MaST Volunteer enjoys donating her time
By Katie Cummings - Staff Reporter
Highline's Marine Science and Technology Center is very dependent on its volunteers.
"At the MaST Center, we heavily rely on a large team of over 80 volunteers who in 2016 donated nearly 8,000 hours of service," said Rus Higley, manager and instructor for the MaST Center.
One volunteer has exceeded standards and has put so much time into the MaST Center: Kay Vallejo.
Alone, Vallejo has donated 5,000 hours of her time volunteering at the MaST Center, which is the same as being fully employed for 2.5 years.
She is a retired educator, and has been informing the community about marine science for 14 years.
"I took Rus' oceanography class in 2003," Vallejo said. "I got into para- and special education to help myself and my students, and I enjoyed three days a week of volunteering."
"From 2003-2008, I became a student worker until it closed down. I graduated in 2008 and continued as a volunteer," she said.
She was even named Student Employee of the Year in 2007.
Vallejo volunteers in many areas of the MaST Center such as: Discovery Days, summer camps, the Marine Mammal Stranding Team, and supervising.
"I do a summer program, teaching kids about animals and climates," said Vallejo. "I have worked with three octopuses and it's such an in-depth program where volunteers, as well as student workers, can be hands-on and implement new ideas."
Vallejo doesn't have a very extensive marine science background, but that doesn't affect her involvement with the MaST Center.
"I actually owned a business. I worked in pet stores, and I was a para-educator at Truman High School for 13 years," Vallejo said.
Her favorite part of being at the MaST Center is having an impact on the kids.
"As a retired educator, working with the MaST Center and teaching a two-hour summer education class for kids, it's great when the parents acknowledge that kids remember," said Vallejo.
Her education background helps her with the students and kids who participate in the programs at the MaST Center, she said.
"If you introduce special-needs kids to science and math, they will excel," Vallejo said.
Her youngest son is also a volunteer, as well as a student, she said. Her oldest son works security at Highline, and together, they have been with Highline for about 14 years.
"You could say the Vallejo family has taken over," she said with a laugh.