Cheney Free Press -

By Grace Pohl
Staff Intern 

Jace Bylenga named Activist in Residence at EWU

 

February 1, 2018



Jace Bylenga was recently introduced as the first male “Activist in Residence” (AIR) at Eastern Washington University.

For the fifth year in a row, the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and the Women’s and Gender Education Center are the lead organizers of the AIR on EWU’s campus.

According to the department’s website, the purpose of the AIR program is to: strengthen the commitment to community engagement for students, faculty and staff; enhance community partnerships and expand internship opportunities for EWU students; provide active role models for students, and inspire students to overcome barriers to community engagement; and help students develop leadership skills and abilities, enabling them to become effective activists in their communities.

Bylenga has been a part of the Sierra Club and was an integral part in a “Coal Free” movement. His efforts have been successful as coal trains are now not allowed to be increased in a designated area, which means they can only stay constant or decrease the number of trips.

“It takes a lot of bravery to stand up and share your story,” Bylenga said. “What it really comes down to is what actually motivates people”

The eastern Michigan native had a distinctive moment when he knew he wanted to help the environment. In his home where he grew up, he could always hear frogs in his backyard, which ended up making him really interested in biology. Flash forward a few years and his family put in an in-ground pool in his backyard. His dad eventually had to go around asking how to clean the pool and was recommended a mixture of chemicals, which did get the job done.

“But I couldn’t hear the frogs anymore,” Bylenga said.

Bylenga told his dad about the frogs being gone and wondered if there was a correlation with the chemicals. Bylenga said his dad’s face was changed with true horror and shock at himself for possibly killing the frogs without even knowing it.

“That is when I realized maybe we just need to understand more,” Bylenga said. “That’s what got me excited about talking to people about helping the community”

As the Activist in Residence at EWU, Bylenga will be hosting five different workshops that started on Jan. 31 and meet consecutive Wednesdays until March 7 when he presents the second of two panels in his AIR series. Every workshop is from 3:15 – 5 p.m.

“The workshops are to learn essential skills to have as citizens,” Bylenga said. “If this turns out to be a success, I’d be amazed at the impact of student engagement on issues they feel strongly about.”

Grace Pohl can be reached at grace@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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