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WINCHESTER BAY — At first glance, 8-year-old Mitchell Johnson was a bit hesitant to hop on board the U.S. Coast Guard Station Umpqua River’s 47-foot Motor Life Boat.

The boat, which was parked along a dock near the station, swayed slightly as Mitchell and a group of students, teachers and parents slowly approached it.

Kyle Dillahay hops Saturday into the drivers seat of the 47-foot Motor Life Boat as kids with the Oregon Connections Academy on a tour the at …

A quick, reassuring look and chat from USCG Boatswain Mate Enrique Lemos was all that was needed to empower the third grader and his peers into taking a step in and experiencing the vessel up close and personal.

“It was so much fun,” said Mitchell. “I was scared in the beginning, but I’m happy I went inside.”

Mitchell, who was joined by his niece Sophia and sister Janel, were touring the Coast Guard station Friday morning as part of an Oregon Connections Academy field trip, which encourages its students through its weekly outings to explore potential careers and interests.  

The online, public school, which serves students in grades K-12, has hosted hundreds of educational field trips throughout the state of Oregon.

Paula Leifer, a high school math teacher with ORCA, said with each trip the goals for its teachers are that students begin to think about what they plan on doing professionally after school.

“I know the group we had today was younger, but this could be a trip that when they do get older they can look back on and remember,” said Leifer. “It might be something they would like to explore.”

Lemos, who led the tour, said he not only wanted to tell the students what they do at the station, but also show them.

USCG Boatswain Mate Enrique Lemos leads a group of kids from the Oregon Connections Academy on a tour Saturday of the 47-foot Motor Life Boat …

“We did a demonstration where we threw a heaving line, which we pretty much use for everything,” said Lemos. “We use it to pass tow gear when boats are disabled or to reel someone in from the water back to the boat.”

The station, which primarily works on rescue missions and law enforcement duties from Heceta Head to southern Coos Bay, was established in 1962 and currently features about 43 active personnel.  

Lemos was also joined by two machinery technicians, who shared their experience and responsibilities with maintaining and repairing the station’s boats.

About five students, who ranged from first to eight grade, attended Friday’s trip from around ORCA’s south coast region. Christina Duval, of Bandon, joined her son, 13-year-old Lucas, on the tour and said it was an experience she was happy they could be a part of.

USCG Boatswain Mate Enrique Lemos leads a group of kids from the Oregon Connections Academy on a tour Saturday of the 47-foot Motor Life Boat …

“We’ve been in ORCA for about five years and so it’s always great to see the teachers again and meet the other families whenever we can,” Duval said. “I really liked how (the Coast Guard) broke down their tasks and made it easy for all the kids to understand.”

According to Leifer, this was the first time the school took a trip to the Coast Guard Umpqua River Station.

“A lot of our students in this area don’t get to see much outside their local community so it was nice to be able to showcase and highlight the Coast Guard, which sometimes we forget is here,” said Leifer. “We really appreciate our local military members and their service.”

ORCA, which was founded in 2005, has over 100 certified, licensed professional staff members throughout the state. According to its website, its class of 2018 high school students earned over $900,000 in scholarship awards.

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Reporter Amanda Linares can be reached at 541-266-2039 or by email at amanda.linares@theworldlink.com.

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