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Big Brothers Big Sisters connect with Barnes Elementary School buddies

Fifth-graders get a chance to pick out a perfect pumpkin

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Trynity Kilburn grabs a couple of pumpkins at Plumper Pumpkin Patch to put in a bag held by her Big Sister Tracy Preston.Despite a little drizzle, fifth-graders from Barnes Elementary School got a treat Tuesday, taking a trip to Plumper Pumpkin Patch to enjoy a hayride, feed farm animals and pick out a perfect pumpkin to take home.

All the while, they were accompanied by a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest, who in this case were Comcast employees.

For some, it was the first time they had ever been to a farm.

Nineteen of the students were paired up with 19 of their Comcast mentors in a one-on-one experience as part of the Beyond School Walls program.

“It’s a workplace mentoring program,” said Rebecca Brown, a community investment manager for Comcast Oregon and Southwest Washington. Brown said the program helps to provide a mentor in the lives of those students who may need one.

For some of the students, this was the fourth year they’ve been on outings with the Beyond School Walls program, after being introduced to the program in the second grade. In general, the Big Brothers Big Sisters program strives to help young people enjoy educational success, avoid risky behaviors and develop greater confidence and better relationships through one-on-one mentorship programs.

At the same time, said Brown, the program gives students a chance to see the different types of job opportunities available to them.

After an introduction to the farm, the first order of business was a hayride, where students and mentors climbed aboard wagons for a short ride around the 65-acre farm located off of Old Cornelius Pass Road in rural Washington County.

During the ride, Farmer Jim (aka Jim Kessinger), gave a short history lesson about the farm.

“Did you know there’s a train tunnel under the property?” he asked the students, explaining that the mile-long tunnel was built in 1910 or 1911. “That silo is directly on top of the tunnel.”

Kessinger said the tunnel provided a modern touch to a rural setting with the railroad company agreeing that the farm could have electricity (to an extent) if the then-owners agreed to the completion of the tunnel.

“The contract said they could only have five light bulbs in the barn and three in the house,” said Kessinger, who has hosted a pumpkin patch at his farm since 1998.

What particularly impressed the students was a stop near an array of cannons and trebuchets used to hurl pumpkins and apples hundreds of yards in an effort to hit junked cars in an adjacent field.

Fifth-grader Miguel, accompanied by his Big Brother Eric Markman, said he had a good time on the hayride, his only regret being that he didn’t get to shoot one of the cannons.

Back at the barnyard, the fifth-graders and their mentors got a close look at some of the animals.

“He’s adorable,” said JaQuiya, a fifth-grader, while feeding hay to a cow. She said the field trip was the first time she ever had a chance to pet a cow.

Another fifth-grader, Timmy, said it was the first time he had seen a cow up close, adding he was having a great time at the farm.

“It’s awesome. It’s so cool,” he said. “I like how we go on these field trips. We can hang out with our big buds.”

Leo, another student, said he was surprised to find out how soft the head of a cow really was, and Selvin said he was enjoying seeing not only cows but pigs as well.

“He licked my hand,” Selvin said about the cow.

Selvin’s Big Brother, Dan Oleson, said he and Selvin have hung out together for about a year.

They even see each other outside the program, and Selvin has gone to events with Oleson and his two teenage children.

“We’ve gone to baseball games; we’ve gone to the state fair,” said Oleson. “We went to John’s Incredible Pizza.”

The last stop of the day was the pumpkin patch where each student got to pick out a perfect pumpkin before boarding the buses and heading home.Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Barnes Elementary School fifth-graders pet a cow at Plumper Pumpkin Patch.

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