Kaylee Shearer has worked for the North Willamette Research and Extension Center for seven years

Kaylee Shearer grew up in the Canby area and while in high school began working at North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora.

She was 15 when she started and worked summers — first for the berry research program, then for just about every program at the center.

Shearer had also been a key member of the farm crew team of students who help with pretty much any job needed — from mowing grass, doing field work, and picking berries to painting, cleaning vehicles and driving tractors. There isn't anything she hasn't done or didn't want to learn.

After seven years at NWREC, Shearer is the student who has been with the center's team longer than anyone. Now in her senior year at George Fox University, Shearer will graduate in late April with a degree in interior design and hopes to find a job in construction project management.

COURTESY PHOTO: MIKE BONDI - Kaylee Shearer has been with the NWREC a record seven years, beginning her time at the research facility in Aurora when she was 15 years old. She'll graduate from George Fox University in April.

"It's kind of crazy to think I've been here at NWREC this many years," Shearer said. "But I just love being outside, getting to do all the different jobs we have going on, and I really like the people I get to work with. I've learned a ton."

Amanda Davis, Shearer's primary supervisor for the past several years as she has worked in the berry research program, said "Kaylee has been an incredibly important part of our team, especially in the past two years when she has taken on more responsibility in our research and in leading and teaching new students. I can always trust her to get any job done well and I have no doubt she will go on to be successful in her future."

The North Willamette Research and Extension Center employs between 20 to 30 high school and college students every year. Generally, about one-third are high school youth and two-thirds are college students.

Students typically work exclusively for specific programs — like berries, nursery/greenhouse, vegetables, small farms, and hazelnuts. The funding support for the students mostly comes from the faculty grants and contracts for the research and education programs they manage.

A group of three to five students are hired every summer to provide general support to the farm, too.

Farm Manager Marc Anderson coordinates much of the recruitment for high school students.

"We like finding high school kids like Kaylee, train them up, and hopefully keep them involved for three, four even five years. It's so much easier for us and our programs to have this continuity. Kaylee is some kind of record for us."

Anderson has a good pipeline for high school students at a couple local schools who teach career and technical education in agriculture. The faculty have good connections with other high schools in the area looking for science education and research experiences for students. The youth tractor safety training classes held every spring at NWREC are another source for spotting young students with good work ethics and equipment operating skills.

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