Faces and Places Archives

Reflections of a VISTA – January 2019
Before the end his VISTA year, Bernard Rahming wrote a reflection on his VISTA experience on how it has impacted him personally and professionally.

“For me, the My Brother’s Keeper VISTA position was part of a larger transition in my journey. After nearly 10 years of direct service to underserved communities, I had run into my fill of frustrating policies, institutions, administrators and overall general ways of operating. I made the decision to learn how to become an agent for change and found Concordia University’s Community Psychology Program.

As a quick side note, you may be wondering what is community psychology. I did too before stumbling across the field a few years ago. From the Society for Community Research and Action, “community psychology goes beyond an individual focus and integrates social, cultural, economic, political, environmental, and international influences to promote positive change, health, and empowerment at individual and systemic levels.
The parallel between what I was learning in the classroom and what I was doing during the day was invaluable. I was able to learn theory and see in practice the same day. For example, I was able to use the Barbershop Reading program I was working on for Black Male Achievement (BMA) Portland as the final capstone for my community development class. I was able to do an in depth executive analysis on Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program (ORTOP) for my nonprofit management class because ORTOP is a partner of Oregon ASKs network.  Another example is I analyzed Measure 11 and it’s disparate impact on young men of color, for my policy and advocacy class. This was done right after leaving a BMA Steering Committee meeting where the repeal of Measure 11 was discussed. The number of ways in which I was able to weave the work I was doing as a VISTA to the work I was doing in the classroom and vice versa continues to grow each day forward.
Beyond the work, my time as a VISTA gave me the opportunity to establish roots in a new community. With OregonASK, I was able take a snapshot of the entire state and learn how the larger statewide systems worked or didn’t work. With BMA, I was able to deeply invest my time in Portland and connecting with people, organizations, institutions and systems focused on the health, safety and success of black men. The access and connections I’ve gained over the year has provided a platform to launch my career as an agent for change.
I would be remiss to mention the biggest highlight of the year of getting engaged to my wonderful fiancé who’s had her own journey of finding her role and purpose as a social worker here in Portland. Together we’ve found a home here and are excited for what lays ahead.
To sum it all up, my MBK VISTA year has given me a community, a family, a home, and a purpose. My only hope is that I was able to give as much back to the people and organizations I’ve served. As my MBK VISTA year comes to an end, I’m eager to take what I’ve gained and pay it forward.”

Centro Cultural Hosts White House Officials- August 2016
On July 14th, one Oregon program was lucky enough to host a White House Official as part of this years efforts to raise awareness for National Summer Learning Day. Established in 1972, Centro Cultural de Washington County is the oldest culturally specific Hispanic organization in Oregon serving large numbers of Latino residents. Centro fills an important role in their community as an all-purpose hub where people can access services, attend classes and be connected with resources of all kinds.

Opportunity YOU at Five Oaks Middle School- February 2016

Opportunity YOU was initially proposed by Eric McGuire, a 22­year veteran Social Studies teacher at Southridge High School in Beaverton. Eric worked with a  larger committee of teachers and Shirley Brock, Principal at Five Oaks, to develop the implementation and structure of the program. Over the past 10 years Eric became interested in the widening achievement gap within our education system, particularly noticing homework as an area of inequity where those without resources fall farther behind. Opportunity YOU is a homework club plus, and started this past fall at Five Oaks Middle School, the highest poverty impacted middle school in Beaverton School District. Opportunity YOU strives to reverse the achievement gap by creating opportunities for Five Oaks students.

Growing the World of Widgetarians- April 2014
Fidgets2Widgets was founded on the idea that students need a balance of technology, physical exercise and cooperative collaboration outside of the school day. In a world where technology is no longer just the future, it is the present, they have made technology a part of everyday learning. They focus on digital citizenship, project-based activities and maintaining a balance in all aspects of life as students learn and grow in this digital age.

