Somali Families Need Somali Teachers

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

Every family and community wants their children to succeed in school. Oregon’s Somali community is no different.

 Three members of the Somali community sit on one side of a white tablecloth-covered table.

However, the Somali community faces some additional barriers to education in the United States. For one, there’s the language barrier. Even if a Somali student speaks English fluently, members of their family, including their parents, might not. That means it is challenging for parents to engage in their children’s school. (It’s been shown that parent involvement advances learning.) In addition, as Somali children lose their native language, it becomes harder and harder for them to communicate with older generations of their family and community.

There is also a cultural barrier to education for Somali families: most Somali Americans lived in refugee camps for years before they moved to the U.S., and the refugee camps did not have formal schools. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Somali children, youth and their families might have trouble understanding and navigating Oregon’s school system. As a result, many Somali students drop out.

Concerned Somali parents and community members met with Portland Public School District officials, hoping to solve these problems. At first, PPS offered money to the Somali community for afterschool problems. “Money is great,” said parent and community member Isgow Mohamed, “but that’s not the issue.” What they really needed was someone in the schools who spoke their language and understood their culture: a Somali teacher or administrator.

Thanks to the Somali community’s advocacy, PPS hired a Somali teacher to teach at Rosa Parks Elementary School, and occasionally visit other schools as well. And, they’re determined to place more Somali teachers in more schools across the district. That way, Somali children and youth will feel supported in the classroom. Parents will have someone they trust who they can bring questions to. Teachers will encourage students to speak Somali, as well as English. If all goes well, Somali students will thrive.

It is doubly difficult for immigrants and refugees from non-English speaking countries to advocate for themselves. They may not be comfortable speaking up for themselves in English. In addition, they may come from countries where civic and political engagement is discouraged, sometimes violently. The Immigrant and Refugee Engage Project, led by their Multiethnic Advisory Group, engages and supports immigrant and refugee community members to participate in storytelling and advocacy for systems change. Northwest Somali Community Organization is one of their core partners.

Q&A with Palestinian Rights Advocate and Basketball enthusiast Waddah Sofan

In 2017, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Waddah is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Waddah sits in a wheelchair in front of picnic table and smiles.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I am part of Palestinian/American, Muslim, Middle Eastern, people of color and disabled communities. I am a very diverse individual who is lucky to belong to all of the above communities.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I was highly involved as a student government leader at Portland State University and community leader, community organizer and disabled rights advocate. I've also been involved with the following agencies:

  • Advisory chair for Multicultural Student Center, Portland State University
  • Student government leader, Portland State University
  • Head of disability advocacy cultural association student group, Portland State University
  • Outreach coordinator for Arab Persian Student Organization
  • Board member for Center for Intercultural Organizing (now known as Unite Oregon)
  • Wheelchair youth basketball coach for Oregon Disability Sports
  • Co-founder of Palestinian Federation for Disabled for Sport
  • Member of national wheelchair basketball team
  • Co-founder of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Portland State University
  • Member of Disability Power PDX, City of Portland 

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I would like to improve my leadership skills to be able to serve the disabled community at large, to help create and change polices at the local and state level that impact disabled peoples' daily life. Also, I would like to share my experience and train disabled youth to become independent and take command of their lives.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. Advocating for disabled individuals around the globe is something that excites me about disability justice. Also, what excites me is that we, the oppressed people, are uniting and moving together as one to bring justice and equity to those who seek it.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I would like to be more familiar with policies and regulations that concern disability accessibility in our community, so I would be able to communicate them clearly to improve outcomes for people with disabilities.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. In my simple opinion, I would like to see the disability rights and disability justice movements continue to grow and more people claim their own uniqueness or identity as people with disabilities or as an oppressed people. I would like for everyone to live in peace and harmony, and for our community to be very welcoming and understanding of those they don’t have common interested with.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

A. My favorite movie is The Green Mile. It is a great story about forgiveness, kindness and love. The story was very uplifting and draws you into it most of the time. It was about an innocent man who has very soft heart on death row for a crime he did not commit. The man has nothing but hope and love for all people he came in touch with. He healed peoples' hurts on his own expense when either used his miracle of healing. He even healed those who were selfish and put him to death. It is a story of giving and making good in life despite knowing you won’t live long enough to see the goodness that impacted others.

