(Now bear with me those of you already in the Master Gardener program; this is for those folks that may have concerns about joining a group with seemingly frightening expectations!)

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The Oregon State University Extension Land Steward course is designed for owners of woodlands, small farms, pasture or other rural land who want to manage their property’s natural resources more effectively.

I would like to reintroduce myself: My name Andrea Flores-Reyna. I work for Oregon State University Extension Service here in the Gorge as the Juntos Program coordinator. For a while now, we have been sheltered due to COVID-19 and it feels great to be transitioning back into in person working.

Eighteen-year-old Andy has never had much confidence. Growing up in a modest home with few friends and fewer opportunities to develop life skills and have life experiences, he struggled.

When Hood River Valley High School English teacher Hunter Scholtz saw a student walking home in the rain, he wanted to offer a ride to the student, but rules against giving students a ride home from school made him hesitate. The student had to walk a couple miles from home to school each way…

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HOOD RIVER — It wasn’t until Gisela Ayala Echeverria started kindergarten about two decades ago that her family realized she needed glasses.

Her parents are farmworkers and didn’t know where they could receive eye care. While they were eventually referred to a local doctor’s office, the provider didn’t speak Spanish. Despite her young age, she had to provide unofficial interpretation services between her parents and the provider as she had her vision checked.

Now, Ayala Echeverria is determined to ensure others have better — and more culturally appropriate — access to eye care so other families don’t have to go through what hers did.

She is among nine community health workers from Hood River’s One Community Health who were the first to receive training on the basics of eye health in November as part of a statewide effort to improve eye care access for the state’s under-served and under-insured residents.

Called the Oregon Vision Health Network, the effort involves OHSU’s Casey Community Outreach Program growing partnerships with community clinics across the state. OHSU will train local community health workers and clinical staff as vision health navigators who will help local residents determine if they need glasses or if they might have common sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. In addition, OHSU will provide its partner community clinics and their navigators ongoing support and resources, with the ultimate goal of addressing Oregon’s vision health inequities.

“This statewide network provides local health leaders with the knowledge they need to prevent eye issues and preserve vision in their community,” said Mitchel Brinks, M.D., M.P.H., medical director of the OHSU outreach program and associate professor of ophthalmology in the OHSU School of Medicine. “We’re honored to work alongside community health clinics to better meet underserved Oregonians’ eye health needs right in their own backyards.”

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Ayala Echeverria is part of One Community Health’s preventative health team, which offers education and support for patients living with chronic illness. At least 500 of the clinic’s patients have diabetes, which can lead to vision-threatening issues if it isn’t controlled. She plans to use the information she learned at the training to help her fellow community members better understand their eye health risks and prevent conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

In addition to training local clinic staff, the Oregon Vision Health Network will bring advanced eye imaging equipment that uses a technology called Optical Coherence Tomography, or OCT, to up to eight partner clinics. OCT, which takes a quick cross-dimensional scan of the eye’s interior, provides a non-invasive way to diagnose and inform the treatment of eye diseases such as macular degeneration.

Community clinic staff will operate the OCT equipment locally, and send the resulting images to OHSU Casey Eye Institute ophthalmologists in Portland, who will then review and provide recommendations for the clinics’ patients.

In December, One Community Health in Hood River is expected to become the first partner clinic to receive this equipment.

Being a network partner allows One Community Health to expand the services it offers its 18,000 patients, about 64% of whom are on Medicaid or uninsured and about 40% of whom speak Spanish. The federally qualified health center currently offers behavioral health, primary medical care and dental services. Soon, it will also offer some basic eye health services at its Hood River clinic as well as at its mobile health clinics.

Although they won’t provide advanced eye care in house, they will help connect their patients with local eye providers if needed. One Community Health aims to help its patients understand their risks and take preventative steps now, so specialized care isn’t needed later.

“This creates a new level of access for our community,” said Gladys Rivera, One Community Health’s director of preventative health. “When you screen a patient ahead of time, you can treat eye issues early and prevent blindness.”

Throughout the Oregon Vision Health Network’s first five years, patients will receive care for free. The equipment and infrastructure needed to make this possible is supported by two generous gifts, totaling $3.25 million, that were jointly given to the OHSU Casey Community Outreach Program by philanthropist Heather Killough and the Roundhouse Foundation in early 2021.

The Oregon Vision Health Network expands the OHSU Casey Eye Institute’s efforts to end preventable blindness. The OHSU Casey Community Outreach Program’s mobile eye clinic has provided free eye exams to more than 10,000 Oregonians in every corner of the state since 2010. But while the OHSU mobile clinic can only visit each community about every 1.5-2 years, trained community health workers and clinical staff can screen local residents for eye diseases year-round.

