Clean Water Ambassadors Leave Their Mark in Paint


Every morning for six weeks, the Clean Water Ambassadors made their way on foot, buses, and trains to downtown Seattle for their paid summer internship. Most days they piled into a fifteen-passenger van to visit sites all around King County, including the Ballard Locks, the landfill, the Issaquah Hatchery, the Bullitt Center, and a culvert replacement project on Zackuse Creek. The field trips introduced them to current projects in King County such as ecological restoration at Lake Sammamish State Park and a new wet weather storage facility in the Rainier Valley.

“This internship is an interactive experience that educates us about careers, efforts and struggles that go into environmental conservation. I was also exposed to wastewater treatment and the cultural and historical implications of salmon and history of Washington. Through the internship we learned about ourselves, other people, and the world” – Risa Suho, Kent Meridian High School

Out of over 250 applications, ten students were selected for this program. Each had their own reason for applying to the program: some were interested in learning how government agencies and nonprofit organizations work, some wanted to explore a specific career path, some sought professional communication skill development. They represent different schools, different communities, different perspectives.

“Water is part of our daily lives and we should understand where it comes from and where it goes. This program made me understand the importance of that. Not only that, this internship taught me many different life skills and lessons like knowing how to connect with people, public speaking, etc. This was a valuable learning experience.” – Calvin La, Cleveland High School

With the goal of fostering the next generation of environmental leaders, King County Wastewater Treatment Division and the Greenway Trust offered this intensive summer internship for high school students. As the interns learn about human and natural water systems, they are answering questions such as “Where does our water come from, and where does it go when we’re done using it?” and “How can we help conserve healthy salmon streams?”

Throughout the six weeks, the interns used low- and high-tech equipment to measure the water quality of salmon streams. Their stream surveys also included notes on the streamside plants, streambed composition, number of pools and riffles, amount of large woody debris, and so on. They evaluated Issaquah Creek at three sites; they also evaluated the Tolt River, the Duwamish River, and Longfellow Creek. Overall, they found these salmon streams lacking in woody debris and native trees and shrubs growing in the riparian zone.

They gained valuable field experience, honed their leadership and communication skills, and made professional connections. The interns spent two days a week in a computer lab working on their portfolios. They wrote letters to their King County councilperson and to a Greenway Trust Board Members, fine-tuned their resume, and recorded stream survey data in an Excel spreadsheet. At the end of the internship, each intern synthesized their experience by giving a final professional presentation to staff and community members. On these computer lab days, they also interviewed professionals: they got to hear about someone’s work now but also the academic and professional path they took to get there. The interns noted that most people they interviewed did not take a ‘direct flight’ to their current work, but that they were happy.

This internship is about more than salmon and water systems, it starts conversations about who has access to green spaces. A person who cares about a place is more likely to seek skills and opportunities to help take care of that place. “Many people don’t necessarily have access to forests/outdoors/environment even if they live near it.” – Shi’anne Shelton, Henry M. Jackson High School

The summer portion of the internship has ended, but the Clean Water Ambassadors are just getting started. They will spend another 40 or more hours during the school year using what they learned this summer to make an impact their community. This cohort is the first to pilot this school-year extension. Community engagement is an integral part of the work that the Greenway Trust and King County do.

The video was created by Cherry Street Films. The mural you see in the video was created under the direction of Amanda Jorgenson of Urban Artworks. This internship program is supported in part by the Boeing Company.

If you are interested in receiving an email alert when the application for the 2019 internship is available, please email Becca Kedenburg at