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Coos County set to begin road damage assessment

COOS COUNTY — Coos County officials are now able to assess the damages caused by the recent winter storm following Tuesday’s local emergency declaration.

According to the Coos County Emergency Manager Mike Murphy, now that the county has submitted its declaration to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, the state agency will soon require the county to complete an initial damage assessment.

Ed Glazar, The World 

A driver navigates a lane closure along east of Lee Valley Road and Trinity lane east of Coquille where the road was damaged by heavy rains this week.

In about a week or so, the request should come in, he said. The assessment will take a survey of the county and record the damages to its roadways, which was caused by multiple landslides, debris, fallen trees and flooding.

If the assessment reaches a certain county level and state level threshold then federal assistance will be provided.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will also perform an additional assessment to verify the county’s estimates for funding. The entire process happens quickly and take about two weeks, said Murphy.

So far, the estimated value for repairs to the county’s roadways is about $740,000. It is possible this figure could increase. The local declaration has begun the process in the county’s efforts to gain financial assistance from the state.

County officials expect the additional costs of repairs from the storm will cause the county to quickly exhaust its local resources.

A STEM sisterhood: After-school program empowers middle-school girls

COOS BAY – If technology is the future, sixth-grader Jade Moon plans to be ready.

Every Wednesday afternoon, Jade logs onto a laptop and joins other girls to learn the fundamentals of computer programming. Their after-school class, “Girls Who Code,” encourages middle-school girls to explore careers in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

“I just love the fact that I’m learning all this stuff that I can use in the future,” Jade said. “If I decide to be a programmer, I can.”

Girls Who Code is a nationwide organization that aims to close America’s gender gap in technology. With nearly 90,000 girls involved nationwide, the movement challenges the antiquated notion that math and science are mostly for boys.

The local chapter meets weekly at the Boys & Girls Club in Coos Bay. It’s being supported this year by a $7,000 grant from the Coquille Tribal Community Fund. Jackie Chambers, the Coquille Tribal member who administers the fund, is enthusiastic about the program.

“Part of the Coquille Indian Tribe’s focus is to help our young people get an education and advance in life,” Chambers said. “We’re proud to make this contribution, and we can’t wait to see what these girls accomplish in their lives.”

The women who lead and teach the local group use words such as “empowerment” and “sisterhood” to describe the spirit of Girls Who Code. They say their goal is to break the cultural barrier that still discourages girls from pursuing STEM subjects.

The national program’s website boasts of building “the largest pipeline of future female engineers in the United States.”

“It’s a huge tool for the future,” said Courtney DuMond, a volunteer in the local program.

On one recent Wednesday, the girls learned about using a simple programming language to create a quiz game. They also learned the real-world skill of setting specific, measurable project goals.

Each year the girls are asked to apply their technological lessons to a project with social implications. This year’s team chose anxiety and depression. They’ll address the subject with tools such as building a website or making a video. Thus they learn to use technology while practicing teamwork, problem solving and compassion.

“I’d like to get the people who have depression and anxiety some help,” Jade said.

And every Wednesday, while Jade works to help others, Girls Who Code works to strengthen Jade’s own future.

Students form first ever Black Student Union at SWOCC

COOS BAY — Longing for a space that not only included representation, but an inclusive environment where African-American students can come together to share and celebrate their cultures, friends Dee Mitchell and Aayzia Dumas had an idea.

The Southwestern Oregon Community College students combined their skills, interests and experience to form the school’s first ever Black Student Union (BSU).

“We both noticed there weren’t a lot of African-American students on campus and it was kind of a culture shock for us,” said Mitchell. “I think by having this group that we can really do some great things and teach the community about Afro-centric history.”

Although, she wasn’t on board at first, Mitchell, 25, said after numerous conversations with Dumas that she realized the full potential and benefits associated with having a local BSU club.

“I am a confident and outspoken person, but being a black student here I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend my experience in a predominantly white community making everything black,” said Mitchell. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to get backlash from it…especially with the history of Coos Bay and sometimes getting stares around town.”

That being said, it all changed when she met Dumas, 18, who moved to the Bay Area from Las Vegas to attend SWOCC. Dumas’ support and passion for starting the club she added really helped propel the formation forward.

In January, BSU became an official chartered student group at SWOCC with nearly 40 students signing up on its initial interest sheet. Mitchell and Dumas said moving forward, they plan on centering meetings, which will take place once a month, on notable people and key moments in black history that goes beyond the period of slavery.

“The idea is to discuss Afro-centric history, traditions, music and food,” said Mitchell. “We also want to provide a welcoming space where people can talk about current controversies or challenges facing African-Americans today.”

Dumas said the club plans on hosting a number of events from now until the summer break. A movie screening and discussion as well as an open-mic night are currently in the works.

After graduation, Mitchell said she hopes to transfer to Oregon State University (OSU) where she plans on majoring in marketing and media. She also said she wants to continue her education further with a master’s degree in business.

Before moving to Oregon, Mitchell lived in Michigan and at the age of 18 began her own nonprofit group, The SysterHood, an organization that supports and empowers young women to achieve their goals.

As for Dumas, she said she also hopes to transfer to OSU after graduation to pursue a degree in kinesiology. Dumas, a SWOCC track & field student-athlete, has been running since she was 6 years old.

“I love the adrenaline rush I get when I run,” said Dumas. “It’s a lot of hard work, training and pain, but you just have to push past it and realize that the pain is temporary. The feeling you get when you cross the finish line is great.”

The students are hopeful the BSU club will continue to grow and thrive beyond their years at SWOCC.

“At every meeting we do this thing called ‘affirming yourself,’” said Mitchell. “We do it to help people feel comfortable and able to express themselves freely.”

The only requirement for becoming a BSU member is that you must be a student enrolled at SWOCC. However, the events and meetings are open to the public and anyone can attend regardless of race, color, nationality or ethnicity.