Future biologists awarded Forest Service -sponsored Skanner Foundation scholarships

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa, 2nd from left, poses with the USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region's Skanner Foundation scholarship recipients Ganiyat Karimu, center, and Nikki Nguyen, second from left, and De La Salle North Catholic High School officials following a reception at the agency's regional office March 13, 2019 in Portland, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Scott Batchelder.

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 27, 2019 – A pair of future biologists are the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s selectees for 2019 Skanner Foundation scholarships.

Nikki Nguyen and Ganiyat Karimu, both seniors at De La Salle North Catholic High School in Portland, Ore., were recognized March 13 during a reception at the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building, also in Portland, where the agency’s regional office is based.

Nguyen has a 4.0 grade point average, and is an active volunteer in her community.

“I do a lot with people,” she said. “One of the things I do is volunteer at a soup kitchen, where I serve meals for homeless people. I also volunteer at a church where every Friday night, they do a dinner for vulnerable women, (and) distribute hygiene products.”

She also works part-time at an OB-GYN clinic as part of a school-sponsored internship.

Nguyen has been accepted at Oregon State University, and said she plans to study biology and is considering a career in medicine, where she can explore how people interact with their environment and the impact of those interactions on their health.

She credits her mom for inspiring her interest in science.

“When she was younger she wanted to be a nurse and was always talking to me about how interested she was in biology and chemistry,” Nguyen said. “But I was also interested for my own sake, because I was very interested in living things, whether it was bacteria, or plants and animals.”

Karimu currently maintains a 3.94 grade point average, and has been accepted to Charles R. Drew University.

She’s also an active volunteer, and recently completed her second summer in a three-year internship at the Oregon Zoo, where she has worked in support of conservation education programs.

Last year, that work included mentoring youth from under-served communities, and leading overnight camping trips in the Columbia River Gorge and nearby state parks for the zoo’s UNO (Urban Nature Overnights) program.

“When I was younger, I wasn’t really interested in the forest,” she said. I was a city girl. The city trees were enough for me. Going out in the woods, with no electricity, wasn’t really my idea of relaxing. Volunteering with the zoo has changed that for me – I’ve jumped out of my comfort zone, a huge distance. (But) being at places like Eagle Creek, it showed me the peace (to be found) in nature,” she said.

Karimu and Nguyen both said they plan to study biology in college, and that they are trying to keep their options open, but have a strong interest in medicine and public health.

“I’m a question asker. I ask many questions. I know that I want to know the ‘why’ to everything. That pulls me to science, and what pulls me to biology is you can see the ‘why,’” Karimu said. “You can see it in the animal’s adaptation, for example.”

The Skanner Foundation partners with organizations throughout region to recognize high-potential students in Pacific Northwest region, and presents scholarships during the foundation’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Portland, Ore.

The USDA Forest Service is the foundation’s first federal partner, and sponsored two $1500 scholarships in both the 2018 and 2019 awards years.

Because the 2019 breakfast took place during the federal government shutdown, the Forest Service was unable to provide a representative at this year’s breakfast to present Karimu and Nguyen with their awards.

During the March 13 reception, Regional Forester, Glenn Casamassa said he wanted to ensure the students understood how much the agency values them, and values its investment in their future.

For more information about the Skanner Foundation and the foundation’s scholarship program, visit www.theskanner.com and use the links listed under the “Foundation” tab.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff report.

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