TREC workshop introduces Washington County kids to transportation

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Lisa Patterson (standing) of TREC works with students at Chicas transportation workshop

It’s never too early to start teaching kids about careers in transportation. Though they might not be ready for complex engineering, elementary school children are more than ready to form ideas about their possible futures.

On July 27 at Poynter Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon, around 70 young Latina girls learned about different transportation modes, mapped their neighborhoods, and exchanged ideas with seven female professionals who work in transportation in the Portland metro area.

Lisa Patterson, TREC’s workforce development program manager, coordinated the event with Chicas Youth Development, a program of Adelante Mujeres. Patterson and a crew of six dedicated volunteers taught three transportation-focused workshops at a Chicas summer scholastic camp. 

The purpose of the workshops was to teach students about transportation concepts and introduce them to the possibility that they could grow up to work in transportation, an industry very much in need of a diverse workforce.

Patterson and volunteers Olivia Holden, Gwen Chambers, Molly McCormick, Erin Wardell, Jessica Pelz and Tegan Enloe spent the day in three workshops with different age groups, leading brainstorming exercises and encouraging the girls to think about the ways in which transportation affects their daily lives. 

The youngest group, first to fourth graders, spent their session learning about the various modes of transportation and then drawing an imaginative picture of their favorite mode and destination. From skateboards to horses, a rich variety of modes were depicted, with a hot air balloon to Paris emerging as the most popular trip.

For the older groups, Pelz printed large maps from her nearby office so that each student could find the location of her house in Washington County, and assisted the students in mapping their own neighborhoods. Among the older elementary and middle school groups, the volunteer team helped the students identify barriers that prevented them from walking and biking to school.

The volunteers shared a dedication to helping the students engage with the concepts and understand the daily puzzles that a transportation planner might face. McCormick, a transportation analyst at Kittelson & Associates, works on projects ranging from architectural engineering and design to transportation planning and analysis. Chambers, a civil engineer at Murraysmith, works on a range of projects including design of modernization elements, safety enhancements, roadway geometric design and storm sewer design. Holden is a second-year MURP student at Portland State University whose final team project created detailed designs for pedestrian and bike improvements in Portland's Lents neighborhood.

Wardell and Pelz both work at Washington County, where Wardell is a principal planner who works on preparing and updating the County Transportation System Plan. Pelz is a senior planner and a volunteer member of the Newberg City Club where she has served as President, Vice President, Co-Program Chair and Communications Chair of the Board. Enloe is a transportation engineer and project manager currently serving as project manager for the City of Hillsboro's department of public works.

Patterson (with student at right), TREC’s technology transfer and workforce development program manager, brings tremendous energy to the work of early education outreach and workforce development. Her efforts continue to expand the reach of TREC’s education programs.

The students responded enthusiastically and thoughtfully to the concepts introduced, coming up with creative mode choices and pondering the limits of their neighborhood's walkability. Weather, distance, and safety concerns were some of the most common barriers that kept them from walking and biking to school.

Chicas Youth Development is an innovative youth development program empowering Latina girls to develop their leadership potential, adopt healthy lifestyles, develop cultural identity, and achieve academic success with high school graduation and college enrollment. The transportation workshops were part of STEM week at the summer scholastic camp. 

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