The Multnomah Athletic Foundation awards over $100,000 annually in grants to nonprofit community partners that support youth athletic participation. Every fall, the foundation recognizes one of those partners with the Impact Award that goes to the organization that best exemplified community collaboration in the last year. The 2020 Impact Award winner is Elevate Oregon. Elevate Oregon serves Oregon’s second most diverse school district – Parkrose. Elevate’s Deputy Director Paul Morris shares his perspective on how the nonprofit is building relationships and changing lives.
Here at Elevate Oregon, we address historical disparities experienced by underserved, at-risk Parkrose youth through a community-driven approach of daily connection, wraparound services and innovative teaching strategies. We’re here to give at-risk youth, who face a myriad of obstacles to success, a fighting chance to reach their dreams. We work towards those solutions every day with in-school classes as well as after-school and summer programming.
Our Ninth Grade Counts program offers incoming 9th graders a fun and engaging experience getting a jump on their high school career (including a .5 credit upon completion). Students meet with Elevate TeacherMentors and Parkrose staff to get academic support in English and math, future planning, peer bonding and field trips in and around Portland.
In our summer and after-school programs, students don’t just get a leg up on their academic and professional lives. We know kids need to be healthy to be at their best academically. They get outside for some fun healthy activities, time in nature and play time on the beach!
The Multnomah Athletic Foundation’s partnership funded Elevate’s free week-long summer camp. This camp wards off summer learning loss through physical activity and peer network building. We use an engaging curriculum that helps kids learn resiliency, bond with their peers, develop or continue healthy habits, prepare for the school year and build community.
Our focus on self-sufficiency, resilience and integrity instills a positive work ethic and a career-minded attitude in students who often lack the role models who can help them carve a path to success.
But my highlight of the program last year was our African American Career Day Panel. 10 Black Portland professionals led small roundtable discussions with youth, engaging in insightful conversations and sharing their pathway to success. For low income students and students of color, these personal interactions with successful professionals who look like them and come from communities like theirs can be life changing.
A wide variety of professions and companies were represented; for example: Wieden & Kennedy; Intel; Portland Police Bureau; the National Association of Minority Contractors; Multnomah County Education Service District; the City of Portland Office of Human Rights; and Allianz Global Investors. What an All-Star lineup!
We were so grateful to the Portland community for standing up as role models for Parkrose youth. Each panelist volunteered their time because they know what it’s like to be a student of color in a school district where teachers often don’t look like their students. Currently 67% of Parkrose students and 92% of Elevate students are youth of color, while 87% of their teachers are white. The challenges that confront Elevate students put them at significant risk. We know it can take a variety of life-changing opportunities, like our career panel, to reach a community of at-risk kids, and we’re working hard to provide those opportunities here in Parkrose.
Written by Sarah Burczak and the MAF Communications Committee.
Originally published in the November 2020 Issue of The Winged M magazine.