Q&A with Healthcare and Housing Advocate Nico Serra

In 2017, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Nico is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Nico sits in their GRIT Freedom Chair in the middle of a street and smiles. Behind them people wear rainbow flag capes and a unicorn hoodie.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. The transgender community and the queer community. The disability justice community. The Black community. The healthcare advocacy community.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking at events and rallies, and to give testimony at hearings. I’m on the Board of Directors at Real Choice Initiative and Health Care for All Oregon, and I organize with several other groups focused on justice for vulnerable people.

I spend a lot of time advocating for myself and other folks with serious health concerns. Many have shared resources with me, and I enjoy passing that knowledge on to others. I’m mostly focused on housing and healthcare. I strongly believe that housing is healthcare, because no matter how good someone’s healthcare is or how good their nutrition is, if they don’t have housing it doesn’t matter.

The waitlist for accessible housing in the City of Portland is fifteen, eighteen years long. Folks are forced into nursing and group homes, where they control almost nothing about their lives. Recently, I heard a friend talking about how hard it is to be twenty years old and living in hospice care. They were trying to study for exams, but instead wound up hanging out with someone who was about to pass because that person’s family didn’t show up. People forced into these situations describe what sounds like imprisonment. They don’t get any privacy. They can’t choose what they want to eat or when to eat. They can’t come and go as they please. They don’t even get to choose when to bath or go to the bathroom. This and ending up on the street is everyone’s worst nightmare, and it's brought to you by your tax dollars. I’m doing my part and encouraging others to join in changing this problem.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I want to organize with other People with Disabilities and serious health concerns, transgender people and people of color to find or create sustainable, accessible and affordable housing and healthcare.

I also want to focus on employment for the mentioned populations. Due to capitalism, eugenics and imperialism, I think people with health issues, transgender and non-binary people, and people of color have a harder time getting and keeping jobs. I want to organize folks struggling to find work to become personal care assistants. Then we’ll have someone who doesn’t just tolerate or respect our culture, but who are actual members of the same cultures and communities.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. What’s most exciting to me is that it affects everybody. I agree with something a friend and fellow organizer said: “I’m less interested in breaking through the next glass ceiling and more interested in raising the floor.” With disability justice, everybody does better.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I hope to have a more thorough understanding of where the disability justice movement came from and how I can continue the work. I’ve become disabled in my adult life, so I don’t have as deep of an understanding of it compared to folks that have had altered abilities since birth or childhood.

I’m excited about meeting more brown and Black people organizing around Disability Justice. These are all seriously resilient people who know how to survive almost impossible circumstances. These are people who get it and want to change the way things are, not just for us, but for elders and the people coming after us as well.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. The system must undergo revolutionary reformation, because it’s not just a broken system, it’s a system that was built on the broken backs of brown and Black people and that continues to this day. 100 million indigenous people were killed when this land was colonized and 52 million people were killed in the TransAtlantic slave trade. Is it really any wonder why some people’s lives are more difficult than others? Being actively hunted in the streets and/or being thrown into institutions absolutely changes whether or not a person can reach self-actualization. I think We The People must throw capitalism out. In 2017, 82% of the wealth in the USA was in the hands of the top 1%. That means that the other 99% of us are expected to step on the throats of our loved ones and neighbors and fight over the leftover scraps. I, for one, am done with this dynamic, and I think many others are too.

I think unlearning the dangerous practice of consuming one thing or another to deal with big feelings is the place to start. Learning how to be in the center of our centers, in the eye of the storm, will help all of us emerge from our "trauma tunnels." From there, everyone learning how to think critically is a part of my vision. I think the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast are places where all this could actually change. I think there are enough people here who care and are actually doing real things to create these changes.

The way the Social Security Administration defines disability is all about functionality. If someone has an inability to hold down housing, that makes them functionally disabled, in my opinion. The folks stranded out on the street are on the front lines of a brutal class war, and We The People cannot wait for the State to solve this. We must create ways to meet our needs and the needs of those around us. If there is any place on this land where this could happen, it's Portland, the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast.

