In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Mentors connect with STEM students; cougars could pose threat

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Cheers: A local program called nConnect is helping to produce the next generation of scientists and engineers in Clark County. Started by Scott Keeney, co-founder and president of nLight, a Vancouver semiconductor laser manufacturer, nConnect helps bring professionals into advanced high school STEM classes to assist with education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. By providing mentoring and sharing real-world experiences, the volunteers help make high-tech fields seem within reach for today's students."If you ask scientists and engineers how they got into their field, it's often a teacher or mentor who influenced what courses and career paths they took," Keeney said. STEM education has become a focus for schools in Clark County and throughout the nation, and the kind of insight provided by people who work in those fields can only enhance the education received by today's students.

Jeers: A rash of cougar sightings have been reported near the Salmon Creek Greenway, a 3-mile trail stretching from Salmon Creek Regional Park to Felida Bridge at Northwest 36th Avenue. That's not to blame the cougars, who are doing what cougars do. But it could present a danger to people and pets. After all, you don't want to encounter something that likes to use trees as a scratching post.

Eric Holman, a Vancouver-based wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, said the best way for people to respond to a cougar encounter is to maintain eye contact, yell, and throw rocks at the animal. Seeing a cougar from a distance probably won't present a danger to hikers. But, as an article by Columbian reporter Paris Achen quotes Holman as saying, if the cougar is on someone's porch, "in that case, someone should call 911." We'll consider that good advice.

Cheers: Compass Coffee, located at 13th and Main Street in downtown Vancouver, has tapped into the considerable Christmas spirit that Rob Figley long shared with the community. The company has introduced "Figley's Blend," a holiday-themed roast designed to honor the man who died in September at the age of 57. Figley was a giant in the community, best known for his uncanny resemblance to Santa Claus and his generous nature.

With each order of Figley's Blend, which was created with the blessing of Figley's widow, Compass is donating $2 to the Children's Center, a local nonprofit mental health clinic. That seems an appropriate way to honor Figley. As Compass Coffee owner Bryan Wray said, "He knew what it meant to live the life of bringing happiness and joy to other people."

Jeers: A report from The Associated Press notes that Amtrak's eastbound Empire Builder line had an on-time performance of zero percent in October. The Empire Builder line runs from either Portland or Seattle and heads east through Montana and North Dakota. An increase in freight traffic and vast construction on the tracks is blamed for the poor on-time performance.

Delayed train lines are frustrating not only for travelers but for those who are waiting for arrivals. And the solution would appear to be simple. When your on-time performance is zero percent, it might be time to alter the train schedules.

Cheers: We like slice-of-life stories, the kind that illuminate regular people doing regular things. You know, like a recent article by Columbian reporter Sue Vorenberg about Royals Barber Shop on Fourth Plain Boulevard. Royals is one of the many places reviving the seemingly lost art of the straight-razor shave. Long glorified in movies — be it Westerns or gangster films — the straight-razor shave evokes memories of another time. The difference these days: Most of the customers come in to have their head shaved rather than their beard.