Celebration - Mentors and family members fete teenagers' accomplishments in Cornelius
by: Chase Allgood, Enrique Reyes (left) and David Espinoza of the Intel 4-H Tech Wizards program at Hillsboro High School, participate in a balloon-popping game during a Jan. 5 celebration at Centro Cultural in Cornelius. Four students from Forest Grove High School were among those receiving accolades for presentations they made regionally and abroad.

Balloons popped, music blared and the food just kept coming Jan. 5 as participants and supporters of the Intel 4-H Tech Wizard program in western Washington County came together at Centro Cultural in Cornelius.

The Tech Wizards, all high school students from Forest Grove, Hillsboro and Beaverton, have traveled regionally and internationally over the last 12 months to make presentations on environmental science, data management and geographical information systems (GIS).

Forest Grove High School sent four students - junior Luis Chavez, senior Maria Bahena and juniors Michael and Aaron Bautista - to conferences in San Diego, Calif., Skamania, Wash., and Latin America.

Chavez traveled to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic last October as part of a group presenting a tree inventory project performed in Hillsboro.

Bahena, a Tech Wizard for four years, led a workshop on GIS applications in watershed management based on her work in the 4-H Equipo Verde project at FGHS.

And the Bautista twins, who've been in Tech Wizards since they were freshmen, participated in a watershed restoration project co-sponsored by Oregon SOLV, Intel Corp. and the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

After all that, Tech Wizard leaders and family members, including adviser Lucinda Aguilar-Garcia of FGHS, figured the teenagers deserved a party.

'The whole point of the event was to celebrate the accomplishments of these great students,' said Lisa Conroy of the Oregon State University Extension Service, which partners with 4-H Youth Development in Washington County.

Light-hearted games and munchies preceded an inspirational speech by Sabino Sardineta, executive director of Centro Cultural.

'He regards these young people as heroes,' said Conroy. 'He encouraged them to keep on striving for excellence and act as role models for their peers.'

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