Photos by Richard H. Miller.
 
 
 

Sorada Valencia gets help with her helmet from a
Pullman firefighter Monday.
PULLMAN, Wash. – Sorada Valencia weighs 106 pounds. On Monday, the tiny 15-year-old struggled into 40 pounds of firefighting gear: boots, coat, helmet and pants. She strapped on a 60-pound steel tank.
 
She hefted a 45-pound hose over her shoulder and ran up the steps between the CUB and the Washington State University library. Well, tried to run. She managed a determined slog.
When she reached the top, she dragged a dummy to simulate pulling a body out of a fire, walked on the rails of a horizontal ladder as if walking on rafters, and hit railroad ties with a sledge hammer.
 
 
Sarah Eberle learns calligraphy during Sunday’s workshop.

Art ambassadors: Teens learn
so they can teach back home
 
By Richard H. Miller, Center
for Distance and Professional Education
 
PULLMAN, Wash. – Among the 500 teenagers attending this week’s 4-H Teen Conference on the Washington State University Pullman campus are about 25 on a special mission: become ambassadors for the arts.
 
The teens not only took two art courses on Sunday, they also learned to teach the courses at camps, workshops and other events in their home counties.
 
The program is called the Arts for Children’s Enrichment (ACE) project. The kids are chosen by educators in their respective counties. A Boeing Company grant covers their travel expenses and the cost of materials, and it gives the counties money for other art-related events, such as field trips.
“This speaks to a huge need in rural counties for exposure to arts,” said Gail Siegel, project coordinator and the arts liaison for WSU’s College of Liberal Arts. 4-H is the ideal delivery method, she added, because the youth development organization is active in all 39 Washington counties.
 
The program is in its third year, and about 50 4-H leaders and adult volunteers have participated. Six counties are involved, but that number is likely to expand when additional funding from the National Endowment for the Arts becomes available.
 
“Counties are asking, ‘Can we be next?’ ” Siegel said.
ACE’s curriculum and assessment coordinator is Pauline Sameshima, assistant professor in the College of Education. She led both art workshops, which covered calligraphy and mosaics.
 
“These kids are excited to learn and motivated,” Sameshima said. “You’ve got a select group of kids. They’re teen leaders.”
 
Sarah Eberle was in the calligraphy session. Afterward, the Clarkston, Wash., girl shared pizza with friends Rachel Belanger and Perrin Fenimore.
“A lot of kids need something to do instead of running out on the streets. Art can entertain and interest them,” Eberle said. “I learned how to involve the kids in what you’re doing.”
 
Belanger and Fenimore have taken the training before.
 
“We teach it how the teacher of this class taught it,” Belanger said, “but we say it differently so the little kids can understand it.”
“And we go around and help out any kids who are confused,” Fenimore added. “It can be a huge learning experience and really fun – and you make friends.”
 
Kim Belanger, a chaperone from Asotin County and Rachel’s mother, was an adult leader in the project last year.
 
“There are a lot of teen opportunities, but in this one they really have to take it back and share it,” she said. “It teaches them commitment. I was glad when they said we could do it again. I jumped at it.”
Sameshima has long integrated history and culture lessons into her art courses. But art is more than a vehicle for information, she said. It’s a new way of thinking for young people.
 
“When you are creating something, you start to understand the topic from a completely different way,” she said. “You see the infinite pieces within. I think it’s really important for kids to see things with much more awareness.”
But when she crouched to roll up a hose, the weight of the tank was too much. She couldn’t stand. A firefighter gave her a hand – and a pass.
“It was really heavy. I was about to fall down,” the Yakima girl said afterward, as the fire crew gave her a bandage for an unrelated injury (from slicing a tomato).
Valencia was among about 15 4-H teens at Combat Challenge, an event put on by the Pullman Fire Department for the WSU Extension 4-H Teen Leadership Conference.
 
About 400 teens, ages 13-17, attended the Sunday-Tuesday conference, which is organized by WSU Conference Management. They studied bugs and robots. They learned to make cheese and do calligraphy. They honed skills in job hunting, dorm-room cooking and drawing characters from “The Simpsons.”
They studied fundraising, did mosaics and learned about physics, meat science and animal dissection (“Not for those with queasy stomachs,” the program notes).
 
“There’s a perception that 4-H is mainly about farm animals,” Noelle Borland said Monday. “It’s so much more than that. It’s anything you can think of.”
Borland, 19, is a veteran 4-H member. She started at age 8 because of her interest in horses. She’s the leader of two King County clubs and was on the state advisory board. She’s now a chaperone and will apply for an adult position on the board.

“I love 4-H, and the confidence it gives kids, because of what it’s given me. I was very shy,” said Borland, clad in a shamrock-green top that matched the 4-H emblem. “I want to give back and teach kids that it’s OK to be themselves.”

The teen conference started in 1927 and most have been held at WSU’s Pullman campus. Recently, they’ve coincided with Alive!, the new-student orientation session.

 
The combination creates a wave of exuberance across campus, as flocks of incoming students hear about buildings and departments and dining options, while the younger 4-H kids go wide-eyed from workshop to workshop.
 
State 4-H Director Pat BoyEs said the combination is ideal. The majority of 4-H kids have had no exposure to college, she said. They see the new freshmen, just a couple years older, and think, “They look just like me.”
 
A moment later, another thought occurs to them, and then their world expands: “That’s me in a couple years.”