By Susan Trabucco, CNA Media Team
Editor’s note: The space confines of a printed newspaper limited the ability of CNews’ March issue to offer more information about near-native Concordian Jessica Rojas, NECN community and environmental engagement manager. Below, Susan tells you “the rest of the story.”
Jessica Rojas is a third generation Oregonian who grew up largely in northeast Portland – first at 31 Avenue and Going Streets. Then, in 1989, her family landed in a home near 27th Avenue and Wygant Street. That move brought first-time home ownership for her family, by qualifying to purchase a home through the Portland Development Commission Urban Homesteading program for low- to middle-income families. Her mother continues to live in the house.
A self-described “multi-cultural Chicana,” Jessica was raised by her ethnically-diverse family. She points to indigenous and Hispanic ancestral roots in the Southwest that predate the area’s inclusion as a territory of the United States. She is also a descendant of pioneers who traveled here by way of the Oregon Trail.
Attesting to the changes in the neighborhood over the past 35 years, Jessica attended Meek Elementary, which is now a technical high school, and attended the former Whitaker Middle School.
“Whitaker was closed due to the high levels of radon found there. Meek and King Elementary, near NECN’s offices, also tested positive for radon,” Jessica said. She pointed out that radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer in the country.
Because northeast Portland has been her home for all but a few years – while in college – it drew her back. Jessica’s first job out of college was at Tonalli’s, the popular donut shop on Alberta Street.
When eagerness to pursue her field of study could no longer be suppressed, she landed a job with the Bureau of Environmental Services for Metro. Now, with her job at NECN, she’s back in the neighborhood of her youth.
“I’m living my environmental dream by coming back to help people in this neighborhood develop a sense of place that I hope will encourage them to protect their environment,” she said. “I hope to teach people to not just reside here – but to truly live here.”
Jessica’s Tips: How to connect with people in your neighborhood:
- Host a block party
- Hold a native plant party
- Help a neighbor in need
- Just say “hello” and introduce yourself to people in your neighborhood
For more ideas, or with your own community engagement ideas, contact her at Jessica@NECocoalition.org or 503.388.5030.