In a ceremony yesterday in Portland, Oregon, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz presented the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the city’s 2012 “Making a Difference” award.  Pacific Regional Director Robyn Thorson accepted the honor on behalf of the Service for achievements made in the support of efforts to be more inclusive for people with disabilities.

This award recognizes the Fish and Wildlife Service’s many achievements in creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.  In the past several years, Regional Director Thorson formed the Diversity and Inclusion Workgroup to bring a variety of employees together to develop goals to provide support, direction and recommendations on matters of diversity and inclusion.

The City of Portland, in conjunction with partners from the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and the Connecting Communities Coalition, has presented this award for the past four years.  This is the first time it has been presented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Through Thorson’s leadership and direction, the Pacific Region’s Diversity and Inclusion Workgroup has successfully completed many projects that support this initiative.  These include:

  • Construction of a wheelchair-accessible fishing platform on Drano Lake in  Cook, Washington;
  • Support of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), providing job counseling and employment opportunities to individuals over the age of 55;
  • Sponsorship of Oregon State Universities”s Minorities in Agriculture and  Natural Resource Related Sciences (MANRRS) program with a trip to Ashland,  Oregon, and a private tour of the Service’s National Forensics Laboratory, the only forensic laboratory in the world dedicated to wildlife;
  • Opportunities for a Corporate Internship Program with Portland’s De La Salle North Catholic High School,  a work-study program offered to students from urban communities to challenge them with rigorous academic curriculum and develop real world work experiences;
  • Coordination of events such as the Annual Oregon Health and Science University’s “Night for Networking” that provided guidance on Executive Level sponsorship, bringing together communities of people with disabilities and connecting them with employers to highlight the skills and talents of those professionals;

and Development of a job-shadowing event that connected persons with a variety of disabilities with managers and supervisors throughout the Service’s Pacific Regional Office, which resulted in the hiring of individuals in skilled positions.

“I am proud of the work the Service has accomplished in the past year. Our dedicated staff displays the enthusiasm and passion that enable us to succeed in partnering with groups like the Madigan Army Hospital’s Operation Warfighter Program,” said Robyn Thorson, Pacific Regional Director.  “In the past year, we  have sponsored five wounded warriors and assisted them by providing part-time work opportunities while these heroic veterans are convalescing.”

Under Thorson’s direction, the Regional Office has hosted a myriad of special observance events, providing the opportunity for not only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, but also our federal partners, to experience the rich diversity of our Nation.  Each month events and workgroups are held that help educate and empower our employees to better understand and appreciate the richness of our varied culture.  Through Thorson’s leadership, the Pacific Region has hosted the following events during her tenure:

  • Native American students from the Chemawa Indian High School in Salem, Oregon, performed traditional dances and songs in recognition of National American Indian Heritage Month;
  • Noémi Ban, a holocaust survivor, delivered an inspirational speech to Regional Office employees and spoke of her experiences at Auschwitz-Birkenau;

Former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Betty Roberts spoke to Regional Office employees about her life and experiences in recognition of Women’s History Month.

In accepting the award, Thorson thanked her staff, especially her leaders in the Diversity and Civil Rights Division, for their support and dedication to these many important community programs that resulted in the City’s decision to honor us with this prestigious award.

Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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