May 12, 2022
In the past year, youth at the Donald E. Long Detention Center in Northeast Portland have set and achieved many educational goals, and have even earned national recognition along the way.

Last October, two units at the center finished in the top 10 for a nationwide songwriting competition that was designed to address social conditions and the struggles that they and other youth face.

Soon after, youth also took first and third places in an engineering and design project in which participants developed housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness.

Now, youth at Donald E. Long have yet another accomplishment to add to their list, after officially being named Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors with Portland’s local National Weather Service office. As ambassadors, they help build community resilience to weather, water, and climate-related hazards by sharing safety and preparedness information with their family and friends. 

The students created unique weather rap songs, also known as “Weather Slaps,” with lyrics that reference the dangers of wildfires, heat waves and other climate events that too often take a disproportionate toll on communities of color and other communities with fewer resources. 

The “Weather Slaps” build on the work the youth are already doing, like measuring rain, collecting daily precipitation and communicating that data from the Donald E. Long School’s weather station. The data is visible to the public as station OR-MT-141 and is used by multiple federal and local agencies to track the changing weather. That work is done in partnership with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), a citizen-science program that provides supplies for this work. 

Staff from the Multnomah Education Service District and the detention center are supporting the ambassadors.

“Participating as certified weather ambassadors and in citizen science projects allows students to become part of the solution,” said Jennifer Hastings, a Multnomah Education Service District science teacher who helped spearhead much of the project. 

“This is a way in which our youth can actively participate as contributing scientists and members of the weather and climate enterprise. And reach the community through their voices.”