The Wave of the Future, Circa 1983- March 2014
What does a diploma say these days? Does it tell potential employers or colleges about an individual’s skills, experiences, interests and competencies? OregonASK and the Afterschool Alliance, hope to help answer some of these questions by joining the newly established Badge Alliance, a network of organizations and individuals building and enhancing an open badging ecosystem. Part of their strategy involves piloting badging systems in afterschool and summer programs across the nation. Digital badges offer not only the opportunity to create a new currency of achievement, but also support achievements made during every part of the day and year bearing equal weight, which will allow afterschool and summer programs to be valued as legitimate contributors to an individual’s academic and social development.

The Portland Kitchen-November 2013
Portland is known for its food culture. From Screen Door to food carts to Poc Poc, there are foodies everywhere, with top class restaurants and specialty shops fueled by the passions of culinary entrepreneurs. Yet, in a city that is so passionate about its food, little is being done to educate and inspire the next generation of culinary artists. The Portland Kitchen is working to change that and so much more.

Let us Build Cully Park- October 2013
What does it mean to belong to a place, to a physical environment? Whether it’s a community center, a school, a basketball court or a park, our surroundings, the places where we live out our lives, play a significant role in shaping our experiences in them.  For the Cully neighborhood in North East Portland, the relationship between the community and its physical surroundings is undergoing a transformative and strengthening process. From a garbage pit to a park upon a hill built with thousands of hands, Cully Park has truly become a beacon of the community – and its not even finished yet!

Self-Enhancement Inc., Youth Potential Realized- September 2013
Self-Enhancement Inc. started as a weeklong basketball camp in 1981, and has grown into a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk urban youth realize their potential by providing in school, out of school, summer, post-secondary and parent supports. SEI also operates a charter school serving grades 6-8 out of the Center for Self-Enhancement. The Center for Self Enhancement is located in a North East Portland neighborhood that has historically been predominantly African American, and fraught with gang violence, poverty and struggling schools. Jefferson High School – the only high school in the area – is the only high school in Oregon with a predominantly African American student population. SEI serves thousands of students each year,

All Access Pass to Technology- August 2013
This month, OregonASK AmeriCorps VISTA Bethany Ard, and Field Correspondent Mary Masla, spent time in two different programs focused on gaming and computer science. On the fourth weekend in July, Portlanders ages 9-17 spent two days creating characters, commanding “turtles,” and building worlds and challenges full of sea creature-robots. Two hours south, down the I-5 corridor, middle school students spent two weeks coding their initials into magnets, programming fellow ‘robots’ to stack cups, dissecting electric tea lights and orchestrating music with the click of a button.

Get Out! – Outdoors That Is!- July 2013
For parents and professionals who are interested in ensuring that children retain (or reestablish) a connection to the outdoors, answers are close at hand. Activities to get kids outside can be as simple as going into the backyard to count bugs, taking a walk in your municipal park, or counting stars in the night sky. For a more formal way of promoting youth interaction with nature and the outdoors, the Oregon Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights (OCOBOR). OCOBOR lends a framework for programming children’s outdoor activities in ten fundamental areas. You can see the ten OCOBOR rights at www.outdoorseekers.com.

Where the Sidewalk Begins – A Twist On a Classic- Fall 2012
For twenty-seven years the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation operated on kitchen tables, in coffee shops and was carried around in tote bags. Three years ago Tyke Hagedorn sat down to lunch with Krina Lemons, and that is where the sidewalk began. Krina Lemons (the Executive Director of SKEF) had recently received the opportunity to rent a space in downtown Salem. Because of the owner’s commitment to serving kids SKEF would get a deal on rent they couldn’t refuse. The back of this downtown space would be the new home of SKEF’s offices. The front of the space, although small, was open and inviting. What this space would be used for had yet to be determined—a tutoring center, or more offices perhaps? What about an ice cream parlor? Over lunch that day Tyke, as former Nordstrom executive, and Krina, as businesswoman and non-profit leader, hatched a plan. The space would be used for retail, but not just any retail shop. “Where the Sidewalk Begins”—a twist on Shel Silverstein’s famous poem—would feature local products of all kinds, a smoothie bar, and most importantly, all of its proceeds would go to support the students of Salem-Keizer via the Education Foundation.

