Liz and Martina Kokos
Associate of Applied Science, Renewable Energy Technology
Text by Abby Brown
One mother’s dedication to her own education in renewable energy inspired her daughter to pursue the same field of studies. Liz Kokos worked for 15 years in Special Education, and she was ready for a change. Liz decided to go back to school, and she ended up taking Renewable Energy Technology coursework at Columbia Gorge Community College. After starting her studies, she received an internship at a nearby wind farm. She states, “I was able to take my classwork to the field, and my fieldwork to class.” This internship led to a position with a utility company at the same wind farm. “Somewhere along the line,” she says, “there was a Bring Your Daughter to Work Day”. Liz brought her daughter – Martina Kokos – to work, and her employer allowed them to climb over 250 feet in the air up a wind turbine. “The first time they were able to get me up tower, I was hooked,” states Martina.
Martina decided to study Renewable Energy Technology after that fateful day. She was invigorated by the coursework and “the electrical and digital classes challenged me and made me crave more”. Martina recently completed the two-year Renewable Energy Technology degree, and she also received a summer internship at the same wind farm. Martina now hopes to find permanent employment at a nearby wind farm, and she would like to eventually complete an engineering degree. In the meantime, Martina is completing Calculus classes at the community college for fun. She says, “I am living my life as best as I can! I take each and every day in stride. I live for today! Yesterday is gone forever, and there is no guarantee about tomorrow. I am reaching for the stars, and no one can tell me the one I want is too far out of reach!”
Associate of Applied Science – Business Management
Text by Abby Brown
Photo by Michal Kawka
From a small town to a big city and back again, Lyle Eubanks has not forgotten his passion for learning and expanding his options. Lyle grew up in a rural community of 800 people in central Oregon. He had many friends, and he did well in high-school. After he graduated, he was accepted into Western Oregon University. “I stayed only two terms. In retrospect - a strong homesickness, paired with a lack of maturity… ultimately led to me dropping out. Frustrated, disappointed, and unfulfilled - I vowed that someday I would return to college and achieve my degree.”
But many years would pass before he would find himself back in college. He spent a few years working various jobs. He spent almost five years in Portland working as a wholesale distributor of the Oregonian newspaper (or paperboy for short). One day, he received a call from his employer - the Oregonian is having a mass-layoff and his route was included. “Having learnedanything in this crazy life I have learned that you can’t let the things in life you can’t control, control your life!” he stated. “That’s when it all came to me. This is my opportunity. Now is the time to return to college and get my education!” Shortly after, he made the long awaited return to the halls of knowledge to achieve the degree that he started ten years earlier. He hopes to soon have the education needed to make his dreams of owning his own business a reality.
Text by Stephanie Dawkins
Photo by Michal Kawka
Greg Herman spent his childhood moving from California, where he was born, to all around Oregon and Washington. In his teen years, Greg and his family returned to the Bay area in California where he attended and graduated from middle school, high school, and a couple years of college. When Greg was not fishing from the public pier in Sausalito, Calif., with Aunt Sue (a friend of his family), he was watching his mother make homemade cream puffs and eclairs for him to devour later.
“Not surprisingly, two of my top interests and hobbies are baking and fishing,” Greg says. “I also play guitar and sing.”
Greg loves the two vintage guitars he owns and hopes to someday pass them along to his family. He has three children and assume she will have grandchildren in the future! The Columbia Gorge area is the only place Greg can imagine living. He has lived in the gorge for 17 years, raising a family, cycling (road and mountain), cross country skiing, and enjoying its beauty.
“I can jump on my bike and within minutes be riding in spectacular scenic beauty with low to no traffic to cause stress,” Greg says.“And, I can be on the river fishing for steelhead in 10 minutes. I love living here.”
Greg says he has come to love working at the college because of being a midst both faculty and students. He is inspired by the passionate teaching and eager learning. “I have been able to get to know people here at the college, and to see and hear what drives them makes this workplace fascinating,” Greg says. “I love working here.”
Greg is also a talented culinarian famous for his Brownies for Lovers!
Check out this master recipe:
Greg's Brownies for Lovers
1 2/3 cups butter
13 oz (best quality) Bittersweet Chocolate
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (Bob's Red Mill works well)
1 teaspoon salt 22
1 1/3 cups chopped walnuts (optional and not necessary)
Pre-heat oven to 350F
Melt the chocolate and butter together is a double boiler or heavy sauce pan.
Combine the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup or bowl.
In a mixing bowl combine the flour and salt.
Allow the butter/chocolate mixture to cool and add the egg/sugar mixture to it.