I envision everyone receiving holistic healthcare and being housed. Unfortunately, institutionalized oppression is real, and this crushes our bodies, minds and spirits. If we get locked out of healthcare and/or housing, it’s almost impossible to develop sustainable connections with those around you, get a job, and so many other things. When someone shows up and is deemed to have red flags – you’re a person of color, you don’t have insurance, you don’t have a place to live, you have depression, chronic pain, you’re trans, queer, you’ve been on opiates, you experience post-traumatic stress, etc. – unless you have a really good support network, advocates, and, in my case, help from my Congressional Representative, you get blown off and end up dead, on the streets or in prison. When I first sought treatment after being hit and dragged around a corner by a station wagon while riding my bicycle, I was blown off, yelled at, humiliated, among many other horrors. For example, it took three years to get a cast on my broken hand. So, it’s really important to me to pass Health Care for ALL Oregon and on the West Coast, while at the same time changing the way people think about healthcare. Many folks are taught to run to the doctor’s office for every piece of advice about how to take care of our bodies, but there’s so much people can do themselves just by changing what we put in our bodies and other daily habits.

Q. What is your favorite song, book or movie?

A. I’m really into this Beyonce song called “Freedom:” “Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move, freedom, cut me loose! Freedom! Freedom! Where are you? Cause I need freedom too! I break chains all by myself, won’t let my freedom rot in hell. Hey! Ima gonna keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves.”

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know?

A. Please join me in this work at RealChoiceOregon.com and HCAO.org (Health Care for ALL Oregon). Let go of the next glass ceiling, raise the floor and build from the ground up.

Q&A with Somali Refugee and Community Organizer Saara Hirsi

In 2017, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Saara is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Saara sits with other members of her African immigrant/refugee community.

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. I’m from a lot of communities. I’m originally from Somalia, which is located in East Africa. I consider myself part of the immigrant/refugee community. I’m also part of the advocacy and social justice communities and the disability community.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. I’m an activist and community organizer. I created a program called Health Care and People with Disabilities within the African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO). This program empowers individuals with disabilities to get education and employment when they are ready. This program gives resources and information to family, adults and parents who have children with disabilities. We have English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, Personal Support Worker training and community education about disabilities. I introduced the AYCO organization to what people with disabilities can do and how they can get resources in this country. Refugees with disabilities are often socially isolated their home. This project is about educating the community to change beliefs and attitudes about disabilities.

I’m also part of REAL: Reject Economic Ablest Limits. REAL is about understanding leadership, systems change, and learning and working on employment. We advocated for two positions with the City of Portland. We've also done leadership trainings, and we used the ten principles of disability justice.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I want to be a part of policymaking. I am interested in participating in advocacy and policy change, because our voice is not there. When we put more people who experience the problem in decision-making positions, we’ll get more solutions to fix the problem.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. I really appreciate this opportunity, because I was fighting for this on my own. Disability justice gives me the opportunity to learn social justice language, build confidence and give me hope to make change. Before disability justice training, I thought no one understood my challenges. I learned that there are activists who are working to change these problems. I appreciate seeing other people working on these issues. I look forward to becoming a better leader and learning more, so I can help more people to become leaders in the future.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

A. I would like to see the people affected by problems in leadership role: young people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees and people of color. When these people become leaders everyone will benefit. We will all walk together and achieve our goals.

Q. What is your favorite song, book or movie?

A. Actually, I love poetry, because I love the idea behind it. I come from a poetry culture.

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know?

A. I am a good listener and love to learn. I love meeting new people and learning something different. And I’m open-minded to learn about other people. I would like to travel if I could.

Q&A with PSU Student and Advocate Arlene Amaya

In 2017, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Arlene is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Arlene smiles, standing in front of an industrial background.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. Currently, I'm the cultural sustainability coordinator for Portland State University’s Student Sustainability Center and the community engagement coordinator for Green Lents. I also hold leadership positions through PSU’s accessibility committee, universal design subcommittee and environmental club.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I’m not entirely sure what my future leadership roles will look like, but I'll be graduating from Portland State in Spring 2018, so they'll likely be significantly different.  Right now I'm more focused on the process of shaping what principles I want to apply to my current and future work. 

