Ellison Randall didn’t anticipate she would someday be pursuing environmental activism.
Ever since she was little, the 18-year-old Astoria native has had her sights set on becoming a veterinarian. A self-proclaimed animal lover, in high school she would spend her free time volunteering at animal shelters and the Wildlife Center of the North Coast.
But then life took a detour. Right before her senior year, Randall left Astoria High School to work through some personal issues.
Later that year, she decided to enroll at Clatsop Community College to study for her GED, which she received by the end of the school year.
“(That experience) was a big boost to my confidence ... to know I can do stuff, even if it’s not the normal way,” Randall said.
While at the college, Randall was also introduced to Clatsop Works, a countywide paid internship program. She asked if there were any opportunities to work with animals or the environment. Around the same time, the Haystack Rock Awareness Program had just applied to be a hosting employer.
Clatsop Works sent in her application and she became the program’s first intern.
“It was kind of magical timing, actually,” said Anna Stamper, the coordinator for Clatsop Works.
For 10 weeks, Randall attended marine education conferences, did shifts on the beach and learned about other environmental nonprofits. She enjoyed identifying and talking about all of the creatures found in tidepools and on the rock.
The mission of the awareness program, which is to protect the marine reserve and educate people on why that’s important, is something that appealed to her.
“Helping people, animals, the environment ... it’s everything I like,” she said.
By the end of summer, she had found a new passion for environmental activism. She now works for the program as a part-time lead interpreter.
“I’ve always had my focus on animals, so the obvious thing you think of is ‘vet,’” Randall said. “In these environmental programs, it allows you to spread out that passion over a broader area.”
She’s now sitting at a crossroads, deciding whether to pursue environmental activism or veterinary science. Randall plans to work both as an interpreter and as a kennel tech at Bayshore Animal Hospital in Warrenton for the immediate future to help her decide which track to pursue.
Either way, she is thankful for the experience.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience for what I want to do with my life,” she said.