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients stirring with a spatula. Stir only as much as needed to moisten all the ingredients.
Pour the mixture into a lined (parchment works well) 13 x 8 (2" deep) baking pan. Set timer for 25 min. I start my toothpick test at around22 minutes.
This recipe can take longer to bake but be careful about over baking (they become dry) You don't want a clean tester but it should not look like batter when it comes out.
Make these and someone will love you!!!!
Associate of Applied Science, Early Education and Family Studies
Text by Abby Brown
Photo by Michal Kawka
The struggles of life would not keep this mother of a toddler from achieving her dreams. GeGe Villalobos had a unique childhood. She grew up on a 5,000 acre farm and range in a small community about an hour from Columbia Gorge Community College. She loved the ranch life – riding horses on cattle drives, making butter, and canning vegetables – and she had dreams of growing up to be a veterinarian in a rural area. She briefly attended community college after high school, but a tumultuous domestic relationship interfered with her studies. GeGe ended that particular relationship, and went on to work a variety of service-sector jobs. She happily remarried and had a young boy. “I was then a stay-at-home mom for two years, and I knew I needed to finish the degree that I started working on many years before”.
After the birth of her child, she realized that she loved to care for children as much as she loved to care for animals. She decided to re-enroll in school to get a degree in Early Childhood and Family Studies. Her studies at community college have helped her obtain a position with a local organization, the Mid-Columbia Children’s Council, as a Childcare Assistant. After graduation this year with her Associate of Applied Science degree, she would like to apply for an Associate Teacher position. In that position, “I would like to take a short break from college and then [go back to college] to work on my Bachelor’s in education”. Yes, GeGe now realizes that she can shoot for the stars and catch them!
Israel Ayala Guevara
Associate of Science Oregon Transfer Degree – Business Management
Text by Abby Brown
Photo by Michal Kawka
Sometimes life takes an unexpected course, and Israel Ayala Guevara has been on a journey to chart his own professional future at Columbia Gorge Community College. Israel grew up in Mexico and Southern California, and he moved to The Dalles as an elementary-school student. Re-location to a rural community was difficult on a person that had grown up in culturally-diverse region. He kept himself busy by playing basketball, and he made plans to attend a large four-year university in Oregon. All of his plans came to a halt after a compound fracture kept him in the local community.”So I decided that I could – at the very least – continue my education right here at home where it might be more affordable”.
In many ways, he became empowered by his attendance at this small local school. “I did that by finding resources within [the community college], not only though staff and instructors, but also in the Small Business Development Center”. With help from the Center, he received a community loan to start a small business. He started a screen-printing company called Zink Clothing. His company specializes in printing apparel for businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations, and he hopes to grow this business to include online sales. Israel is currently working on his second business plan to start a mobile entertainment company. And it doesn't end there. Israel dreams of one day having his own restaurant or nightclub. If the recent past is any measure of success - this young man will have no problem reaching these and many more goals. Fortune 500, watch out!
T o n y D u n n e
Story and photo by Michal Kawka
Tony Dunne started working at Columbia Gorge Community College in 1999 shortly after he and his wife had decided to move East, away from their metropolitan life in Portland. In these past 12 years at CGCC, Tony has not only become known among students, faculty, and staff for his kindness and readiness to help but he is also a talented musician, volunteer, and community benefactor. "I like working in the Library and helping people navigate library resources. I also love playing music and being part of this community."
Tony grew up in a musical family. "Music has always been an inseparable part of my life. My mom played piano and my two older brothers played guitar and piano. Our house was always filled with music, whether it was playing records or playing instruments.
I’m a natural drummer. So to get me to stop pounding on tabletops, my parents asked Santa to bring me a drum set for Christmas when I was about 10 years old.
Eventually, I taught myself guitar too. I played guitar during high school, mostly just jamming with friends, and then had a band while in the Navy. These days I mostly play bass guitar, but I also sing and sometimes play percussion or the ukulele."
Currently, Tony performs with several different bands. One of those is “Brothers Dunne”, which includes Tony's brother Tom, and Tom’s girlfriend, Mary Harvard. The band has achieved a local reputation. “We describe our music as “Wild-to-Mild Irish Americana. We really play a lot of different styles. If someone needs an Irish band or a folk/rock band, we can usually provide the just the type of music they need.
We play mostly in the Portland area. However, we’ve played a few times in The Dalles this last year and have been getting great responses from the local audiences. We look forward to future shows in the Gorge area”.
Besides his library work and music, Tony has served the community in many more ways. Since 2008, he has been volunteering in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program as a mentor to young children. "I like to provide a positive and inspiring environment to children to help them realize their potential and their aspirations". Besides mentoring, Tony also volunteers with the Theatre Company of The Dalles, occasionally acting or helping behind the scenes with theatre productions. Tony also supports the CGCC Foundation Scholarship fund by participating in a CGCC employee donation program.
For more information on Tony's music and his upcoming shows, please visit him in the college library.
Story and photo by Michal Kawka
Imagine the distance between The Dalles and Hood River. Imagine how many steps would it take to walk it, how many heart beats to run it, and how much volitional strength to even decide to run or walk it in the first place!
For Sidney Spaulding, a cost accountant at CGCC, who has run several marathons in his life, 26.2 miles has very tangible meaning. Sid begun running at college, originally just to be in good shape for sports but it was not until he started his first serious job for a freight company in Portland when he truly came to appreciate jogging. "I would take a bus to work in the morning and run back home for 5 miles, almost every day for 5 years. It was the best relaxation after long and often stressful hours in the office." he says. It was also in Portland when Sid fell in love with marathons and had his fastest run, 26.2 miles in 3 hours! "Today, I still try to run a marathon once in a while but I focus more on shorter distances. I really like the 4th of July 12k run in Hood River which I have missed just three times since 1981", he says. As a full time account Sid spends at least 40 hours a week doing office work but even in that seemingly sedentary time Sid finds moments to exercise. You can often see Sid running in Sorosis Park or on Three Mile road, practicing uphill runs during his lunch breaks. "Running has truly become part of my life and I deeply enjoy it. It is just so simple and you don’t need anything special besides a good pair of shoes. I encourage people to look for sports that they really enjoy - it is a great way to rest! "
Lynne Davidson Knits for a Cause
Story by Anya Kawka
Photos by Michal Kawka
In the small youth center known as “St. Francis House” in Odell, Oregon, a women’s knitting circle is building dreams and transforming lives. The group was created by Lynne Davidson, Administrative Assistant at CGCC, through the use of the college’s Volunteer Leave Policy.
“I had been wanting to volunteer some time at St Francis House,” says Davidson who is also a busy single mother, “but it was hard to find time to get involved in the evenings after work.” With the Volunteer Leave Policy, Davidson is allowed to give 24 hours of her paid work time for a service project. The knitting group meets for two hours on Wednesday mornings, once a month. Because Davidson is able to fit it into her work day, she says it is easier to commit to the project.
The women who meet at St Francis House are knitting blankets for a Ugandan charity. Most of the knitters are Hispanic mothers whose children attend the youth center. “Initially, I thought of coming together as an opportunity to practice conversational English”, says Davidson, who is bilingual, “and the knitting was a means of breaking the ice, so that we weren't all just sitting around awkwardly staring at one another”.
Many of the women continue to knit even though when the group is not in session, bringing bags full of completed squares, inspired by the stories of the indigent Ugandan women who will be receiving the finished blankets. Davidson says that the showing of compassion by her fellow knitters has been amazing. “For the most part, these women in Odell, are working at minimum wage jobs themselves, and aren’t very well-off financially. But they see the pictures of these women in Uganda who have so little, and hear their stories, and they are moved to reach out and help.
Through a connection with the women’s advocacy group, Half the Gorge Sky, the blankets are given to Ugandan women who undergo corrective surgery for obstetric fistula. This condition, arising from child birth complications, is unheard of in the United States, where prenatal and obstetric care is more readily available. A Ugandan woman who survives with obstetric fistula is unable to control her bladder or bowels, and she will be rejected by her family and husband because of her foul smell and her inability to bear more children. She will be shunned by her community and forced to live an isolated existence.
Access to hospitals is extremely difficult in the mostly rural country of Uganda. Several charity groups help to identify the women who need the surgery, and to transport them to a hospital that is equipped for such an operation. In the recovery room, the women are given the lovingly knitted blankets; the first nice, new thing they will own in their new lives. When the Ugandan women return to their villages after the surgery, they are no longer shunned, and may be able to work or even give birth again. The thought of these young women with a new chance at life is what inspires Davidson and her fellow knitters.
“I want to feel like I’m part of something bigger, part of a community beyond Hood River. I think that this project really embodies the college’s mission statement. I mean, we are literally transforming lives over there.”
Columbia Gorge Community College
The Dalles Campus: 400 East Scenic Drive, The Dalles, OR 97058
Hood River Indian Creek Campus: 1730 College Way, Hood River, OR 97031
Student Services: 541 506 6011, 541 308 8211