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. I think it’s another opportunity to recognize the inherent value and dignity of everyone, which conflicts with the ways many of our systems and institutions currently operate. It’s also a chance to recognize the strength in our differences. Validating one another’s accessibility needs is crucial, and it requires that we are part of a community that holds itself accountable to a dynamic learning process. In these ways, disability justice feels like truly exciting and revolutionary work to me.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

A. I decided to apply for the DJLC, because I wanted to gain a better understanding of ableism, my own accessibility needs and how to apply these principles to my work. I wanted to do so as part of a community, and then work within that community to build collective power. 

Additionally, my identity as someone who's disabled doesn't exist separately from my identities as a queer, working-class Latina (from Salvadoran parents). In many spaces that focus on disability rights, we're not able to explore the significance and influence of our other identities and that comes at a huge cost. The DJLC is a unique and special space, because it really mobilizes those important conversations. Its leading principles should be part of all justice movements. 

Q. What is your favorite book, movie or song, and why?

A. I have many favorites in each category, but the last book I read was Corazón by Yesika Salgado, the last movie I watched was Black Panther, and the last song I listened to was "Sound & Color" by Alabama Shakes. 

Q&A with Veteran and Community Health Worker Tamyca Branam Phillips

In 2017, Northwest Health Foundation convened the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative – a group of fourteen disabled people of color interested in deepening their understanding of disability justice and discussing visions and strategies for ensuring the needs of people with disabilities are centered in decision-making. Tamyca is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

 Tamyca Branam Phillips

Tamyca Branam Phillips

Q. What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

A. African American, Native American, veterans, military, grandparents, community activists, community health workers, community education workers.

Q. What leadership roles have you played?

A. Currently head of the Urban League of Portland's morale committee, as well as facilitator for parent empowerment workshops in the Urban League's community health worker program.

Q. What leadership roles do you hope to take on in the future?

A. I would love to work up the chain to management and executive management positions within the Urban League. I also want to be highly active in roles of systemic change within broken systems hurting our communities.

Q. What is most exciting to you about disability justice?

A. Being a part of a team that is addressing the inequities placed upon individuals with disabilities. Being part of the solution in fixing the systemic oppression and discrimination.

Q. What do you hope to get out of being a part of the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative?

Additional resources, networking, ideas and language to help educate and empower the many communities that I am a part of.  Knowledge is power, so I will take the knowledge learned and share it.

Q. What is your vision for the future of our region?

I don’t know. The running joke amongst family, friends and my community is, when am I going to run for any number of offices… commissioner, mayor, senator, congresswoman, president. I want to finish my B.S. in public health with a minor in civic engagement. Then, of course, move forward up the education ladder.

Q. What is your favorite book, movie and/or song, and why?

A. Book: don’t have one, but I do enjoy Where The Side Walk Ends. Movies: Legend, Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Matilda and any Tim Burton movie. Song: Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" (inspired my fighter tattoo on my right shoulder). It represents that, no matter what, I will get back up. You can never hold this girl down.

Q. Is there anything else you want people to know? 

A. I am veteran of two military services: Navy and Coast Guard. I'm a former EMT Basic and firefighter. I have multiple invisible disabilities. I don’t show them, because I am determined not to let them hold me down.

I was born to serve my community. From 16-years-old to the present, you can find me serving my community in a variety of ways. So much so that a coworker published a story about me giving my all without thinking. You can read the story here.

Learn more about the Disability Justice Leaders Collaborative here.

Western States Center & CAPACES Network: Winning with Reproductive Justice

 A woman sits on the floor holding her child. He looks over her shoulder, smiling. She is laughing. 

According to Western States Center’s Gender Justice Program Director Amy Casso, when you lead with Reproductive Justice you can win. Why? Because Reproductive Justice is intersectional and inclusive; everyone can see themselves in it. It also has the ability to shift narrative and culture in communities.

The CAPACES Network organizations, a group of primarily Latino-led and serving organizations in Oregon, saw an opportunity in Reproductive Justice. After participating in Western States Center’s We are BRAVE Cohort, CAPACES Network staff wanted to bring a Gender Justice and Reproductive Justice lens to all their work. They partnered with Western States Center to guide them through the process.

