• MHCC Forestry Student Wins Oregon Society of American Foresters Award

    Richard (R.J.) Occhuito, a second-year student in Mt. Hood Community College’s Forestry program, recently won the Community College Outstanding Student Award from the Oregon Society of American Foresters. The OSAF presents the award annually to an Oregon community college student who maintains membership in the Society of American Foresters (SAF) and who actively participates in their college’s SAF chapter and possesses good academic standing.

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    Occhiuto was recognized for his work leading MHCC’s student SAF chapter at state and national gatherings and for helping to organize volunteer events and fundraisers. As part of the award, Occhiuto received a $50 donation to MHCC’s student chapter in his name. MHCC will also host a plaque for a year with his name and the names of other OSAF Community College Outstanding Students inscribed on it.

    Occhiuto will graduate this spring with an Associate of Applied Science in Natural Resources Technology, Forest Resources. We interviewed Occhiuto to see what attracted him to the MHCC Forest Resources program and what he plans to do after graduation.

    Mt. Hood Community College: How did you get into forestry?

    R.J. Occhuito: I grew up on three acres of forested land near Johnson Creek and was a Boy Scout when I was younger, so a career in the woods was a natural fit for me. When I was a kid, I had an aspiration to be a mountain man like Jeremiah Johnson or an explorer like Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. And forestry is one of the few career paths where you can spend a day adventuring in the woods and get paid for it!

    MHCC: Why did you choose the MHCC Forest Resources program?

    R.J.O: I chose MHCC's forestry program based off of a recommendation from a friend who had gone through it a few years before me. I asked around, did some research, and found that the instructors are incredibly knowledgeable, that the curriculum provides a good foundation with which to launch a forestry career, and that many of the classes are hands on.

    MHCC: What did you enjoy most about the program?

    R.J.O: Being able to fell trees, run a saw, and use a drip torch during the wildland fire class sticks out to me. Almost every class included a field trip and plenty of work outdoors, which made the program really enjoyable. I also enjoyed how quickly I was able to accumulate skills and land a job. After the first year of the program, I was able to get a seasonal job as a ranger assistant at Milo McIver State Park.

    MHCC: What are your plans after graduating this spring?

    R.J.O: After graduation, I'll be living on the coast and working a seasonal job as a Forestry Technician for the United States Forest Service. I'll primarily be doing timber sale preparation. After saving up some money, I plan to attend Oregon State University and pursue a bachelor's degree in forest management.

    You can learn more about the Natural Resources Technology: Forest Resources program at mhcc.edu/NRT

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    From left to right, past SAF President Clark Seely, Oregon SAF Chair Werner Krueger, R.J. Occhuito and SAF CEO Matt Menashes