Helen Ying: Connecting the Dots for a Better World

This blog is the first in a series of posts celebrating elected leaders who reflect our equity priorities. At Northwest Health Foundation, we know communities need the power and resources to sit at decision-making tables, to help dispel beliefs and practices that do not promote their health, and to help shape those that do. From local school boards to the state legislature, parents and families should have a voice.

Helen Ying stands in front of a crowd of her supporters, arms outstretched.

Helen Ying stands in front of a crowd of her supporters, arms outstretched.

Helen Ying's personal mission is to engage and empower people to improve their communities, something she's been doing her whole life. As a young teen and recent immigrant, Helen served on Marshall High School's student senate. It didn't matter to her that she was still learning English. She wanted to improve her community, and she'd found a way to do it — becoming a leader. This desire continued through adulthood, bringing Helen to where she is now: a member of Multnomah Education Service District's elected board of directors, National Vice President of Membership for the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, and a force for change in our region.

Of course, Helen's journey wasn't a straight path from student senate to county-level elected official. First, she became a leader in her church, volunteering to coordinate the choir at age sixteen and superintending Sunday school at eighteen. For thirty years, she worked as a math teacher, school counselor and vice principal. During this time, she realized how few laws and policies truly support health, particularly the health of children and youth. When Helen retired, she knew she wanted to do one of two things: become a missionary or run for office. Lucky for all of us, she chose the latter.

Helen marches in the St. Johns Parade, waving with one hand and holding a campaign sign in the other.

Helen marches in the St. Johns Parade, waving with one hand and holding a campaign sign in the other.

Helen didn't win her first campaign for office. In 2011, then Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder approached her and suggested she run for his soon-to-be-vacant seat. Helen campaigned for six months and came in second. But she doesn't consider her campaign a failure. She ran against four white men and received more votes than three of them combined. Furthermore, the connections she made and visibility she gained during that campaign led to dozens of other opportunities.

After her loss, several community leaders approached Helen and invited her to serve on boards and committees. These included the Creation Committee for the Office of Equity for Portland and the Oregon Health Policy Board Coordinated Care Organization Criteria Work Group, among others. She also chairs the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference and serves as a board member for We Can Do Better. So, when Northwest Health Foundation President & CEO Nichole June Maher suggested Helen run for Multnomah Education Service District, Position 2 in 2017, Helen was ready. And this time, she won.

As a Multnomah Education Service District board member, Helen is committed to taking MESD to the next level. She strongly believes she and her fellow board members have the skills they need to succeed, to promote policies that will support health for children and youth.

In Helen's opinion, it is incredibly important for elected officials to reflect the communities they serve. As a young person, she couldn't understand why there weren't any leaders who looked like her. This year, at the Oregon School Board Association Conference, she and the other school board members of color (the most ever in Oregon's history) met to start a caucus to support one another and ensure their voices are heard. Helen wants today's students of color to be able to envision themselves in leadership roles, and seeing school board members who come from their communities making a real difference is part of that.

More than anything else, Helen Ying wants to inspire others, especially young people, to become involved in their communities and strive to make the changes they want to see in the world. Her advice? Start small. Consider your skills, where you can have influence, what needs to change. Make a commitment to yourself. It could be as simple as encouraging family members to vote. Continue taking tiny steps, working your way up to bigger actions. Participate in an issue campaign. Meet with your legislator. Join a committee or board. One day, you might even decide to run for office.

If Helen's story motivated you to get engaged, check out the partnership and learning opportunities on our Open Opportunities page. Maybe you'll find your next small step toward improving your community.

 

Thoughts from NWHF Staff on National Voter Registration Day

September 27, 2016 is National Voter Registration Day!

"On September 11, 2001, I, along with the rest of the nation, watched the events of the day unfold. I was living in Los Angeles, and it was around 6 a.m. when I first heard of the attacks on the news. That was a tragic and confusing day. There were so many important things to prioritize: calling our friends in New York, being with and being there for others, and just trying to understand what was happening. It was also an election day. I remember going to my neighborhood polling place and casting my ballot for our local elections before going to work. There are so many things we are called to do—and have the privilege and right to do—in this country. The issues on the ballot that day paled in comparison to national and global events, but we were voting on issues that would impact children, families, workers, residents…everyone… in our corner of the world. I never take that for granted, even on historic days like that." - Suk Rhee, Vice President of Strategy & Community Partnership  

 

Stephenie Smith, Executive Support & Operations Manager

 

"I have vivid memories of accompanying my father to the polls as a little girl and being in awe of the ritual of it: the curtained cubicles, the sharpened pencils and the punch cards. Even though we only vote by mail in Oregon now, I still love participating in the democratic process, because it’s a way of joining my community to make a collective decision. I’m also playing a small but critical part in our country’s democratic process, while briefly setting aside my social status and identity. By voting, I am an equal citizen among many others." - Shannon Duff, Grant Administrator

 

Eduardo Moreno, Health & Education Officer

 

"So many of us use social media to let our voices be heard. Now it’s time for us to let our voices be heard where it counts. Get out and vote!" - Michael Reyes Andrillon, Community Engagement Officer

