Foundation Supports Equity During Scholarship Process

The Multnomah Athletic Foundation believes all youth should have the opportunity to play, compete and participate in sports. To make this belief a reality, MAF presents grants and scholarships totaling more than $200,000 annually to outstanding student athletes and organizations that use sport to support underserved communities. Several years ago, the foundation adopted belief statements, including an equity statement, to help guide its volunteer grant and scholarship reviewers in their decision-making process. The practices were implemented to make sure MAF grant and scholarship recipients reflect the diversity of the greater community — in this case Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. In light of recent events, the foundation is taking a closer look at its existing equity statements to ensure they truly reflect the communities it serves.

MAC Member Brings Valuable Perspective on Diversity

To ensure that the foundation stays true to its commitment to equity, operates with integrity, and makes fair and informed choices, its volunteer grant and scholarship review team determined that a person of color was uniquely suited to provide feed- back and bring an important perspective to the scholarship review process. With that in mind, Elle Halliburton, a MAC member and one of MAF’s amazing volunteers, was asked to share her story and view of the foundation’s policies at work.

About Elle

MAC member Elle Halliburton is a Portland native and athlete. Since child- hood, she has focused on two of her passions — art and sports. Elle attended Jesuit High School and was a member of the track and field team. Her success on the team began her freshman year, and led to her earning a varsity position, breaking school records and winning a first place medal in the 4×100 relay at the state championship.

In 2013, her passions led her to St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, where she pursued a business management degree while participating in Division I track and field. Elle combined her artistic interests with her business acumen to create the Ms. Elle Media brand, which provides videography services and a plat- form for her self-produced hip-hop music. After graduating in 2017, Halliburton returned to Portland to pursue marketing and freelance videography, successfully combining three interests: providing sports videography, producing empowering hip- hop music, and coaching high school track and field. Joining forces with the foundation in January, she plans to use her talents to continue uplifting minority Portland communities through art and activism.

In Her Own Words

“I have been a Multnomah Athletic Club member most of my life, and I am proud to have grown here as an athlete, and now serve as a Multnomah Athletic Foundation board member.

In 2001, my family joined MAC, and as a Black and Hispanic family of seven, it was evident that our minority presence was noticed among long-term members. MAC had formed a Diversity Admission Committee in 2007, which my parents took the initiative to join. While serving on the committee, they worked with fellow committee members to improve acceptance and inclusion of minority members.

As a young child, my first MAC memories were filled with fun-filled summer athletic camps and sports training, and I was unaware of my racial difference at the time. As I transition into becoming an adult member of the club, I reflect on my experiences at MAC, and how I was able to lever- age the club’s community and services to contribute to my successes to date. I credit the club for establishing my passion for sports, as I went on to become a Division 1 track and field athlete, a Jesuit High School coach and an active member of the review team that selects the MAC Scholar Athlete award recipients. To continue my passion for youth sports, as a person of color, I am committed to sharing my perspective with my MAF and MAC colleagues and award recipients.

During this time of the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID-19, at the foundation we acknowledge the stresses and changes each student is now facing. To provide support at this unprecedented time, we look to several of the foundation’s core belief statements to guide our actions, making sure we are an ally.

We believe that our scholarship recipients and community grant partners’ outreach should reflect the diversity of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

In the 2010 census, 76 percent of Portland metro area population was classified as white. As a person of color, I look for inclusive places. The MAF board of directors reflects a broad range of ages, and ethnic and gender diversity. It strives to provide a safe place for our community of student scholarship recipients and our- selves, by supporting each other’s diverse backgrounds. MAF directors are commit- ted to acknowledging the current human rights movement and continuing to diversify the team of staff and volunteers.

We believe we have a unique opportunity through our scholarships to make a significant difference in a student’s ability to attend college and succeed despite financial need.

The foundation’s scholarship recipients are a diverse group of students who have achieved success both on and off the field. Our responsibility as board members is to celebrate, uplift and help guide success after high school. In order for the foundation to live by these words, it is important to highlight recipients on an individual level. The foundation strives to create a network of students that motivates and supports one another in their journeys.

Each scholarship recipient has demonstrated a passion for uplifting their community through a diverse group of nonprofit organizations.

We believe that volunteerism and community connectivity are critically important aspects of student development.

Each scholarship recipient has demonstrated a passion for uplifting their community through a diverse group of nonprofit organizations. It is crucial that we celebrate their activism along with their academic and athletic achievements. As for MAF foundation directors and committee members, they actively lead by example – volunteering their time, input and support to youth events that showcase the impact of community involvement.”

Next Steps

Using equity as its starting point toward social justice, the foundation is looking deeply at its policies, practices, governance and funding. Its annual board work session has shifted the organization’s focus toward access, amplifying voices and action. The next step is to educate board members on the important issues around equity, social justice and the community’s needs.

We encourage you to listen, engage, and lean into community. Join the conversation – subscribe to our newsletter today to get monthly updates on how you can engage with the community that the foundation serves.

By Laurie Harquail

Originally published in the August 2020 Issue of The Winged M magazine.