Over the last year, CAPACES Network executive directors and staff participated in monthly trainings and discussions around building and integrating a Gender and Reproductive Justice lens into their organizations’ program work. A pivotal moment came in August when many of them participated in Activists Mobilizing for Power 2017 workshops like “Talking About Abortion in the Latinx Community” and “Over-policed and Undervalued: reproductive justice, prison-abolition and birthing” to deepen their understanding.

 A person stands in front of a row of gray boxes, visible from the waist down. Each box has a  statistic painted on it. The closest one reads, "In 2011, 1 in 13 white Oregonians were uninsured and 1 in 6 people of color were uninsured."

CAPACES Network members also participated in the campaign to pass the Reproductive Health Equity Act, advocating for all Oregonians, regardless of income, citizenship status, gender identity or type of insurance, to have access to the full range of preventative reproductive health services.

Over the next year, Western States Center and CAPACES Network will conduct a community assessment in order to better understand the community’s concerns and needs, as well as identify opportunities for policy shifts. They’re working closely with several organizations, including both of the Network’s youth organizations, Latinos Unidos Siempre (LUS) and Talento Universitario Regresando a Nuestros Orígenes (TURNO).

It’s clear the partnership is already impacting community members. Western States Center recently hosted an event with Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas, unrelated to their partnership with CAPACES Network. At the event, Amy Casso asked community members if they’d heard about the Reproductive Health Equity Act and what it could do for them. All of them had.

Ultimately, CAPACES Network hopes this partnership will result in a healthier community and healthier families.

Oregon Active Schools: Hillside Elementary School

This blog is the eighth 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.

 Two students hug each other and smile on a field full of students playing.

HERE'S WHAT HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school special?

Friends and teachers.

We can earn student of the month.

We have lots of friends.

We get to learn.

 

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

I like to do cartwheels with my friends.

You can play on the playground.

We get exercise, and we get to learn.

You get to enjoy the sun.

 

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

To get you fit.

You get strong.

You can play with your friends.

 
 A large group of Hillside Elementary School students pose in front of a playground.

HERE'S WHAT HILLSIDE ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Hillside Elementary School is a modern school in a beautiful mountainside setting. Something special about our school is we have electives three days a week. Students get to choose which elective they would like to participate in. Electives change every four to six weeks, allowing students exposure to multiple active activities. Some of the current elective options are nature hikes, 80s aerobics, rock climbing, obstacle course, dance party, relay races and soccer. Students look forward to their electives and value the choice.

 

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

Finding opportunities for more Hillside students and families to become active was an important goal for our school. This year, Hillside participated in the Mayor’s Cup Fun Run. We promoted the event through emails, presentations and social media. The grant allowed us to assist families who were unable to pay the entry fee. We look forward to this becoming an annual tradition.

Our student leadership team served as the planning committee for our second goal: creating a walk or bike to school day. They connected with community businesses, mapped out walking routes and worked with our local police officers to create a day where students and families could walk or bike to school. They also created advertisements and fliers. The walk or bike was followed by an outdoor party with music, granola bars, bracelets and water. We believe that by providing a special day for students to walk or bike to school, we will encourage families to walk or bike more often, instead of driving.

 

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

Both of our events were successful and will now be part of our annual Hillside events. The student leadership team felt empowered by the opportunity to facilitate such a large event.

 

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

Research is clear about the correlation of physical activity with better academic results. At Hillside, we strive to include physical activity throughout the day. Often it will be a quick moving activity, such as a Go Noodle movement video or crossing the center line stretching activity. With our recess time and electives we keep our students moving.

 

Hillside Elementary School is in Jackson County School District.

Oregon Active Schools: Parkdale Elementary School

This blog is the seventh 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.

 Parkdale students stand scattered around a field. One student holds a yellow ball.

HERE'S WHAT PARKDALE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

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

I like to play and have fun with my friends when I’m in PE and at recess.

The best thing about PE is when we learned how to jump rope.

I like to play tag in PE and at recess.

My favorite part of recess is getting to run.

My favorite part of PE is when we get to play tag games.

 
 Parkdale students jump rope in a gym. A rainbow and dragon are painted on the wall above the basketball hoops.

Q. Why are exercise and play important?

Play is important, because it is fun!

Exercise helps you grow up to be healthy and strong.

