Three Success Stories from Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon

Royalty Spirits

Chaunci sits at a desk, her hands folded. A laptop and a bottle of Miru Vodka sit on the table in front of her.

Chaunci King founded Royalty Spirits in 2013, distilling and selling Miru Vodka: high-quality pear-flavored vodka made locally in the Pacific Northwest. The name Miru is appropriate, because Miru is a dominating Sea Goddess, and Chaunci plans for her company "to dominate the world of flavored vodkas." She's determined to succeed in a white, male-dominated industry.

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon provided Chaunci with business development services, MarketLink research, an Individual Development Account and financing. Thanks to MESO's support, Chaunci has been able to launch two new products: non-flavored vodka and whiskey.

Previously, Chaunci was unable to access capital to grow her business. She lacked strong cash flow, collateral and time spent in business. Chaunci was about to sign up with an online lender whose loans had predatory rates, because she had pending orders and needed to fill them. Fortunately, MESO provided Chaunci with a $30,000 loan just in time. 

"You know I'm a bartender by trade; I noticed most flavored vodkas that are catered towards women are super sweet and missing the vodka bang! So I decided I wanted to create a vodka that was for us by us, less sugar, delicious pear flavor and natural vodka essence! Whiskey was an automatic second product with a trending rise as a drink of choice with millennials and my preferred sipper." - Chaunci King

 

Big Body Towing

Ron Brown leaps into the air in front of his tow truck.

Ron Brown came to Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon in 2007 for help with his first business, Big Body Towing. His excitement was contagious. MESO matched his enthusiasm with their support, setting achievable goals and mapping out strategic plans to help with his vision of growth. Over the years, Ron has gone through numerous challenges, but he has faced them head ­on with a positive attitude. Ron’s customer service is top notch, and his humor gets him through the daily challenges of owning a business.

Last year, Les Schwab offered Ron the opportunity to buy the property he was renting. Ron had difficulty raising the needed capital and returned to MESO for advice. As 2015 drew to a close, MESO asked their longtime supporter, United Fund Advisors, if they could place loan capital they'd allocated to MESO to help Ron purchase the commercial property. With United Fund Advisor's consent, MESO provided the $70,000 necessary to purchase the property, currently valued at $225,000.

Several individuals and companies came together to help create long­-term financial security for Ron and his family. Because Les Schwab was willing to share their excess property, Ron will have a more sustainable livelihood.

 

Modern Human Instruments

Jessica Chan gives a thumbs-up.

Jessica Chan is an industrial designer and the founder of Modern Human Instruments LLC. She has a diverse background, from teaching martial arts and personal training to customer service, construction, freelance art and design. Jessica's parents, immigrants from China, hoped their daughter would become a doctor. However, Jessica's passion lay with entrepreneurship and design. With all her zeal and stubbornness, she began making her mark in the industry.

Jessica's first product, an innovative writing instrument called the WinkPen, is built to write with wine, coffee or tea, and it is already sold out. Jessica's vision with WinkPen was to create a sustainable alternative to the everyday writing utensil. She wanted to provide "a high­-end innovative writing instrument for artists and collectors alike."

"As with any startup company, the journey can be crazy and very unexpected. I quickly learned that the support system and people you choose to surround yourself with was key to making it and becoming successful. There's always an answer if you look hard enough." - Jessica Chan

Jessica secured seed funding through Portland Development Commission's Startup PDX Challenge. She also participated in the Streetwise MBA program through PDC and MESO; and she accessed an IDA, MarketLink market research, credit building and financing.

"MESO has been an absolutely wonderful experience. The community within the program is beyond words, and the individualized support and resources— invaluable. MESO not only is a place of knowledge and resources, but also hope and encouragement." - Jessica Chan

 

Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Cambios Micro-Development Program helps Latino families become business owners and community leaders

Three generations of a family stick their hands in a big pot of soil. They're learning about propagation.

Three generations of a family stick their hands in a big pot of soil. They're learning about propagation.

Every family should have the opportunity to strive for a healthier, happier and more stable future. When families can support themselves in ways that are meaningful to them, our communities become stronger and we all benefit. That’s why Huerto de la Familia, a community-led organization in Eugene, Oregon, provides the means for Latino families in Lane County to improve their health and economic self-sufficiency.

One way Huerto de la Familia does this is through their Cambios Micro-Development Program. Every year, Latino families in Lane County who want to start their own small businesses, or take small businesses they’ve already started to the next level, sign up for weekly classes, participate in one-on-one business counseling sessions and create their business plans.

A student works out watering calculations on the whiteboard at farm business class.

A student works out watering calculations on the whiteboard at farm business class.

Over the last year, Cambios Micro-Development Program has expanded and evolved to better meet the needs of community members. Previously, the weekly class ran for ten weeks. Now it runs for twenty. On top of that, participants planning to start farm businesses can sign up for an additional eight weeks of specialized training through a curriculum designed, and taught, by staff from Oregon State University’s Small Farms Program. They practice their new skills for large-scale planting on land donated by Two Rivers and Love Farms. Other participants, who plan to start restaurants, have the chance to test their businesses and earn money in Huerto de la Familia’s food booth incubator.

The partnership doesn’t stop there. Huerto de la Familia’s executive director, Marissa Garcia, emphasizes that this work doesn’t result in instant gratification. Huerto de la Famila works with families for years, until they can sustain their businesses on their own.

The family behind Tikal Latin Cuisine showcases their Guatemalan food. 

The family behind Tikal Latin Cuisine showcases their Guatemalan food. 

Cambios Micro-Development Program allows Latino families to make a living doing work they love and believe in. As a result, community members benefit through access to healthy, local and culturally significant food. For instance, one man who recently graduated from the twenty-week training will raise livestock humanely, with an emphasis on providing meat for specific Mexican cultural dishes, such as birria. Another participant will start a farming nonprofit with the aim of growing healthy food for people who can’t afford it, especially people who don’t have the time or ability to grow their own food in Huerto de la Familia’s garden (e.g. parents with young children, those with chronic illnesses, elders, etc.)

Huerto de la Familia’s goals for Cambios Micro-Development Program go beyond immediate change. The organization and participants have a bigger vision, for long-term change, as well. They want the Latino families involved to become leaders in Lane County’s business community, and in the community as a whole. Currently, 12% of Oregon’s residents are Latino. That number isn’t reflected in Oregon’s leadership, and Huerto de la Familia hopes Cambios Micro-Development Program will contribute to changing that.

Cambios Micro-Development Program's 2016 graduates celebrate their success.

Cambios Micro-Development Program's 2016 graduates celebrate their success.

Huerto de la Familia is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Oregon Renters Lead the Way to Safe, Stable and Healthy Homes

A crowd, led by children holding a Community Alliance of Tenants banner, marches in support of tenant protections. Many people hold signs with messages promoting stable housing.

Change should always be led by the people who will be most impacted by it. Solutions work better for everyone when they are created by the communities that need them the most. It’s the curb-cut effect.

For example, everyone in our region — Oregon and Southwest Washington — has been affected by the affordable housing crisis. Even homeowners feel the impact when neighbors, coworkers and employees, their children’s classmates, teachers, caregivers and countless other community members suffer the stress of housing instability. Housing instability impacts all of us. But who is most impacted? Who should lead the way in confronting this problem?

According to Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), low-income tenants — mainly, people of color, families with children, low-wage workers, people with disabilities and seniors. Which is why CAT is partnering with a number of organizations to advance tenant protections this legislative session.

A woman holds a drooling toddler with curly black hair.

Across our region, increased demand for housing has led to rent hikes and no-cause evictions. Too many families find themselves houseless, priced out of their cities and towns, sleeping on friends’ couches, in cars and shelters, even on the street. Without a safe place to call home, they struggle to keep their jobs, feed their kids and get them to school.

Families who haven’t been evicted are too scared to ask their landlords for necessary repairs and improvements; they’re afraid of retaliation. Meanwhile, their children suffer from “slum housing disease” due to unhealthy living conditions.

Their fear is warranted. Families with small children, especially from immigrant and refugee communities face higher barriers to quality housing, and they’re more vulnerable to discrimination, retaliation and involuntary displacement.

A woman sits with three young children at a Stable Homes for Oregon Families listening session.

CAT members, as well as their majority-tenant board of directors, identified no-cause evictions and lifting the ban on rent-stabilization as their top priorities. So CAT responded by convening the Stable Homes for Oregon Families Coalition, a group of over 75 organizations advocating for the 40% of Oregonians who rent their homes. CAT also initiated the Tenant Leadership Council, composed of parents of color to lead the #JustCauseBecause campaign this legislative session.

The Tenant Leadership Council spent time helping shape House Bill 2004, vetting it against their experiences, and mobilizing their fellow tenants to participate in various actions, including phone banking, visiting their legislators, hosting rallies and supporting civic engagement opportunities for renters. They also coordinated lobby days at the Oregon State Capitol and developed and presented testimony in support of the bill. On February 4, they packed a listening session with 250 people, and 20 legislators and their staff attended to hear residents from all over Oregon share their stories. On April 30, they plan to pack another listening session in Eugene. 

Oregon tenants and legislators fill several round tables at a listening session for Stable Homes for Oregon Families.

Thanks to the leadership of low-income Oregon tenants, we trust #JustCauseBecause and #RentStabilization are the best choices for our state. We may not end the affordable housing crisis with these two bills, but we will reduce stress and fear, mitigate displacement and ensure renters feel supported enough to demand healthy living conditions. And everyone in our region will benefit because of it.

Community Alliance of Tenants is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

Oregon Active Schools: Henry L Slater Elementary School

This blog is the sixth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

 
Students play with colorful streamers in a school hallway. 

HERE'S WHAT Henry L Slater Elementary STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school special?

Kindergartener: That our school keeps us safe, and we are respectful and responsible.

1st Grader: Other kids and myself helping each other. We help clean up our classroom and our school.

2nd Grader: My friends and teachers make this school special.

3rd Grader: Our school is special because everybody is friendly. The students in my class and my teacher is very nice. They always share.

4th Grader: Our school is special, because we don't have that many kids so it's easier to work. Our class is small, and so that gives me more time to be with the teacher to understand things. My teacher gives me options of where to sit to learn better.

 

Q. What is your favorite part of recess or PE?

Kindergartener: My favorite part is doing superhero moves in PE. We lift our legs and stretch our arms. I loved Temple of Doom. You get to play a lot and it's kind of exercising.

1st Grader: My favorite part of PE is when we exercise. I like stretching.

2nd Grader: My favorite part of recess is tetherball, because I like hitting the ball and winning.

A student wearing a pirate bandana wields a styrofoam noodle.

3rd Grader: My favorite part of PE is getting to do the stretches. This unit in PE you listen to music and do hula-hoops, step aerobics and stretches like exercising.  I like this unit more than Temple of Doom, because you get to listen to music. At recess I like hanging out with my friends.

4th Grader: My favorite part of recess is practicing volleyball, because I am getting better at it. I really like the assemblies and a lot of things in PE. I especially like Temple of Doom and the Pirates of the Caribbean.  I like getting my energy up, and the obstacles are fun to do. 

 

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

Kindergartenr: It will make our body healthier and make you skinnier.

1st Grader: Exercise is important, because it helps your heart go and it gives you energy.

2nd Grader: Exercising is important, because you need oxygen for your body.  Exercising keeps you healthy, helps you do more stuff, and you can go places.

3rd Grader: Exercise is important, because you can get fit and be healthy.

4th Grader: Exercise and play are important, because they help you not get overweight and it helps you stay healthy.

 

HERE'S WHAT Henry L Slater Elementary STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Colorful exercise equipment is spread throughout a school gym.

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Sarika Mosley, Principal: Our school is incredibly special, because we have parents, students and teachers who care about every part of our students’ day. We strive hard to provide the necessary academics and differentiate our lesson so that every child’s ability is met. We have a wonderful group of teachers that know our students and parents well, that want to make a difference in their lives. We have one of the best playgrounds I have seen, with detailed blacktop games that Mrs. Herauf spray paints every summer.  She teaches our students in the Fall how to play at each blacktop activity. We provide our students Music and PE every other day, and we also have a computer lab and a librarian that provide additional access to our students.

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: Our school is special because we offer so many neat things for our students. We have specialists for music, PE, and after-school programs such as volleyball and kinder basketball.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: Being a small community we have a unique and mixed population within our schools. One common thread is our love for our community, especially the youth. We have a long tradition of excellence and quality in our extracurricular activities. To achieve this a love and foundation has been laid beginning in the elementary school. We teach these kids knowing that many will go all through school in this district and eventually return to the community.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our staff and students show respect to each other, try hard, are eager in their learning and always give 100%.

 

Q. How did your school use your Oregon Active Schools grant?

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: We incorporated Brain Games. Before a test, when they [the kids] get antsy, or days when they don’t have PE, we have these active activities for students. We have three types of Brain Games for students: cooperation, cardiovascular and spatial awareness. We differentiate for indoor and outdoor. They enhance PE and classroom activities.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: We have put up activities around the school that we call "Brain Games." These activities can be used for additional exercise, a brain break, ease transitions, inside recess, or other academic activities that need a large motor activity to accompany them. For example, in kindergarten we use the scarves, rings of fire, tops and other games to build excitement with math and counting. The students are also getting physical activity and working on motor skills as they are practicing their math.

 
Students stand in and around a grid spray painted on a blacktop.

Q. What changes have you seen in your school since your school became an "Active School?"

Sarika Mosley, Principal: I see students engaged in indoor activities with their teachers during hallways transitions and bathroom breaks. I see students working together in pairs and individually trying to do their best with balancing, coordination and activating different parts of their brains. This is especially helpful during our months of snow fall when our outdoor equipment is inaccessible.

Alice Herauf, PE Teacher: Our students are becoming more fit with 5-1-1-0. They are more engaged in games instead of getting into behavior issues.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: The most obvious change is the access to equipment and physical activities that before were only accessible to the PE teacher. With 30 stations available at any time to any class the option for giving kids a mental break and quick exercise/energy boost throughout the day is a major change. Instead of a recess, kids can be involved in an active game or challenge. Another positive change is where the games are strategically placed. The placement allows teachers to use the games in times of transition to eliminate standing around and waiting. Instead they can be involved in a Brain Game.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our students are more aware of how they can use their brains and bodies in connection. They are focused on creating a learning atmosphere that helps make connections in their brains and grow them as students.

 

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

Sarika Mosley, Principal: When you live in a community impacted by many hardships, such as poverty, mental health, obesity, diabetes and trauma, you must do your best to help your students moderate their emotions. These are tied directly to the physical benefits of actively engaging our students. When we tie activities to their day daily, students learn to have healthy habits that can help fight against the hardships they come with. Overall, no matter what our students walk of life, physical activity gets our students to smile, helps them maintain healthy bones and muscles, and helps them fight against any depression and anxiety that they may come across in their lifetime.

Andie Nichols, Kindergarten Teacher: Our students love PE, so to me a win-win combination is to get the kids up and moving and learning something at the same time. Physical activity can increase engagement and make learning more enjoyable. From my experience, kids perform better and are ready to learn even after a quick movement activity. It gives them something to look forward to and promotes an active lifestyle that will hopefully carry over into the future.

Tori Fenton, 3rd Grade Teacher: Our brain and bodies are connected and work together. Physical activity helps the brain make long term memory connections for academic advancement. Physical activity also helps keep our hearts and bodies in shape and ready to learn.

 

Henry L Slater Elementary School is one of Harney County School District's three schools.

 

Astoria Reaffirms its Compassion and Respect for All Residents

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative La Voz de la Comunidad.

Astoria celebrates Día de los Muertos with face painting and more.

Astoria celebrates Día de los Muertos with face painting and more.

In America, all people have rights, no matter what they look like or where they come from. It’s not about where you were born; it’s how you live your life and what you do that defines you here in this country. Hardworking people, documented or not, make our communities stronger and deserve respect from all of us.

Sadly, many immigrant Americans have faced disrespect and worse, including threats to their freedom and opportunity. Since President Trump signed an executive order expanding the number of immigrants considered fair game for detainment and deportation, immigrants throughout our region and the U.S. have become increasingly fearful of ICE raids tearing their families (and our communities) apart.

An old cannery on Astoria's waterfront.

An old cannery on Astoria's waterfront.

However, rather than give up and give in to these destructive and unpatriotic federal policies, thousands of Americans have chosen to stand up and speak against them instead. In Astoria, Oregon, for instance, where Chinese and Latino immigrants have been the backbone of the canning industry for the last century, the Astoria City Council unanimously passed a resolution reaffirming the city’s policy of inclusivity.

Like the City of Astoria itself, Astoria’s inclusivity resolution depended on the voices and actions of diverse community members to succeed.

Originally, Astoria’s mayor and city councilors considered declaring Astoria a sanctuary city, but they changed their minds after the chief of police presented at a city council meeting. Members of La Voz de la Comunidad, an advisory group representing the Hispanic community living on Oregon’s north coast, attended that meeting and discussed the city’s decision.

In the end, they agreed. While immigrants in Astoria deserved to know whether the city respected and supported them, La Voz thought about the negatives associated with the word “sanctuary” – loss of federal funding, confrontations with government officials – and realized the label “sanctuary city” could be detrimental. There might be a better option: an inclusivity resolution.

Astoria's City Hall.

Astoria's City Hall.

Astoria’s city councilors and chief of police had already said they wouldn’t aid ICE. They’d said, if you haven’t broken any laws, you don’t have anything to fear from us. La Voz just wanted them to say it louder and make it official, so Astoria’s immigrants would know for sure the city stands behind them, and hopefully gain some peace of mind in the process.

With help from Causa Oregon’s Executive Director Andrea Miller and a template developed by the Innovation Law Lab, Lower Columbia Hispanic Council’s Executive Director Jorge Gutierrez introduced the resolution and helped craft some of the language. La Voz de la Comunidad, Astoria’s mayor and city council, and the city’s attorney and chief of police made edits, passing the document back and forth, until it was ready for a March 6, 2017 city council meeting.

On March 6, around 25 La Voz de la Comunidad members went straight from a La Voz meeting to the city council’s meeting. Only two of them had ever been to a city council meeting before. Although a letter to the editor published in The Daily Astorian encouraged people to show up and oppose the resolution, no one did. Instead, Jorge read testimony he had prepared with La Voz, a Hispanic community member and member of La Voz spontaneously gave his own testimony, and the Astoria City Council unanimously passed the resolution.

The resolution acknowledges the “vital contributions” made by Astorians from all nations and states “residents should be treated with compassion and respect regardless of national origin or citizenship status.” While, if required by federal law, Astoria’s city agencies and employees will still be expected to cooperate with federal agents, the resolution affirms that they won’t do so voluntarily. Most importantly, the resolution upholds American values of dignity and respect, freedom and opportunity for all people.

A New Narrative for Racial Equity in Oregon

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Racial Equity Agenda.

A child stands in a schoolyard, writing in a notebook.

Words are powerful. If you know how to be persuasive with language, you can get a lot done. However, your words can also work against you. If you don’t do the necessary preparation, your message could communicate something you never intended.

Racial Equity Agenda, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative, is busy doing that necessary preparation, creating an effective racial equity narrative for Oregon that will help community organizations begin important conversations about race with voters and policymakers, and move Oregon closer to racial equity.

Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

Amanda Manjarrez presenting at the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gathering of Community Collaboratives in Salem, Oregon.

On February 7th, 2017, Amanda Manjarrez, Coalition of Communities of Color’s Advocacy Director, stood at the front of a small, windowless conference room in the Salem Convention Center and introduced the idea of a cohesive racial equity narrative to community members and organizers from across the state. She presented examples of how effective narratives and values-based language can be at triggering emotions. For instance, words like “illegal,” “violent criminal” and “radical” have been selected purposefully by politicians to invoke fear about specific races and religions. These words, part of carefully constructed narratives about undocumented immigrants, black men and Muslims, have been used, successfully, to advance policies and candidates. If community organizations in Oregon want to push back against these narratives and have positive conversations about race, we need to construct our own narrative that will spark other emotions that lead to more inclusive communities and shared prosperity.

Unfortunately, people aren’t as logical as they like to think they are. In reality, humans make quick, emotional judgments, then use reasoning to justify those judgments. People also hold contradictory, competing ideas in their heads at the same time. It falls to communicators to choose the right story that will produce the desired emotions and lead an audience to take a specific action, whether that’s voting a certain way, donating to cause or something else.

It’s not what you say, it’s what people hear.
— Frank Luntz

Amanda invited EUVALCREE Executive Director Gustavo Morales and Southern Oregon Education Service District’s Migrant Education Program Parent Involvement Specialist Monserrat Alegria to share their experiences having conversations about race. Both Gustavo and Monse live in rural Oregon communities (Ontario and Medford, respectively). They’ve been part of meetings where participants will get up and leave if “race” or “equity” are mentioned. They’ve seen their community members homes vandalized, families afraid to go home. According to Gustavo and Monse, the best way to start a conversation about racial equity where they live isn’t by talking about racial equity; it’s by opening with shared values like opportunity, children and families, and community building. These are narratives that almost everyone can connect with.

Racial Equity Agenda’s goal is to find a narrative that will work for all Oregonians, a way to talk about racial equity that won’t cause people to shut down or leave the room, and will result in decision-making tables including more people of color. In order to accomplish this goal, Coalition of Communities of Color is partnering with several culturally-specific and mainstream organizations, including Native American Youth and Family Center, Latino Network, Unite Oregon, Urban League of Portland, KairosPDX, Causa Oregon, Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon, Hacienda CDC, Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization and Self Enhancement, Inc. By coordinating to use a unifying narrative for their work, their impact will be great.

Youth Unite for Social Justice

A spotlight on Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Youth Equity Collaborative.

The Youth Equity Collaborative at the Oregon Students of Color Conference.

The Youth Equity Collaborative at the Oregon Students of Color Conference.

Youth voices often go unnoticed and unrecognized in social justice movements. Youth leaders are undervalued due to their "lack of experience." But, when it comes to youth, people are measuring experience the wrong way. Youth have plenty of experience – their own lived experience. Youth are their own experts.

The Youth Equity Collaborative, made up of youth-led social justice organizations, including Multnomah Youth Commission, Latino Unidos Siempre, CAPACES Leadership Institute, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon's Youth Environmental Justice Alliance, Oregon Students of Color Coalition with Oregon Student Association and Momentum Alliance, values and prioritizes youth voices.

The Youth Equity Collaborative encourages collective youth action and including youth at decision making tables when the decisions will affect youth, because youth are capable of making change. 

Some of the challenges youth face are lack of affordable transportation, financial support and accommodations for their participation, as well as lack of opportunities. The Youth Equity Collaborative does its best to support our youth and aims to remove barriers by providing reimbursement for transportation, providing bust tickets and childcare as needed. They also provide opportunities for youth to explore, network and participate in leadership development by sending them to conferences, gatherings and lobby days.

Why did the organizations that are part of the Youth Equity Collaborative choose to join the Youth Equity Collaborative?

  • To build relationships and network across organizations.
  • To engage the community on a greater scale.
  • To create a coherent and unified youth voice across the state.
  • To learn and share effective organizational practices.
  • To foster a support network for youth involved in social justice movements.

What has the Youth Equity Collaborative been doing lately?

  • Building relationships, including meeting monthly, playing fun games and discussing what "our future looks like."
  • Participating in the Oregon Students of Color Conference and Communities Collaborate gatherings and traveling together.
  • Creating content for social media campaigns.
  • Creating a political agenda.

We Need Fewer Parents in Oregon Prisons

A mom and toddler, bundled up in winter hats and coats, rub their noses together.

Children should be surrounded by family, because children do better when their family is present. They do better in school, and they are healthier overall.

In the U.S., too many parents are torn away from their children by incarceration. In Oregon alone, over 14,500 parents are in prison. That means more than 20,000 Oregon children – more than 700 classrooms full of kids – are growing up without their mom or dad, and they're suffering for it.

Infographic showing 63% of men in Oregon prisons are fathers, 81% of women in Oregon prisons are mothers. 70% of dads in Oregon prisons don't have in-person visits with their children; 20% don't have any contact with their children. 50% of moms in Oregon prisons don't have in-person visits with their children; 8% don't have any contact with their children.

Children with a parent in prison are more likely to drop out of high school, abuse drugs and alcohol, become teenage parents, commit crimes, and become unemployed or homeless.

To make matters worse, due to the discrimination in our criminal justice system, children of color are affected at a much higher rate. Black children are seven times more likely to have a parent in prison.

Far too many families are being torn apart by the criminal justice system. This separation can be devastating for parents and their children. I know because I lived it. In 2001, I was separated from my son and sentenced to prison for a nonviolent offense. It was heartbreaking to see the trauma and harm that my incarceration caused him. Because I was a single parent, my son bounced from one family member to another and suffered the brunt of their negative reaction. Our financial situation was tight too, so during my entire prison term, my son could only afford the bus ride to visit me once. Not being there for my son was one of the most painful experiences of my life.
— Anne, formerly incarcerated mother

Fortunately, there are ways to fix this problem. One way is the Family Sentencing Alternative (FSA), which is currently being tested as a pilot program in Deschutes, Jackson, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties. The Family Sentencing Alternative allows parents convicted of nonviolent offenses to be assessed for intense supervision and appropriate services while remaining united with their children in the community. In Washington state, a similar program saved the state $59 a day per parent, and only eight of 120 participants committed a new felony offense.

Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ), a nonprofit that works with people convicted of crime, survivors of crime, and the families of both to advocate for policies that make Oregon’s approach to public safety more effective and more just, is one of the main proponents of the Family Sentencing Alternative. PSJ is currently supporting successful implementation and refinement of the FSA pilot projects, as well as seeking to increase community understanding and support. They'd like to see this program expand to the whole state.

PSJ hopes to shift the public conversation about incarceration from a debate regarding criminal punishment as a perceived means of increasing public safety, to a discussion about the far-reaching and long-term harms of parental imprisonment.

Partnership for Safety and Justice is one of Northwest Health Foundation's Kaiser Permanente Community Fund funded partners.

 

Latina Parents in Southern Oregon Stand Up for Their Children

A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Successful Transitions: Integrated Care for Children, Youth, and their Families.

A Latina mother sits beside her son in a classroom while he plays with Legos.

Yolanda Peña and Raquel Garay, two Latina mothers with children in Eagle Point School District in Southern Oregon, understand the barriers parents in their community face when trying to advocate for their children’s education. Such barriers include lack of understanding of the school system’s structure, language barriers, family responsibilities and disconnection from the community. 

Peña and Garay currently serve as the president and vice president of the Migrant Education Parent Advisory Council (PAC) in their district. Migrant Education Program of Southern Oregon is part of Successful Transitions, one of ten Collaborates that in Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Cohort working to build power for kids and families. 

One of Successful Transitions’ goals is to empower Latino early learners, students and their families by providing parent leadership and advocacy opportunities. Through Successful Transitions, Garay and Peña had the opportunity to attend Northwest Health Foundation’s Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities gatherings in Astoria, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington in 2016. Participating in these leadership development activities encouraged them to take on various leadership roles in their community, but especially in their children’s school district. 

Learning about the issues other Collaboratives are dealing with has helped Peña realize that every community in our region experiences different barriers, and it’s crucial for Latino students and their families to share their personal experiences and to be represented in decision-making spaces. 

Garay and Peña know from personal experience that navigating the educational system can be intimidating for many parents. Being the president and vice president for their district’s PAC has allowed them to voice the concerns of many Latino and migrant parents, and to have a direct influence in the decisions made regarding their children’s education. Garay acknowledges that it can be intimidating for many parents to speak up and advocate for their children, but she urges them to advocate for their children and their community anyway. She motivates other parents to become involved in their children’s education by helping them see the impact it has in their children’s academic and social performance.

By becoming active participants and working closely with the school districts, parents are not only advocating for their families, but for the community as a whole.

Check Out Our Partners in Willamette Week's 2016 Give!Guide

An artist stands on a cherry picker painting a mural. The words "GIVE!GUIDE" are superimposed on top of it.

It's giving season again, folks! That means Willamette Week's Give!Guide is collecting donations now through midnight on December 31st, with a goal of raising $3,600,000 total for 141 deserving Portland nonprofits.

Several of those 141 nonprofits are Northwest Health Foundation's past and current funded partners. We've highlighted five below! These community organizations are doing amazing work for our region, and they have earned every bit of support you can offer them.

 

Black Parent Initiative

A man holds a toddler in a school hallway. The man, the toddler and a teen standing nearby all look down at a toy the toddler is holding.

What is Black Parent Initiative? Black Parent Initiative (BPI) is the only culturally specific organization in Portland focused solely on supporting parents as a vehicle for enhancing the lives of Black youth. It helps families achieve financial, educational and spiritual success.

How is NWHF supporting BPI? NWHF is currently funding BPI through the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund to engage low-income African American families in comprehensive home-visiting services.

Why should I give to them? Children are more likely to succeed in learning, life and realizing their dreams when supported by stable and engaged adults; and communities are more likely to succeed when they prepare their children to succeed. By supporting BPI, you support a vibrant, thriving Portland.

 

Community Alliance of Tenants

The words "#RenterStateofEmergency" and "#RenterSOS" in black text on a white ground. Above the text are icons representing a roof and megaphone.

What is Community Alliance of Tenants? Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT) builds tenant power through education, advocacy, building-based organizing, leadership development and membership engagement.

How is NWHF supporting CAT? Last year NWHF supported CAT's Renter State of Emergency campaign.

Why should I give to them? Portland is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and renters are the people most impacted by it. CAT is on the front lines striving to protect renters through advocacy and legislation. In 2015, CAT's Renter State of Emergency prompted the City of Portland to declare a Housing State of Emergency. Now CAT is running a #JustCauseBecause campaign to protect tenants from no cause evictions. By giving to CAT, you contribute to all Oregonians having a stable place to live.

 

Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization

Three women with beaded headbands and necklaces press their faces close together and smile.

What is Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization? Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) promotes the integration of refugees, immigrants and the community at large into a self-sufficient, healthy and inclusive multi-ethnic society. Founded in 1976 by refugees for refugees, IRCO has nearly 40 years of history and experience working with Portland's refugee and immigrant communities.

How is NWHF supporting IRCO? IRCO is the lead organization for one of our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaboratives: Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project. 

Why should I give to them? Immigrants and refugees are a boon to our communities and our economy. Unfortunately, many of them now face the likelihood of unjust legislation by the new federal administration that will try to force many of them to leave their homes and lives in the U.S. By donating to IRCO, you support immigrants and refugees to adjust to American society, find jobs and advocate for themselves.  

 

Partnership for Safety and Justice

A child stands next to a picket sign that reads "Justice for youth."

What is Partnership for Safety and Justice? Partnership for Safety and Justice (PSJ) works with people convicted of crime, survivors of crime, and the families of both to advocate for policies that make Oregon’s approach to public safety more effective and more just.

How is NWHF supporting PSJ? NWHF is funding PSJ, through the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund, to implement, refine and increase community understanding and support, evidence-based justification, and state-wide expansion of the Family Sentencing Alternative. (The Family Sentencing Alternative allows parents to stay with their children while serving their sentence under community supervision.)

Why should I give to them? Incarceration has a huge negative impact on a person's future, as well as on their family's. For example, children of prisoners are more likely to drop out of high school, abuse drugs and alcohol, become teenage parents, commit crimes, and become unemployed and/or homeless. By donating to PSJ, you help families overcome the obstacles of life after incarceration and prevent more kids from losing their parents to prison in the future.

 

Urban League of Portland

Kids crowd around a craft table.

What is Urban League of Portland? Urban League of Portland (ULPDX) is one of the oldest African American service, civil rights and advocacy organizations in the Portland metro area. ULPDX’s mission is to empower African Americans and others to achieve equality in education, employment, health, economic security and quality of life.

How is NWHF supporting ULPDX? NWHF last funded ULPDX to convene community members to discuss priorities related to improving children's health and education.

Why should I support them? Oregon has a deeply embedded history of discrimination against African Americans. By giving to ULPDX, you contribute to dismantling racist systems and support programs that uplift the African American community.

 

Six Years Later, Cully Park is Much More Than a Dream

Cully community members stand on a portion of Cully Park land that is ready for development.

Portland's Cully neighborhood is rich with racial and ethnic diversity. Unfortunately, the neighborhood itself is resource-poor. It has much less parkland, low access to transportation and few sidewalks compared to other parts of Portland. It also has an abundance of brownfields – contaminated, post-industrial land.

In 2002, Portland Parks Bureau bought one of those brownfields – a 25-acre landfill – with the intent of turning it into a park. After years of open houses and design meetings, the Portland City Council finally agreed on a master plan, featuring sports fields, walking trails and an estimated price tag of up to $18 million. Although the plans were approved, funding was not. 

That's when the Cully community took over. Living Cully, a collaboration made up of nonprofit partners Verde, Native American Youth and Family Center, Hacienda Community Development Corporation and Habitat for Humanity Portland Metro/East, led the community to seek funding and transform the former landfill into a welcoming and useful public space.

Two people in orange construction vests hang a tarp over a sign that reads "¡NUEVE PARQUE EN CAMINO!" with a map.

In 2010, a $150,000 Northwest Health Foundation/Convergence Partnership grant enabled Living Cully to develop the very first stages of Thomas Cully Park. Now, six years later, Living Cully has raised over $9.5 million, and only needs to raise $1 million more to meet the project's $10.6 million budget (down from the $18 million estimated by the City Council in 2002). Most recently, on Portland Parks Foundation's 15th Anniversary, Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced a $3 million allocation from the City.

Not only has Living Cully raised millions of dollars for the park. Since development began in 2012, Scott School students worked with an architect to design a community garden; Verde restored a section of the land too steep for park features to create a mixed deciduous-riparian habitat; Verde Nursery began growing plants in a 10,000 square foot staging area for distribution throughout the park; a group of Native and non-Native community members created an Inter-Tribal Gathering Garden; Cully neighborhood schools and students helped design a play area meeting the needs of young people in the neighborhood and youth with disabilities; and Living Cully transformed NE 72nd Avenue into a Greenstreet.

Thomas Cully Park is truly by and for the people, and we can't wait to see future transformations of the space!

This is an update on a past Partner Spotlight written a few years ago. Check out the original Partner Spotlight.

Two Stories from Eastern Oregon

Two stories from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families, which is led by EUVALCREE.

Insights from a Latina Youth Leader

Ontario School District representative Benardina Navarrete and High School Student Genesis Romero stand on either side of an Ontario School District banner in the hallway of Alameda Elementary School.

Ontario School District representative Benardina Navarrete and High School Student Genesis Romero stand on either side of an Ontario School District banner in the hallway of Alameda Elementary School.

Genesis Romero is a EUVALCREE volunteer and a senior at Vale High School in Vale, OR. For her senior project she organized a resource fair to inform Latino families of existing resources and services in the community.

The event took place on October 8th from 10am to 2pm at Alameda Elementary School in Ontario, OR.

Later that evening, Genesis participated in a focus group hosted by EUVALCREE to discuss community needs with one of our major partners, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center - Ontario. She shared insights from her own experience, as well as her learnings from the event she organized. Genesis said: The best thing a student can have is the support of their teachers. Unfortunately, more often then not, students are not supported by their teachers and, furthermore, are frequently disregarded as someone who is not going to accomplish much in life.

Genesis is graduating from high school this year. She dreams of becoming a forensic scientist and, later, a medical examiner. 

 

EUVALCREE Assesses Hard-to-Reach Community Members' Needs

A EUVALCREE Community Organizer provides information on leadership and advocacy courses, and how to become a volunteer, at a table draped with a EUVALCREE banner. Three women and two kids crowd around the table.

A EUVALCREE Community Organizer provides information on leadership and advocacy courses, and how to become a volunteer, at a table draped with a EUVALCREE banner. Three women and two kids crowd around the table.

EUVALCREE recently conducted a different kind of community assessment. How was it different? They focused on reaching the community members that are hard to reach - the ones who have not accessed services or resources, or replied to a questionnaire asking what they could use to help them achieve their dreams for themselves and their families.

The collection period occurred over the course of four months. 17 trained volunteers went door to door in Malheur County, Oregon, and Payette and Washington Counties, Idaho. The average household visit was approximately 60 minutes. With almost 900 volunteer hours in data collection, 497 community assessments were collected. The data was transcribed over the course of two months, and the results are currently being analyzed.

From this information, EUVALCREE is developing a strategic plan to address the identified community needs and make the changes necessary to move the Eastern Oregon Latino community forward. Results will be made public once a strategic plan is adopted, and the strategic plan will be made public as well. 

 

Read more about EUVALCREE in The Ford Family Foundation's publication, Community Vitality

Immigrant and Refugee Communities in Oregon Agree on At Least Two Things

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project.

irco oregon state capital

[Image description: Members of the Multiethnic Advisory Group hold an "Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization" banner on the steps of the Oregon state capitol.]

The immigrant and refugee population in Oregon is made up of incredibly diverse communities with varied opinions, concerns and needs. And yet, for the most part, they can all agree on at least two things: their children and families’ health is of utmost importance, and immigrants and refugees can make a bigger impact working together.

In 2015, Africa House, Asian Family Center and the Slavic Network of Oregon were all working separately from one another on individual Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities community organizing projects. Africa House was focused on maternal health; Asian Family Center was interested in developing an early life task force; and the Slavic Network of Oregon was pursuing 501c3 status. They were all also working with Portland State University and Coalition of Communities of Color to collect data and conduct assessments of their communities. In the end they decided if the community assessments showed that their communities had concerns in common, they would join together.

It turned out they had three issues in common: The African, Asian Pacific Islander and Slavic communities all wanted to improve early childhood health. They all wanted to work on kindergarten readiness. And they all liked the Community Health Worker model.

The decision to partner led to the formation of the Multiethnic Advisory Group (MAG). The MAG includes representatives from, not just Africa House, Asian Family Center and the Slavic Network of Oregon, but also African Women’s Coalition, Cambodian-American Community of Oregon, Northwest Somali Community Organization, Oregon Bhutanese Community Organization, Slavic Community Center of NW, Togo Community Organization of Oregon and Zomi Association of U.S.

Despite having a vision of healthy childhoods in common, the members of the MAG all come from very different places with different customs and values. The most difficult obstacle for the MAG to overcome has been making sure everyone gets heard and feels included in decisions. For this reason, the group created community agreements, one of which is that all decisions must be made by consensus.

irco staff with tina kotek

[Image description: Four Multiethnic Advisory Group members stand and smile in an office with Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek.]

One of the first actions the MAG agreed on was to participate in a lobby day in Oregon’s state capitol. For most of the MAG members, the lobby day was their first experience participating in U.S. government. Many came from countries where they could not express their opinions about, or participate in, the government. So, to them, the idea of meeting with elected officials and voicing their concerns was both surprising and scary. However, after practicing ahead of time, dividing into smaller groups and spending time with at least two government officials each, the MAG members soon settled into sharing their stories.   

The MAG members left lobby day feeling empowered and excited. They quickly decided that they want to learn more about policy advocacy and are now planning a training for exactly that purpose. They’re also planning on participating in a lobby day during the 2017 legislative session. Together, they know they can voice their communities’ concerns and improve childhood health and kindergarten readiness for all immigrant and refugee children.

Washington County Latino Parents Organize to Break the Cycle of Childhood Poverty

adelante mujeres parents

[Image description: Latino parents gather around a conference table.]

In Washington County, 27% of children 0-6 are Latino. Yet Latino children account for more than half of children in poverty.

Here’s another shocking stat: Although 36% of youth and children in western Washington County are Latino, Hillsboro and Forest Grove school districts’ boards of directors are both 100% white.

Furthermore, out of six Forest Grove city councilors and six Hillsboro city councilors, only one is Hispanic or Latino.

This is unacceptable. This means that the Latino community, which is by far the largest ethnic/racial minority community in Oregon, is not represented at these important decision-making tables and does not have a hand in creating the policies that impact Latino kids and families.

Enter Creciendo Juntos. Led by Vision Action Network and made up of collaborative partners from education and human services sectors, Creciendo Juntos engages Latino parents to become active in their kids’ education and involved in the community, with an end goal of breaking the cycle of childhood poverty. Latino parents who are currently active in this initiative live in high-poverty neighborhoods and attend areas within the six elementary schools with the greatest percentages of Latino children in the Forest Grove and Hillsboro School Districts; three in Forest Grove: Cornelius, Echo Shaw and Fern Hill; and three in Hillsboro: Lincoln Street, Reedville and W. L. Henry. In 2012-13, each of these elementary schools had an enrollment of 66-86% Hispanic students and a free and reduced lunch eligibility of 75-85%.

According to Creciendo Juntos staff, “There is a great hunger among Latinos to work together for a better life.”

Over the last couple years, Creciendo Juntos has strengthened Latino leadership through its Advocacy Team composed of one bilingual staff member and two Latino participants from each participating partner. Their meetings are focused on educating and empowering Latinos, and are all held in Spanish. Topics covered range from citizenship and immigration rights to navigating the school system and volunteering on boards and committees.

With the newfound knowledge gained in these gatherings, parents become more comfortable participating at their kids’ schools and advocating for their kids’ education. Some of the parents involved in Creciendo Juntos are also eager to join parent advisory committees at the district level, and possibly even run for city council positions.

Moving forward, the parents who started with Creciendo Juntos will become the teachers, helping new parents become familiar with school and community systems, sharing a vision of a thriving Western Washington county where Latino children and their families are healthy, successful in school, life and engaged in their community.

Creciendo Juntos was one of Northwest Health Foundation's partners during our Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Organizing Grant Year.

Oregon Active Schools: Green Acres Elementary School

This blog is the fifth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

Playworks

[Image description: Elementary school-aged kids jump rope on a playground blacktop.]

HERE'S WHAT GREEN ACRES STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:

Q. How did your school use its Oregon Active Schools grant?

A. We used Oregon Active Schools funding for a variety of things at our school! One-third of the funds were used to purchase new equipment for before school activities in the gym. Students enter the gym before school and now have equipment that is developmentally appropriate to help them start off their day with physical activity and movement. We also used some of the funds to purchase “Brain Break” books for all of the classrooms in our school. Teachers now have a book filled with ideas for quick brain breaks in order to promote more movement throughout the school day.

Q. What sort of changes have you seen in your school related to physical activity?

A. Students love to move, and by providing resources to encourage this they are able to move more. For example, now teachers don’t have to worry about coming up with a quick activity on their own. They can easily grab the Brain Break book, flip to a page, perform an activity to get the class moving, and then re-engage in the learning that needs to take place within three to five minutes. Also, with more equipment readily available more students can start their day with physical activity. Rather than having to stand in a long line to wait for a jump rope or basketball, we have enough equipment for students to work in small groups.

Q. How have these funds supported your students' cultural and regional identities?

A. We were able to purchase equipment that isn’t necessarily “traditional” in order to expose students to new physical activities that they may enjoy. Perhaps a student doesn’t like to be physically active because they don’t like traditional team sports. With funds we were able to purchase things students had never heard of, like Chinese jump ropes, omnikin balls and Velcro catch and throw sets.

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

A. Physical activity is vital for students. Our bodies were made to move, and when we expect students to sit in a desk all day with minimal movement they become disengaged. However, when incorporating movement into the learning process, students are able to learn while also being physically active. In addition I believe it is important to expose students to a variety of activities. If they find something they enjoy they are more likely to continue being physically active as they age, which leads to a healthy, productive life.

Green Acres Elementary School is one of Lebanon Community School District's eight schools.

 

Warm Springs Youth Build Power for Political Participation

Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

Photo courtesy of the Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page. Photo credit to Jayson Smith.

[Image description: A candidate with a long braid and glasses speaks into a standing microphone. Three candidates sit behind.]

At the beginning of 2016, Let’s Talk Diversity Coalition and the Warm Springs Youth Council formed a partnership around voter education for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Their first project was a candidate forum held in Warm Springs, Oregon on March 7th, 2016.

This forum gave local Tribal Council candidates running for the upcoming Warm Springs Tribal Council elections an opportunity to interact with the community and share their strengths, concerns and positions on issues the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs is facing. It also served to highlight the upcoming Bureau of Indian Affairs Secretarial Election and allowed tribal members, as well as the Warm Springs Youth Council, to raise and discuss thoughts about issues that would be on the Secretarial Election ballot. These included various proposed changes to the make-up of the Tribal Council and the process of electing Tribal Council members, as well as a proposed change to lower the voting age to 18.

Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Warm Springs Youth Council Facebook page.

[Image description: Six Warm Springs Youth Council members, wearing black t-shirts that read "BUILD COMMUNITY," pose around a Warm Springs Youth Council banner.]

In preparation for the forum, the Warm Springs Youth Council developed questions that incorporated the Secretarial Election’s proposed changes, history of the tribe, education and youth concerns. The forum was organized and hosted by the Youth Council with support from Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, Warm Springs Prevention Team and the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. It was the first candidate forum to be organized in the history of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

Twenty-four hours before the event, the Youth Council contacted Let's Talk Diversity Coalition, requesting us to provide a sign language interpreter for the event. Thanks to regional and local connections, we were able to locate an interpreter for the event and pay him for his services. It's definitely worthwhile to build those relationships before they're needed! The community expressed appreciation of the interpretation services, not to mention the opportunity to hear from Tribal Council candidates.

Let's Talk Diversity Coalition continues to partner with the Warm Springs Youth Council and looks forward to the upcoming voter education collaborations, and to building power with our young leaders!

Oregon Active Schools: Aiken Elementary

This blog is the fourth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

Kids play on a playground carousel.

[Image description: Five kids play on a playground carousel. One girl leans back over the edge, her braid flying. One sits and dangles her legs over the side.]

HERE'S WHAT AIKEN ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:

Q. How did your school use its Oregon Active Schools grant?

A. In 2014, Aiken Elementary applied for the $3,000 grant to construct a walking trail, but after calculating the cost we realized the expenses for the trail significantly outweighed the aid provided by the grant. Northwest Health Foundation allowed the school to repurpose the grant to help fund the building of a new playground. This funding allowed the Aiken PTO, Oregon Active Schools and Ontario School District to partner to add three new playground structures to the Aiken campus. The ribbon cutting event was well-attended and a healthy “create your own” snack-mix station was provided by OSU Extension staff.

In 2015, Aiken Elementary applied for an additional $3,000 grant to fund a walking program at the school. Aiken partnered with OSU Extension staff Barbara Brody and Jill Hoshaw to outline a plan to increase the amount of physical activity opportunities students receive in the school day. Included in this project will be a spring kick-off assembly, jog-a-thon, walking club, and recognition of students who are making health conscious choices when it comes to exercise and nutrition.

Q. What sort of changes have you seen in your school related to physical activity?

A. Through the additional funding and a partnership with OSU Extension, students are given far more opportunities to get out of their desks, learn healthy life skills, and move. The new playground equipment has been very popular with students and it is the busiest place on the playground. If you drive by Aiken Elementary on evenings or weekends you can see students and other community members enjoying use of these new installations.

This year, OSU staff trained teachers at Aiken to implement the use of Balanced Energy Physical Activity Toolkits. Through the use of this resource from October to December, students have increased their physical activity by 2,298 minutes, or over 38 hours. Since obtaining grant funding, Aiken has made physical education and nutrition a focus of family and community events.

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

A. Physical activity in schools is important because we are teaching children skills to be successful in life. Health plays a major part in overall success. We know from data gathered that students who receive adequate physical activity opportunities have better behavior and academic performance. We want to provide students with the best education possible, and providing them physical education plays a crucial role.

 

HERE'S WHAT AIKEN ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:

Q. How has recess changed since Oregon Active Schools started at your school?

Alina, 3rd grade: “We get to play more fun things in PE. We had a contest on how many bean bags each person could throw into a bucket. The spinny thing is my favorite part of the new playground. I sometimes come play at Aiken on the weekends.”

J.J., 3rd grade: “We get to play more activities in PE. The slide is my favorite thing on the playground. I like to play indoor soccer.”

Q. What is your favorite part about recess or PE?

Will, 1st grade: “My favorite part of PE is when we start to play with bean bags and buckets. We go in groups and then we start to play. We go run to the other buckets and try to put the bean bags in the other buckets. We try to empty our bucket and fill someone else’s bucket. My favorite game is soccer when I get to practice and play games.”

Q. Why do you think physicial activity in schools is important?

Brooke, 5th grade: “It’s important because every kid needs exercise. Playing outside makes me happy. Fresh air is good for kids. It helps my mind focus. It’s free to play at school, but for city sports you have to pay money.”

Aiken Elementary is one of Ontario School District's five elementary schools.

Get out the Latinx Vote!

A story from Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Healthy CAPACES.

Acción Política PCUNista, PCUN's electoral organizing arm and a partner in the Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Healthy CAPACES, was formed in 1998 when a group of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste (PCUN) members joined together to campaign for naming Woodburn's new high school after César Chávez. Although the school board voted against the name, they did agree to observe March 31st, César E. Chávez Day, throughout the school district. After seeing the impact their involvement had, the PCUN members decided to create Voz Hispana Causa Chavista, which was rebranded as Acción Política PCUNista in 2014. Since rebranding, APP has supported driver cards in Oregon and was instrumental in helping pass the 2015 Woodburn School Bond.

As Oregon's only operating Latino 501(c)(4) organization, APP works to engage the Latinx community in the voting process. APP's work includes hosting candidate forums, Latinx voter education, voter ID and registration, canvassing, endorsing candidates, political mailing, phone banking and community organizing.

Teresa Alonso Leon

Teresa Alonso Leon

[Image description: A Latina woman wearing a black blazer and red lipstick poses in front of a tree trunk and ground covered with yellow leaves.]

This year APP endorsed and is supporting Teresa Alonso Leon's campaign for State Representative of House District 22. Teresa Alonso Leon was raised in Woodburn, so she's experienced the needs of the community. She comes from a working family and knows firsthand what it is like to confront and overcome barriers. Teresa is also the GED administrator for the state of Oregon and has served on the Woodburn City Council for four years. She's committed to improving the education system for children and adults, advocating for a more transparent government, and creating better paying jobs.

If elected, Teresa will be the first Latinx and immigrant woman to represent one of Oregon's most diverse counties. Marion County is 25% Latino/Hispanic. Woodburn is 56% Latino/Hispanic. But this large Latinx community is not reflected on school boards, city councils or at the state level. By campaigning for Teresa, APP campaigns for an incredible leader who represents the Latinx community and acts as a role model for children with similar backgrounds and experiences.

Acción Política PCUNista

Acción Política PCUNista

[Image description: A group of young Latinxs pose and smile in front of a colorful mural depicting Latinx farmworkers rallying for justice.]

To support Teresa's campaign, APP hosted her canvas kickoff on July 2nd at PCUN. We spent hours on the phone inviting community members to this event. On the day of the event, we knocked on over 1,000 doors to spread the news about Teresa. Since the event, we've spent our time canvassing and talking to community members about their vision for Marion county. We've given presentations to diverse groups at college and high schools about the work APP is doing and Teresa's campaign. You'll also find us at most local events getting out the Latinx vote!

Upcoming Events:

La Fiesta Mexicana, Woodburn, August 5th-8th

Urban Art Fest, Salem, August 6th

Get Involved:

Remember, voting is power and we should all have a say in the decisions that affect our communities. Let's stand up and unite for the people!

If you are interested in participating or volunteering with APP, please contact appinfo@pcun.org

Like us on Facebook.

Oregon Active Schools: Parklane Elementary School

This blog is the third in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.

[Image description: Kids in navy, white and khaki school uniforms stand in line at an orange cone. A girl in the foreground, walking away from the camera, wears bright blue and orange sneakers and green pony beads in her hair.]

HERE'S WHAT PARKLANE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PE TEACHER JASON BRENNAN HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:

Q. How did your school use its Oregon Active Schools grant?

A. At Parklane Elementary, our students LOVE to be active and play. We used the Oregon Active Schools funding to improve the quantity and quality of physically active experiences in our Physical Education classes, at recess, in our after school SUN program and during physical activity breaks. We upgraded and successfully organized our recess equipment by purchasing a playground storage bin, mobile hula hoop & jump rope rack, new soccer goals, and pinnies and cones for our Game of the Week activities. We are currently installing a new basketball backboard and hoop, as well as a volleyball court on our blacktop, which will be awesome. Maybe the most exciting addition is our new cross-country exercise Treadmarks program, which challenges our students to to run-walk-jog their way around a 1/4 path throughout our playground. Students keep track of their progress and earn rewards on their way to achieving the goal of 125 miles!

