A few weeks ago, Terrell arrived back in the States from a momentous study abroad semester in New Zealand. Now a senior at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR, Mwetta was fulfilling the study abroad graduation requirement for this internationally-focused school, and—according to him—it was quite an enthralling experience!
Based in Wellington on New Zealand’s north island, Terrell describes how a full two thirds of their semester was actually spent traveling around to a diverse array of locations throughout the country.
“It was a four-part program,” says Mwetta,”focusing on conservation, culture, biology and then science/technology and society.”
The students’ excursions included intrepid ventures to remote hot springs where they looked at geothermal activity and the micro-biology communities there. One of the “craziest” experiences Terrell describes was taking a helicopter onto one of the glaciers of Mt. Cook—the tallest peak of Southern Alps.
When Terrell connected with BBBS to tell us about what he’s been up to, he was in the midst of a fleeting interim three weeks before embarking on a busy internship during the final summer of his college career. He’s scheduled to graduate in the spring of 2019 with a major in Political Science.
Though he calls it his “summer break”— with the busy and committed way Terrell has handled all of his college summers, “break” isn’t quite the appropriate word to use in his case. A break from academics, sure, but since embarking on his college career in 2014, Mwetta has committed every one of his summers to enriching internships and service-related job experiences that have cumulatively given him a diverse and impressive resume before he’s even entered the full-time workforce.
“The summer leading into college I was with Asheville Greenworks,” he explains,”Which was more focusing on the environmental side of things.
Additionally, he’s spent one summer interning at the Carl Sandburg Home in Flat Rock, NC with the American Conservation Experience, and even spent one interning with the Sierra Club and another as a park ranger with Rosie The Riveter WWII Home Front National Park in Richmond, CA, an inspiring and educational experience where he got to work side-by-side with Betty Soskin, who is renowned for being the oldest ranger in the National Parks system. 96 years old and still on the job.
“I also had the opportunity to intern with my congressman here in Portland—Earl Blumenaur—last year, which was part of my interest shifting more from the environmental to the political engagement sphere,” he says.
Sticking with that public engagement and local policy theme, Terrell will be interning with the City of Portland’s “Prosper Portland” , the city’s community and economic development commission. Signing on as one of the programs project managers with economic development, Mwetta is looking forward to focusing on promoting development and small business activity in lower income and minority communities.
“So we’ll be trying to do community engagement with those people and to try to figure out what kinds of businesses are ideal and needed in those communities. I’ll also be trying to engage youth to connect them with the jobs programs that are available—I’m really excited about that part,” he says.
Terrell was first matched as a Little Brother in BBBS’ Community-Based Program in 2005 with his Big Brother, Jimmy Vestal (who now serve on BBBS’ Board of Directors). Though they were officially matched for 8 years, the two of them are still friends and keep in touch—grabbing lunch or hanging out whenever Terrell is back in town.
“Terrell was a very inquisitive and sharp student,” recalls vestal, “He loved politics and was a student of our government process even at an early age. I remember him once getting into trouble with a teacher by arguing that she was trampling on his rights. I think it might have had to do with her wanting him to be quiet in class.”
Coming from a single-parent home (like all BBBS Littles) having Jimmy’s support and friendship was always a welcome auspice for Terrell, “Just having someone there supporting me with me pursuits and passions and just being a non-stressful outside friend to hang out with. I never had to worry about any family drama spilling over into our relationship—I just got to hang out with him,” says Terrell, “It wasn’t anything specific—it was just having that ongoing support that helped a lot.”
As for what the future holds, Terrell isn’t 100% sure yet. It depends on how this summer goes with Prosper Portland. On the one hand, he explains, he’s created a pretty powerful network of people and opportunities in Portland over the last four years and he may want to follow the opportunities to make his big impact right there in that city. On the other, he has a soft-spot for his old stomping grounds of Western North Carolina and the opportunities afforded in this part of the country, i.e. to get back involved with the National Parks Service.
Either way, there’s little doubt that this young soon-to-be graduate has created abundant opportunities for himself and we’re looking forward to hearing more about his adventures in the coming years.
As for his Big Brother, Jimmy, reflecting on his experience with Terrell—not only as his Big Brother, but as friend, Vestal says “I’ve really gotten two important things out of this relationship with Terrell: the chance to play hide-and-seek for the first time in decades and a chance to get to know one of the most interesting adults I have ever met.”
Check out some of Terrell’s photos from his college journeys: