Winter 2013 Stories
Going to Evergreen – on the Harbor
By Siobhan Peterson
Evergreen’s Evening and Weekend Studies program that meets at Grays Harbor College in Aberdeen, Wash., is certainly unique, and not just because it’s 48 miles away from the Olympia campus. Each student arrives with different backgrounds, different reasons for choosing Evergreen, and different hopes for what her or his bachelor’s degree will accomplish – and no student leaves the way they came.
“My old friends didn’t believe I could do it. Now I have new friends from being in this program for years, and we’re all educated people,” says Francisco Caballero, who emigrated from Mexico and plans to pursue his Ph.D. in child psychology to work with children with special needs. “I came here from a different country, knowing a different language, and went into higher education thinking that it was just for Americans. I am a full-time father, a full-time student, and a full-time husband. The program’s structure gave me the opportunity to be educated and to be a family man. And now that my toolbox is full, I have the power to do something and give back.”
Taileen Wilson was a single parent without a high school diploma, driving trucks for Weyerhaeuser until getting laid off. “Education brings self-esteem. The knowledge that I can do it perpetuates confidence,” says Wilson, who works at the Naselle Youth Camp and interned with the Chinook Tribe. “Now I’m asking what I can do to be an advocate for change because I am eventually going to be able to make change happen.”
Denise Carpenter was injured in 2005 after 30 years of physical labor. She realized that she couldn’t return to the work she knew but didn’t have the skills to start a new path in an office setting. “All the classes I’ve taken Denise Carpenter have pulled off boards I’ve put up around myself, protecting myself from racial hatred. I have a voice now, respect, confidence. It seemed terrifying to return to school at 50, but it’s been an amazing journey. I started off with the mentality of I think I can, and now I’m saying I did it,” says Carpenter, a member of the Makah tribe who is planning to earn her master of public administration degree from Evergreen.
Mark Marshall was a construction worker whose goal is to work with veterans. He found himself unexpectedly at Evergreen in the Harbor. “I went back to college to save my hide after the economy changed. I’m setting up a template to not end up with just a degree and a job but a higher purpose to contribute more,” says Marshall, who interned in the TRiO program. “I am more tapped into getting the tools and formulas to help find solutions for people. I don’t have to be JFK, but by becoming aware of problems you step out of yourself and serve a greater purpose by being part of the solution.”
The Evergreen program takes place on weekends at the Grays Harbor College campus, allowing Harborbased working adults to attend a convenient location. With its small turnover, many of the students have been in programs together for several years. Evergreen collectively creates a learning community in Grays Harbor. New knowledge is gained from complex problemsolving and students are empowered to be catalysts of change for a better world—and all right in this cute little town on the coast.