Q. What sort of changes have you seen in your school related to physical activity?

A. The Oregon Active School funds have allowed Parklane to provide the students of our school with a wide variety of choices and opportunities for physical activity. In our Physical Education and physical activity-related SUN classes, our instructors are able to use some of the new equipment to enable more students to engage in vigorous physical activity for a larger percentage of the class time. At recess, students can instantly participate in our Treadmarks program for the entirety of the recess or for a lap or two before quickly moving onto another physical activity on the playground. Hula hoops and jump ropes are always in use on the playground, and our soccer and Game of the Week activities are easily organized with the addition of our new pinnies and cones, allowing for large numbers of students to join and participate with high levels of physical activity.

Q. How did these funds help support your students' cultural and regional identities?

A. The students at Parklane Elementary enjoy engaging in all types of play and movement experiences and these funds have allowed our diverse student body, who together speak 20 different languages, more quality opportunities to socialize and build relationships and friendships through the exciting participation in sport and physical activity.

Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?

A. Schools are full of kids, and what do kids love to do........PLAY!!! It is no secret that students who regularly participate in physical activity have high levels of academic achievement, impulse control, positive behaviors and self-esteem. By providing our students at Parklane with more diverse opportunities to be physically active throughout the school day, we are providing them with safe, organized, socially engaging experiences in physical education and physical activities that can positively influence our children throughout their lifetime.

 

HERE'S WHAT PARKLANE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:

Q. How has recess changed since Oregon Active Schools started at your school?

Jazleen: The treadmarks help me walk more.
Kavonte: A lot of people are doing treadmarks instead of four-square or basketball.
Lilli: We now have more choices on the playground. Some start at treadmarks and then go to a game, or the other way around.
Daniel: The treadmarks help me run faster.

Q. What is your favorite part about recess or PE?

Darius: My favorite part about recess is playing soccer and basketball with my friends.
Alex: I play with my friends at PE and have adventures.
Abdiaziz: My favorite part about PE is soccer, because it is my favorite sport.
Josh: Treadmarks!
Laila: Treadmarks. They help me be energized.
Allison: Star Wars dodgeball.
Kavonte: Kickball.
Alex: Playing volleyball.

Q. Why do you think physicial activity in schools is important?

Lyndsey: You get stronger.
Bridget: You get energy.
Nevaeh: So you can be healthy.
Lilli: So that you can release energy from your body. It's good for you.
Holly: Because it is healthy for you. IT'S FUN! And it feels good!
 

Parklane Elementary School is one of Centennial School District's seven elementary schools.

 

Keeping Vancouver Housed

Oregon and Southwest Washington are in the midst of a housing crisis. Over the last few years, the Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro metro area has been flooded with out-of-state movers. Market forces, including limited housing supply and stagnant wages, are making it hard for people to secure safe and affordable homes. Demand is so high, at the end of 2015 only 2.4% of rentals were vacant, and many people struggling to make ends meet were pushed out of their homes. Cities and community organizations endeavor to enact solutions to this problem. In Vancouver, a community has come together to build power and take concrete steps toward keeping people housed.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

SUPPORTERS OF AN AFFORDABLE HOUSING LEVY TESTIFY IN FRONT OF VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL ON JUNE 20, 2016.

[Image description: Three people dressed in red sit at a table facing Vancouver's City Council. The city councilors are seated at a long, semicircular desk, with each person's name on a plaque mounted in front of them.]

At the end of 2014, Courtyard Village, an apartment complex in Vancouver’s Rose Village neighborhood, which is known for housing people from vulnerable communities, was sold to a new owner. Tenants in the 151-unit complex began receiving 20-day notices to vacate. Families, singles, couples and seniors found themselves facing a housing crisis during the holiday season.

Also at the end of 2014, twenty-six Southwest Washington residents participated in Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington’s first Community Health Worker training program. Before even graduating the program, these community leaders made a huge impact in the lives of the people evicted from Rose Village, and they’ve continued to make an impact on the entire community through their advocacy for affordable housing.

When the 20-day notices to vacate were issued, many of Courtyard Village’s tenants didn’t even know the apartment complex had been sold. The Community Health Workers in training, some of whom lived in the Rose Village neighborhood, pulled together with Washington Elementary School and the Council for the Homeless to educate tenants about what was happening and connect them to resources. This included a community meeting where they learned about assistance finding housing, paying moving costs and support being offered by a neighboring church (Vancouver First United Methodist). It also included Community Health Workers going door to door to make sure every tenant, including those who had chronic conditions and no means of transportation, received the information they needed. Thanks to these efforts, 101 of the 151 Courtyard Village households contacted partners for assistance. The community stepped up with fundraising, too. The Vancouver community raised $102,000 to help households pay expenses associated with moving. There was a “fun run” and donations from individuals and businesses. In addition, many congregations held special offerings. This community-driven assistance helped 76 of the 101 households, including 89 children, secure new homes.

After responding to the Courtyard Village crisis and graduating from their training program in February 2015, the Community Health Workers were determined to prevent similar situations from happening again in the future. That meant policy change.

On September 14, 2015, Community Health Workers, Rose Village residents and others testified at a City of Vancouver hearing about a proposal for renter protections. Community Health Worker Dominique Horn testified as a Rose Village community member and Courtyard Village neighbor: “It doesn’t just affect them. It affects the whole community. It affects the school. It affects my children. It affects everyone. And there is nowhere for them to go.”

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

COMMUNITY HEALTH WORKER DOMINIQUE HORN TESTIFYING AT THE SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2015 VANCOUVER CITY COUNCIL MEETING. CLICK ON THE IMAGE AND FAST FORWARD TO 2:05 TO LISTEN TO DOMINIQUE'S POWERFUL TESTIMONY.

[Image description: Screenshot of a woman speaking into a microphone, people seated behind her. A caption at the bottom of the screen reads "Vancouver City Council, 9/14/15."]

After the hearing, Vancouver’s City Council approved three ordinances protecting vulnerable renters: one requiring landlords who wish to raise a tenant’s rent by ten percent or more to give a 45-day written notice of rent increase, one requiring landlords who own five or more rental units to give at least 60-days notice to vacate, and one preventing landlords from refusing to rent to a tenant based on a tenant’s source of income. This was a huge win for Community Health Workers, Rose Village tenants and the Vancouver community as a whole, but it still didn’t solve the problem of the lack of affordable housing.

That brings us to this week. Once again, on June 20, 2016, Vancouver residents packed the City Council Chambers, many of them wearing red. They wore red to show their support for an affordable housing levy. At a rate of 36 cents per $1,000 assessed property value, the levy would generate $6 million annually for seven years to be put toward low-income rental housing and homelessness prevention. Thanks to the turnout and testimony, City Council voted to add the levy to the November ballot.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE BRING VANCOUVER HOME CAMPAIGN.

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF HEALTHY LIVING COLLABORATIVE OF SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON KACHINA INMAN PRESENTS A CHECK TO THE BRING VANCOUVER HOME CAMPAIGN.

[Image description: Two women stand in front of a room full of people seated at tables covered with purple tablecloths. One of the women holds a large check. More people stand in front of a wall draped in purple and red.]

Policy measure by policy measure, Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington and its many partners work toward keeping community members in their homes. With 501(c)4 funding from Northwest Health Foundation's Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities initiative, Healthy Living Collaborative and its partners will be able to contribute dollars to a political campaign for the first time this year: the non-partisan campaign Bring Vancouver Home. They will continue to advocate for families and children in Southwest Washington to keep them housed and healthy.

Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington is the lead organization for Healthy Communities, Healthy Futures, a Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative.