AmeriCorps volunteer finds herself in Chinook

Abby Brown is impressed by the Lower Columbia's scenery.

CHINOOK - The job sounded pretty great, but Abby Brown first had to set something straight.

"I got my map out and I said 'Where's Chinook?,'" she said.

Brown, obviously, found the town in the southwest corner of Washington on the mouth of the Columbia River. And for the 23-year-old AmeriCorps volunteer and native of Knoxville, Tenn., who is interested in environmental science and oceanography, the location looked just as good as the job sounded.

That job in question was to spend another year with AmeriCorps in the Pacific Northwest educating children and teenagers about a variety of environmental topics. Brown has now been in the region since early September and she said she likes it. She works as an "environmental science educator" for Sea Resources Watershed Learning Center in Chinook.

"I really love it out here," she said. "The Columbia River is just so amazing and so massive, it's beautiful."

Brown was in community college back in Knoxville about two years ago when she said she decided to do something with her life to help others. She contacted the United Way organization, which in turn, connected her with AmeriCorps.

Considered almost a domestic Peace Corps, Americorps was created by former President Bill Clinton in 1994 to provide willing volunteers for service, education, environmental and safety organizations all over the United States.

Brown was joined with an environmental program through AmeriCorps in Knoxville where she worked on a water quality team. That work entailed assisting in research projects, coordinating efforts to adopt watersheds and educating young people on issues confronting the environment. While there, Brown said she fell in love with teaching because she was able to extend her love and concern for environmental issues to other people.

"I think that's very important of carrying it on, this love of the environment," she said. "Teaching opens up a whole new spectrum, it's not only are you helping the environment but you're helping humanity."

Brown's work with Sea Resources takes her all over the Long Beach Peninsula and into Clatsop County. She leads classes in discussion, on topics ranging from birds and insects to oceanography and geology.

At Tlohon-nipts Alternative High School in Long Beach, for example, she is the coach of an "oceanography team" that is training for a national Knowledge Bowl specific to ocean knowledge.

Seminars, workshops and her experiences with other environmental groups have prepared Brown for teaching others she says.

"My love of nature really inspires me to self-educate myself on these topics," she said.

When she isn't leading a class on the environmental issues facing the lower Columbia River region, Brown said she loves to go hiking with her mixed breed dog Nala and experiment with cooking.

Brown's stay in Chinook ends in August, and she said she isn't entirely sure what she will do next.

She said she'd like to earn a college degree, and is considering applying for four year schools around the Pacific Northwest or perhaps just taking some classes at Clatsop Community College to start.

But, wherever she may chose to go to school, Brown said her experiences in working for the environment have convinced her she doesn't want a career in anything else.

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