Every summer, the Grant Magazine staff holds a journalism camp for rising seventh through ninth graders. Their stories are posted here, on the Grant Magazine website.
Looking out over the clear blue water and embracing the feel of a secluded park and large Rocky Mountains around her, Mikennah Schwing breathed in the fresh air. She took a last look at Glacier National Park.
Schwing, a 2015 Grant graduate has always had a passion for nature and animals. Her recent trip to the park in Montana was one of the most memorable trips of her life so far. “I liked being in a place that was so untouched I guess,” Schwing says. “I just like being in nature because of that.”
For many people, the environment is something expendable. But Schwing sees how valuable nature is. Schwing cherishes being in the outdoors and wants to do everything she can to make it a better place. “There’s a lot going on with global warming and everything and I want to be able to help,” she says.
Schwing strives to help the environment in any way she can, whether it be through volunteering, getting involved in clubs, or simply picking up garbage.
Nature, the environment and animals have always been a part of Schwing’s life. When she was born, her parents had a cat that gave birth to kittens on their porch. Growing up, the cat, named Benny, was like her sibling, because she was an only child. “He was a kitten and I was a baby, so we just like grew up together and we were definitely really close,” says Schwing. She also had dogs, fish and a guinea pig.
When Schwing was eight, she participated in a camp at the Oregon Humane Society, a private non-profit animal shelter located in Portland. Schwing thoroughly enjoyed the camp and continued doing it for several more years. She even decided to volunteer her time there when she was older.
Spending time with the animals and playing with them made her feel happy and she enjoyed being able to help. “It felt really good just for them to have someone to be with…even just playing with them felt like better than doing nothing,” says Schwing.
Hiking and camping with her family also contributed to her love of nature. She and her dad especially share a connection with the natural world. “We kind of both have a passion for it,” says Schwing. The two of them would try, at least once a week, to spend the day hiking or being in the outdoors.
“Being interested in the environment has definitely strengthened our relationship. It is something that we both love doing, especially together. It gives us a special bond that I couldn’t have with anyone else. It’s a really good and positive way that we can always stay close,” says her father, Mike Schwing.
“Me and my family would go camping and hiking and like kayaking, just different outdoors things and you just kind of notice the little things about being out there, just like garbage everywhere,” says Schwing. “Even the little things make a difference when there’s so much going on that’s wrong with the environment.”
Schwing fondly remembers camping in the Painted Hills in Wheeler County with her mom and dad. “We were camping in the painted hills and there was kind of just like this moment where we were all together and we just like had a blanket and my family was all out there on the blanket just like watching the stars,” she says, “and it was just kind of one of those moments that you just kind of look back on because the stars are so much better than they are in the city.”
As she transitioned to high school, Schwing continued to pursue her love of nature by joining Environmental Club and Key Club, an organization that gives high schoolers leadership skills. Getting involved with these extracurricular activities at Grant helped Schwing discover how much the environment meant to her. “I always loved nature, but I didn’t really know I wanted to do my career in nature until I kind of like joined Environmental Club,” she says.
Schwing is passionate about finding ways she can help others and the community around her. “I guess it’s kind of a value of mine that other people need help especially more than I do,” she says. “It just makes me feel good helping people.”
Moving forward, Schwing would like to continue helping the earth in her future. She plans to major in environmental studies at PCC for the next two years and then hopes to transfer to the University of Washington for the remainder of her college schooling.
Schwing is determined to dedicate herself to make a difference in the environment. “I want to make it a better place to live, in any small ways that I can,” she says.