Wahkiakum 4-H, WSU Extension enjoy a fruitful partnership

Electrical engineering, robotics, and marine biology are among the many careers students explore through hands on learning


December 28, 2023

On Dec. 19, the Wahkiakum School District Board of Directors learned how a Career Connect Washington grant, which was just renewed for a second cycle, is benefiting students at the district and at Naselle/Grays River Valley School District thanks to 4-H and the Wahkiakum WSU Extension office.

“We applied for and received another year’s worth of funding from Career Connect Washington,” Extension Director Carrie Backman said. “It was pretty stiff competition. I think that’s just a testament to the awesome work that has been done over the last several years. We’re grateful to be able to continue that work for another year.”

Backman, along with Jessica Vik, one of two 4-H coordinators whose position was funded by the grant, described the work at the intersection between 4-H and the school, and the afterschool clubs, where students are getting hands-on experience with robotics and drones, picking up basic electrical skills and engineering, coding, and are learning how to design for and use 3D printers.

“In the beginning we were running the classes,” Vik said, “but we are shifting that to the teachers. We had a training for the teachers and they really blossomed, seeing how they could connect their lessons to the robotics, for hands on training.”

During the school day, high school students are exploring careers thanks to the coordinators, who are introducing them to a variety of professionals in advanced manufacturing, IT, and now the maritime industry.

“We know that is a growing field and a field that many of our folks in our region have exposure to and access to for a career in the future,” Backman said of maritime.

They have had to cap their club at 20 members, Vik said, because of the tech they use and because there is only so much leadership to go around.

“It’s a very popular club,” she said.

Kids in the drone club are picking up invaluable skills and learning the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration. It could be a pathway to many diverse career opportunities, according to Vik.

Students are enjoying field trips to places like the maritime museum in Astoria, the mill at Wauna, and to the Elochoman Millworks.

Backman said the program was similar in Naselle. Students have been hearing from guest speakers, including a marine biologist, and a person who talked about electric car technology the Naselle fish hatchery, and the maritime museum.

She had even more good news. Backman and Vik had been asked to do a presentation on their program at a national conference for extension and 4-H professionals across the country.

“Wahkiakum is really setting the pace,” Backman said.

“It’s a lot of time, you can really see the effort,” School Director Bobbie Stefan said.

“It may be a good time to highlight the good partnership we’ve had with Carrie and the WSU extension office,” Superintendent Brent Freeman said. I know we appreciate having you here.

“It’s good for the school district but it’s a wonderful thing for the whole county to have you here.”


Freeman presented restructured pricing for advertising on scoreboards at the school. The money they raise will go toward the future replacement of the boards.

The board voted unanimously to approve a resolution transferring $75,000 from the general fund to the transportation vehicle fund.

It will be used toward the purchase of a bus that will soon be delivered, and a future bus.

“I did ask for a little bit more than needed for this bus intentionally so it carries over and adds to the next bus,” Freeman said. “The money is already in that fund for that purpose and minimizes how much we have to transfer later on.”

Business Manager Sue Ellyson said the district was going through an audit because they received over $750,000 in federal awards.

The federal government is looking into how school districts have spent ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds, which were awarded by the federal government to provide additional assistance during the pandemic.

“They are really looking at how school districts have spent ESSER funds,” Ellyson said.

“We are going to learn from them, just like the last one. It will be a little different because it’s a federal one,” Freeman said. “These are opportunities for us to get professionally better.”

To start the meeting, School Board Directors Patty Anderson and Brian Heston received the oath of office as she continued another term, and he began his first.

Directors approved new hires including Beau Carlson as assistant baseball coach, and Andrew Weiler as C Squad Coach for boys basketball. They also accepted Jansi Merz’s resignation from two coaching positions.


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