago to give students professional experience while also contributing to community efforts focused on public health, environmental stewardship, economic vitality, and social equity. My cohort features eighteen students with a variety of different majors, interests, and skills. Each of us is partnered with an organization related to our interests where we’ll work over the summer. Some of these include Classroom in Bloom, the Twisp and Winthrop Town Planning Departments, the Methow Valley School District, Home Range, and the Foundation for Youth Resilience and Engagement (FYRE).
In addition to our practicum, we meet twice a week for class. On these days, we spend the mornings volunteering with various activities throughout the community as members of the Civic Engagement and Leadership Corps through AmeriCorps. Then the afternoons are dedicated to building our project development skills by working in small groups to research, plan, report, and possibly implement different projects that have been identified as needs within the community. For my project, I will be working with the Family Health Centers to create a system for centralized ordering to both save them money and reduce waste.
While traditional academia is important, this place-based, interactive approach to learning teaches us valuable skills that we wouldn’t get from sitting in a lecture hall. Additionally, having a tight-knit cohort means we all get to learn from each other’s unique knowledge and experiences. We all bring our own strengths, but we are united by our goal of learning and desire to create a better world.
Personally, I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity of working with TwispWorks. Here, I will help investigate how circular economy principles are currently used in the Methow Valley and how they can be expanded. According to the EPA, a circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials, products, and services to be less resource intensive, and recaptures “waste” as a resource to manufacture new materials and products. This is especially important for a rural area like the Methow Valley because there is not easy access to mass amounts of resources or products. This means that what the Methow has is more valuable and should be used by the community as much as possible. A circular economy will increase community resilience, allowing the valley to have strong economic and social systems without relying on goods and materials from outside the valley. This model can create more jobs for the community and help keep residents’ hard-earned money circulating in the community and supporting local people. I am so excited to be a part of this organization and support local businesses in developing ways to sustain their business, the environment, and community as a whole.
I’ve loved my time in the Methow so far, it’s a beautiful place full of strong and gracious people who are committed to helping their community. If you have any questions for me or want to chat, feel free to reach out, my email is email@example.com. Also, if you are curious about the Sustainable Pathways program, more information can be found here.