Facing the Tough Questions- May 2013
“When I signed up for CAFE I was afraid, but once it started I felt much more alive, what I mean is I made more friends…thank you for all that you do for us.”

“Dear Ms. Susan, I will try to be strong for CAFE. I will miss you very much, and all the people who made me smile with joy.”

“Dear Ms. Susan, CAFE is the best thing and it saved my mom’s job. It is the best thing for me and I don’t want it to end.”

These are the voices of children participating in Metropolitan Family Service Community Schools – Community and Families Enrichment (CAFE) programs in the North Clackamas School District. Participants were reacting to the news that their program is closing. Their voices, the disappointment, genuine sorrow, and the obvious positive impact that has been made drive us to ask: What happens when an afterschool program closes its doors?

IKE Box – More than English and Algebra- January 2013
The IKE Box Coffee Shop in Salem is located in the few blocks between the State Capitol Mall and downtown. Passing through this coffeehouse one might notice that it’s a little different. The place has character, certainly, with is wide-open ballroom in the center of the building, small workrooms and quieter spaces to read or talk in the corners. There’s a stage in the main ballroom. When I was a student at Willamette I attended a few concerts here, not knowing the true significance of this place. I imagine I was like many other patrons, I was unaware of the powerful opportunities and learning that IKE Box, its non-profit branch Isaac’s Room, and their youth development program called IKE Quest, was providing to Salem’s young people until I began working for OregonASK.

What Are We Putting FIRST In Education?- April 2013
What are we putting first in education? Students? Test scores? Life after school? On a Friday morning this March, Beth and I were lucky enough to see some amazing High School students in action at the FIRST® Robotics competition being held at Portland’s Memorial Coliseum.Sixty high school teams from Washington, Oregon and California gathered in Portland to battle it out. After a fast and furious six weeks of designing, programming, constructing and testing the top teams from the Northwest met in Portland to contend for a chance to compete at the national level competition know as “The Superbowl of Smarts” in the NFL Rams Stadium in St. Louis. I have spent many hours watching sporting events in my life – from middle school to professional games in sports ranging from basketball to water polo – and this competition, although quite unique, created an atmosphere synonymous with any other sporting event. Lines had been drawn on the field in the form of 12-ft tall metal pyramids and baskets, loading zones, and Frisbees. Mascots and costumed players (representing pirates, tigers, robots and more) roamed the stadium, started chants and creating an electric energy.

A Parent Perspective on Afterschool- March 2013
How does a parent who works multiple jobs, speaks a different language than their children’s teachers, lives in an dangerous neighborhood, and can barely afford the food on their table, let alone piano lessons and club soccer fees, provide the opportunities, support and resources their child needs to succeed in school and in life? How does a single mom putting herself through college, and working to support her family, have the time and space to get to know her child’s friends and their parents? How do we establish a trusting safe community for our children to run, play and grow in, when we don’t know our neighbors, and we lack the opportunity to get to know each other? And what is that worth? These are all questions that come to mind when thinking about what parents, and our communities, are facing in their roles of raising the next generation.

Kids Unlimited- February 2013
This month we’d like to highlight one of our partner organizations Kids Unlimited. Tom Cole, Executive Director of KU exemplifies the passion it takes to build a community-changing youth development organization. Rather than tell you about Tom’s passion, we’d like to share the following letter Tom wrote to the Oregon Education Investment Board’s Youth Development Council in support of all afterschool and youth development organizations in our state. We think this letter exemplifies the power of not only youth development, but also the passion it takes to create a quality and impactful organization.

A Place for Familiar F.A.C.E.S.- Winter 2012
What does it mean to live in a state in which the majority of its residents live in 1% of its land area? What does it mean for the people, children and communities who live in the other 99% of the state’s geographic region?

Last week Ta Vang, our new OregonASK VISTA, and I went to Falls City. Falls City is located ten miles outside of Dallas in the Willamette Valley. 960 people live in Falls City, including roughly 154 school-aged children and youth. 78% of these children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Despite the evidence of poverty in Falls City, there exists a strong community spirit. I saw a piece of this spirit in Amy Houghtaling.