At any other Oregon university, freshmen Stefanie Hood and Sarah Shankland would blend in among the crowded corridors of campus. But at Portland State, where the average age for undergraduates is 26.4, the Broadway Building roommates are the exception rather than the rule.
At any other Oregon university, freshmen Stefanie Hood and Sarah Shankland would blend in among the crowded corridors of campus.
But at Portland State, where the average age for undergraduates is 26.4, the Broadway Building roommates are the exception rather than the rule.
Despite this, Hood, 20, and Shankland, 18, represent a shift toward a younger, more involved student base in the South Park Blocks. And the duo has wasted little time making their impact felt on campus.
Since early January the two friends have been working with fellow Portland State students David Nokovic and Hanna Davis to organize a trip for a group of students to attend Power Shift 2009, a youth climate conference in Washington, D.C.
Thirty Portland State students are traveling to the nation’s capital for the conference, which runs from Feb. 27–March 2 and is slated to feature Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and possibly President Barack Obama.
The environmentally conscious group from Portland State will be convening with around 10,000 high school and college students from around the nation to lobby for climate legislation and learn about climate change and other environmental issues.
“It’s important that most of the people going are freshmen because it builds a young leadership on campus,” said Nokovic, who is also a freshman. “There are freshmen accomplishing things they never thought they could do before, including myself.”
Nokovic said there are four primary motivators for attending Power Shift 2009, including the state of the economy, environmental health, clean energy solutions and assuring energy security for the United States.
While Hood and Shankland are counting down the hours before their plane leaves early tomorrow morning, the road to their near departure was not navigated without a fair amount of hard work.
“Hannah was talking about the trip and we just got really interested,” Shankland said. “So we started talking and said, ‘We want to help.’ So we got thrown head on into it.”
The vast majority of Hood and Shankland’s efforts lied in recruitment and fundraising for the trip.
A grassroots approach was taken to recruiting students, as Hood and Shankland spoke to residents door to door in many of the University Housing buildings, handed out posters, delivered short class wraps and even created a Facebook group devoted to the cause.
To help with fundraising, Shankland worked with a few musically inclined friends to orchestrate a concert that was held in Food For Thought Cafe, located in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union, on Feb. 6.
That was not the first time Shankland had utilized her musical talent to benefit a worthwhile cause.
A Seattle native, Shankland organized a concert as a high school senior where she played piano to raise money to assist Harvey View Medical Center’s efforts to build some new intensive care units.
“It really did help, because my thing went to half of one of the ICUs. So now I am like, ‘Yes,'” Shankland said. “And now they’re all open … but I haven’t toured them. But that would be awesome. I would be like, ‘Hey, I made one of you—half of you.'”
Like her good friend and roommate, Hood has had her own experiences with outreach.
“In elementary school I was kind of naïve and one of the cats—he had a little scratch on his face—was being abused,” said Hood, who is from Corvallis, Ore. “So I walked house to house trying to raise money for the Humane Society.”
The Humane Society is still a significant part of life for Hood and Shankland, who frequently take trips to the Humane Society and pretend they are considering buying a cat just so they can play with the furry felines for a while.
“It’s a really good stress reliever,” Shankland said.
The young but active freshmen leaders connect on more than just the best way to get a free kitty play session. Hood and Shankland share music preferences and jive with one another when it comes to living habits like cleanliness.
And although they joke and giggle about it, both are fans of Southern vampire mysteries and claim they both possess a dorky sense of humor.
However, one of the strongest connections between the two is their passion and love for being environmentally conscious, even though Hood and Shankland had never really discussed this before finding out about Power Shift 2009 in January.
Pondering how two friends that spend much of their time together and have been active environmentalists for much of their lives had addressed this issue only after living together for several months, Hood and Shankland gave a traditional college student response.
They shrugged their shoulders and shot a look that said, “Go figure.”