 

Nichole June Maher, President & Chief Executive Officer

 

"My family took their responsibility to vote very seriously. As a child, I remember watching my mom enter the voting booth. With the curtain and levers it all seemed so mysterious. Now, as an adult, I love Oregon’s ‘Vote-by-Mail’ system, it allows me time to consider my options and to vote with my friends and neighbors. We can inform and challenge each other. I know my vote also counts for those who cannot vote, such as our children or people with different citizenship or legal status. Voting makes me feel like we are in it together." - Jen Matheson, Community Engagement Officer

 

Laura Nash, Communications Coordinator

 

"I vote because of the passion of my 5th grade teacher from Jacksonville, Oregon who stressed the importance of our civic duty to vote and the sacrifices that were made to make it possible. So basically I'm afraid of the heartbreak my teacher would feel if I wasn't doing my part in democracy. That's why I vote." - Jason Hilton, Vice President of Finance

 

Jesse Beason, Director of Public Affairs

 

“Voting is empowering as it makes me feel like my voice matters. I always get a sense of hope and excitement when dropping off my ballot, a perpetual longing for change and reform thinking of the generations to follow.” - Katie Kordash, Senior Accountant

 

Checking In with Nadia Alradhi, Our 2014 Intern

Selfie of Nadia in her scrubs.

What has Nadia been up to since she left NWHF?

Since leaving NWHF, Nadia graduated summa cum laude from Linfield College with a bachelor of science in nursing. After passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and becoming licensed as a registered nurse in the state of Oregon, Nadia has been working at Marquis Mill Park. This is a post acute rehabilitation facility: a place where people go to rehabilitate following a surgery, stroke, hip replacement, etc, and get stronger until they are able to go home.

What's next?

Nadia recently accepted a job at Legacy Health in the Family Birthing Center through their residency program for new graduates. (Congrats on the new job, Nadia! What an exciting opportunity!)

What are her goals for the future?

Nadia eventually wants to obtain a masters degree in either nursing or public health (She can't decide which!). According to Nadia, her experience at NWHF helped her think more broadly and in a more global way. She is inspired to continue to create change and advocate for equality wherever she goes. During her time at NWHF, she started to learn how to identify the needs of a community and address those needs with sustainable, realistic solutions. This type of thinking has positively impacted her views and values as a nurse. She's excited to see what her future holds, and to apply what NWHF taught her in new and innovative ways.

While Nadia was interning at NWHF, she helped our Community Engagement Officers plan outreach sessions about Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities throughout Oregon and SW Washington. She also made a video of kids talking about what health means to them.

Video: NWHF Asks the Communities

Our HB+HC Organizing Grant Communities answered these questions: What does health mean to you? What does community capacity mean to you? How can we help communities improve health?

Watch the video to find out how they answered.

NWHF Asks the Kids

With the launch of Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Initiative, we wanted to speak to some of the key informants of our work. So our summer intern Nadia visited the Boys & Girls Club of Portland Metropolitan Area and asked the kids a couple questions...

Board Member Darleen Ortega in the news

Transient

Our board member, Darleen Ortega, was profiled in today's Oregonian. Oregon and Northwest Health Foundation are lucky to have her!

From the story:

As a child, Darleen Ortega loved to read. She devoured books in school and dreamed of one day writing some of her own.

Now as a judge on the Oregon Court of Appeals, Ortega has, in a way, fulfilled that dream. Appellate decisions -- though dry -- are human stories, she jokes.

Ortega's own story touches on perseverance and the power of diverse perspectives. She is the first Latina and woman of color on the appellate court. Leading by example, she is working to diversify the field of law in Oregon. 

Ortega, 51, was born in California and grew up near Banks from age 10. Her family, a Mexican American mom, Caucasian dad, sister and two adopted African American brothers, was diverse -- an anomaly in the small community of Manning. It was a stark change from life in Los Angeles.

Read the rest here.

Partners Speak about Kaiser Permanente Community Fund

Partners Speak about Kaiser Permanente Community Fund

At the 2012 Kaiser Permanente Community Fund Summit, we asked some of our grantees and partners to tell us about their projects and what the fund means to them. This short video will give you an idea of some of the projects supported by the fund, and the impact it has had on our community.

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Listening to Youth

Listening to Youth

It’s becoming increasingly clear that improving population health and reducing inequalities is related to our ability to create more space for leaders from the “millennial” generation.

Read More

Public Health and Zombies

Public Health and Zombies

“You can substitute any unforeseen public health hazard for ‘zombies’ and it would make perfect sense,” said one of the judges of Northwest Health Foundation’s  public health PSA contest. The point being that our public health departments are there to protect us from unforeseen threats.

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Finding Workforce Solutions to a Dental Care Crisis

Finding Workforce Solutions to a Dental Care Crisis

What’s the best way to ensure that everyone gets good dental care? Hint: It’s probably not the system currently in place today.

Northwest Health Foundation is helping explore whether it's time for the first new health profession in 50 years.

Read More