Exercise helps you grow big strong muscles, and it is fun.

I think exercise is important, because it makes you sweat.

 

HERE'S WHAT PARKDALE ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT EXERCISE AND PLAY AT THEIR SCHOOL:

 Parkdale students play indoor soccer.

Q. What makes your school and students special?

Our school is special because we are located in a small rural community. Our students and families know each other very well, and it is like a large family.

A little more than fifty percent of our students are English Language Learners. Students come in at all different language levels, but our school is awesome about meeting the needs of each of our students.

Parkdale is special because of the people who work here and the kids we serve. Having worked in multiple schools before this one, I have found that Parkdale is incredibly unique thanks to the autonomy of the teachers in regards to their belief that all students truly can learn, as well as the hard work I see teachers putting in on a daily basis in order to promote this learning.

 

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

Parkdale used the Oregon Active Schools (OAS) grant in several ways. Our first priority was buying much needed basic physical education equipment in order to provide a varied and standards-based PE class to all students at Parkdale. We bought jump ropes, several types of balls/beanbags and other basic supplies. These purchases allowed us to eliminate wait time for our students in PE by putting the appropriate equipment into each student’s hands. 

The OAS grant also allowed us to offer “non-traditional” opportunities for our students in their PE class. With new equipment, we were able to teach a wide variety of activities students had not previously been exposed to, such as team building skills and racket sports. This gives our program the opportunity to engage all students and to give them the confidence to participate in a variety of physical activities as they continue to grow.

We also used the OAS grant to purchase some new technology for our students to use in PE. We bought a tripod to hold an iPod so that students can begin to self assess their own skills through recording and observation. We are also getting ready to roll out pedometers that can be uploaded with individual student data at the end of each class. This will allow students to track their steps taken and activity time while in class. The data will be used to help assess the effectiveness of lessons and to encourage students to be fully engaged in class.

Finally, the OAS grant was used to help overhaul the whiteboard in the gym. Students are now using the area to self assess their performance in class. This area is helping the students become more aware of themselves and take control of their own learning.

 

 Three Parkdale students play on a balance beam. More students sit on swings behind them.

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

The biggest change I have seen is at recess. Students are now participating in activities at recess that they learned in PE. I like to think that good PE is contagious and not limited to the four walls of the gym. When students are able to take something they learned in class, make it their own and use it outside the classroom, that shows that it is important to them. I also have parents telling me that their students are introducing activities that we are doing in class at home. It makes me smile when a parent tells me, “I played Man in the Mirror with my daughter last night before we went to bed." As the physical education program continues to grow at Parkdale, I will continue to look for ways to make natural changes. For example, some of the staff that supervise recess have been approaching me about the recess equipment. We are already brainstorming about how we can use some of our OAS grant funds from next year to improve our recess program. The OAS grant was the catalyst we needed to start this positive shift in our students.

Coach Hassell continues to come up with new ideas to teach the kids and new tools to use during PE time. The kids love the fast pace and the new, fun activities they are presented with. He also provides teachers with games and activities we can incorporate in the classroom. This saves us enormous amounts of time, because we don't have to teach the students the activities, and we can get them moving in our own classrooms.

 

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

My kindergarten students look forward to seeing Coach Hassell and going to PE every school day (even when PE is not scheduled). Coach's straight-talking, developmentally appropriate teaching captivates my students. They happily go to PE and return to me as sweaty, red-faced, physically-spent and euphoric kinders! After PE, we have 35 more minutes of school. Some days this is a difficult time because my students are tired and looking forward to going home. On PE days, the last part of the day provides a time for focused learning for most of my students. I think this focus comes from the physical activity they just experienced in PE. While I give my students brain and movement breaks throughout my instruction, there is nothing like 40 minutes of physical activity to fire up the brain synapses.

PE is hands down the majority of my students' favorite part of the day. It is a place where they are so engaged mentally and physically. At the end of the day students write memories from their day on slips of paper that go into our memory jar. Every PE day they are excited to write down and remember the game they played, the skills they learned and their successes. We have PE early in the day, and on those days students come back ready to focus and engage in academic content. 

 

Parkdale Elementary School is one of Hood River County School District's eight schools.

 

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.