Innovation in Partnerships Award

Vernonia Rural Sustainbility Team

Amy Grotta, Chip Bubl, Glenn Ahrens, LeeAnn Mikkelson, Susan Sahnow and Lena Etuk College of Forestry and College of Public Health and Human Sciences

A 2007 flood devastated the city of Vernonia and its schools. People from every corner of the state offered assistance, and OSU Extension was there every step of the way for five years. The deep community involvement of Extension’s Vernonia Rural Sustainability Team has had direct and tangible results as reflected in the positive accomplishments of its community partners.

It would take too long to list all the innovative, community-changing outcomes of the team’s projects, but to name a few:

  • The 
integration of natural resources curriculum into all
grade and subject levels. There is now a teacher-developed, district-wide
mission centered on experience-based learning.
  • 30 Master Gardeners were trained in Vernonia, 10 of whom collaborated to create the city’s first community garden.
  • The Vernonia Rural Sustainability Program initiative fostered K-12, higher education and community partnerships, aimed at creating a “living lab” for rural natural resources-based economic development.
  • And OSU Extension connected the school district and architects with renewable energy experts who advised them on bioenergy alternatives for the new state-of-the-art K-12 campus that opened this fall.

The members of this team represent the full spectrum of OSU Extension, and their participation in the rebuilding of Vernonia has laid the foundation for meaningful community relationships and positive impacts for many years to come.