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Above, from left to right, sophomores Jennevee Grajeda-Morales, Kimberley Esparza-Avalos and freshman Zanna Diffin, center, leads a walkout in support of sexual assault survivors around Hood River Valley High School (HRVHS) on Nov. 15. Small blue ribbons were given to students and staff who …

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Several members of the public walked out of Thursday’s North Wasco County School Board meeting in reaction to the board’s approval to dismiss The Dalles High School faculty member Wayne Gibson.

Well, it’s the beginning of the holiday season — when we enjoy the company of family and also gain seven pounds by the start of the New Year! But while visiting with parents, children, grandchildren, or all three, it can be difficult navigating around and through past hurts and slights that …

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At a Senate Education Committee meeting on Monday, superintendents and representatives from school boards and teachers associations detailed dire staffing situations across the state that are harming students and even potentially violating federal law.

HOOD RIVER — During the Nov. 10 meeting of the Hood River County School District Board of Directors, special recognition was given to military veterans who now work for HRCSD.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and classes were suddenly online, a lot of teachers found themselves thrust into different roles. Though many just went from teaching their subject in-person to teaching it in an online format, Jen Hart found herself teaching a new subject entirely.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide ranks as the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10-34. In 2019, there were nearly two and a half times as many suicides (47,511) in the United States as there were homicides (19,141). Accord…

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PORTLAND — Three California condors hatched and raised at the Oregon Zoo’s Jonsson Center for Wildlife Conservation went soaring through the open skies of Arizona last month, marking another important step in the effort to save this critically endangered species from extinction.

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HOOD RIVER — Hood River County School District Board Members approved an Oregon Department of Education Re-engagement Opportunity Grant of $240,000, received by Hood River Valley High School, at its Oct. 27 virtual board meeting.

Youth Outreach Worker Julio Cobb-Hernandez, center, with co-workers Paola Escobedo (left) and Jesica Campos (right), visited Hood River Middle School Oct. 19 and Hood River Valley High School Oct. 21 (pictured) to make pronoun buttons for students.

Students enrolled in Advanced Manufacturing, Construction Technology and Aviation Maintenance at Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) will receive tools for their new trades thanks to support from the Roundhouse Foundation, according to a press release from CGCC.

THE DALLES — The North Wasco county District 21 school board unanimously voted to approve and adopt the virtual learning curriculum Acellus as the online learning option for virtual academy students in the Oct. 28 regular meeting, .

Last season, while most sports teams were on the benches due to COVID, the Hood River Valley High School Speech and Debate Team continued to meet and compete virtually, attending more than 16 tournaments, many of them spanning two days and with weekend commitments. The team went on to become…

Friends of the Columbia Gorge hosts a virtual webinar panel of educators to explore how place-based, outdoor education can be a critical part of connecting children and communities to the natural world on Wednesday, Nov. 10 from 6-7:30 p.m.

Gardening education and advice is needed now more than ever. The OSU Extension Master Gardener program is training new community educators in 2022, who will help provide advice and support for Oregon’s growing community of gardeners. Due to the COVID pandemic, training new Master Gardeners w…

BINGEN — Making the world a better place for our children is a commonly held goal across different cultures. Juan Reyes, the eldest child of immigrant seasonal workers, works daily to give his three girls more opportunities than he had as a young boy.

Friends of the Columbia Gorge’s Gorgeous Wildlife webinar series, led by local specialists in their respective fields, returns just before Halloween with another look at a favorite critter from our previous programs, the bat.

THE DALLES — The Columbia Gorge Education Service District (ESD) has announced a grant from Google to support the district’s goal of creating and increasing school-based mental health services for students in Wasco County. The $100,000 grant will help Columbia Gorge ESD fund additional progr…

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HOOD RIVER — Protesters took to both sides of Eugene Street on Oct. 13 before the Hood River County School District Board Meeting at the Coe Administration Building.

HOOD RIVER — Hood River County School District was notified Aug. 19 that Gov. Kate Brown had issued a new directive legally requiring all K-12 school district staff, substitutes and volunteers to become fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18.

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PORTLAND — The Oregon Zoo welcomed some big-time royalty recently: King, a 3,000-pound rhinoceros from Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, arrived in town Sept. 10 and is making himself at home at the zoo’s new Rhino Ridge.

Dr. Marta Yera Cronin, president of Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC), has chosen to be part of Presidents for Latino Student Success and the Excelencia in Action network, according to a press release from CGCC.

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