Partner Stories


KidSpirit is an enrichment and summer learning program affiliated with Oregon State University that serves children from ages 2 to 18. The program’s leaders, Karen Swanger and Janet Swensen take pride in developing youth positively through their program. One of the primary ways in which KidSpirit enables positive youth development is by creating an environment in which KidSpirit participants can healthily interact with their peers and build new friendships. 

In addition to creating a safe, accepting environment for these school-age children, KidSpirit seeks to expand their youth’s horizons and build their interests by offering a plethora of interactive educational and enrichment activities that revolve around areas such sports, art, science, cooking, and more. Swanger and Swensen say they also challenge participants by stressing the importance of setting goals and building leadership skills. Specifically, by participating in KidSpirit for several summers, these children can progressively work towards achieving goals that they have set, which include earning teen leadership and counselor roles within the program.

Without KidSpirit, the lives of several groups of people would be greatly impacted. For example, KidSpirit has relieved emotional and economic strain for Oregon’s families, who often rely on summer programs such as KidSpirit to allow them to attend their jobs during the day and ensure that their children are not only safe during the workday, but gaining new knowledge and friends during the experience. KidSpirit also employs hundreds of college-age students each summer. Such employment not only eases the financial costs of attending college for these students, but it may also help the students discover new passions such as working with children, understanding the psychology surrounding children, et cetera. Perhaps most importantly, the KidSpirit program is integral for providing school-age children with the necessary skills to thrive later in their lives and make meaningful contributions to society. As an example, KidSpirit helped a young girl named Premie, whose parents were concerned that school would be an overwhelming experience for their child, become comfortable interacting with her peers and practicing “school” skills. After several summers attending KidSpirit, Premie’s skills and confidence had grown to the point where she became the first from her family to attend college.


East Metro STEAM Partnership (EMSP)

Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley

Talent Maker City (TMC)

Talent Maker City’s mission is to build a more connected and prosperous community through hands-on creativity and STEAM-based education. We are a women led, community makerspace and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in downtown Talent in Southern Oregon. Areas of service include workforce development for youth and unemployed adults, equitable and inclusive programming for underserved youth, small business support through innovative learning and community building through creative cultural exchange.

Talent Maker City offers a variety of hands-on, out-of-school programming for K-12 youth with a goal to create student interest in STEAM and CTE pathways. TMC’s trauma-informed, collaborative, COVID-safe workshops help meet students; social needs while providing quality hands-on learning opportunities. By exposing students to robotics, woodworking, painting, or metalsmithing, TMC fills a niche in the community by providing accessible and equitable skills applicable to high wage, high demand jobs. Most programming is developed in collaboration with Phoenix-Talent Schools Migrant Ed Parent Advisory Committee as an effective and equitable approach to meeting children’s needs, honoring their circumstances, and acknowledging their social and cultural priorities. 

Talent Maker City has been an instrumental resource for Southern Oregon communities in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and devastating 2020 Almeda fire. From their partnership with Asante to build ventilator parts with 3D printers for local hospitals to teaching students how to build beds for families who lost their homes in the Almeda fire, their goal is to bring the community together by engaging learners of all ages in community service. TMC’s bustling
makerspace in downtown Talent consists of a full woodshop, ceramics, laser, 3D printers, CNC machines, welding, fiber arts, and screen printing spaces.

Participating in the bus project over the past months has been extremely gratifying! Through this opportunity I was able to participate in the  community more, really helping out a family in
need. As well as learn lots of other practical building skills I’ll be able to use in the future.” 

Myra S.

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