Oregon Active Schools Engages Students & Families in Physical Activity in New Ways

Over the last five years, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Nike and Northwest Health Foundation gave over $1 million total to 139 Oregon elementary schools to support physical education programs and inspire a lifelong love of physical activity. Now Oregon Active Schools is winding down, and we’re sharing highlights and learnings.

Read on to find out how two elementary schools used Oregon Active Schools grants to engage students and families in physical activity in new ways.

 

Whitcomb Elementary fifth graders goof around in the school gym. They earned a dodgeball game by working together as a class to improve their attendance! Photo courtesy of Lot Whitcomb Elementary Facebook page.

Whitcomb Elementary fifth graders goof around in the school gym. They earned a dodgeball game by working together as a class to improve their attendance! Photo courtesy of Lot Whitcomb Elementary Facebook page.

Whitcomb Elementary

Staff at Whitcomb Elementary School in North Clackamas School District recognized an opportunity to not only get kids moving, but also help students self-regulate and problem-solve through physical activity.

"We continue to work with our partners and community to make our recess area more engaging and add places that students can use to regulate themselves through physical activity. This was done through our sensory walk stations.

We used the money granted to us to repaint basketball lines, our problem-solving wheel, and add two sensory walks. This was also done in cooperation with our community and Playworks coach while cleaning up our playground. Students are now able to take sensory walks when they need, and the highlighting of the problem-solving wheels has increased its use which has decreased the number of problems at recess."

  

Whitcomb Elementary’s problem-solving wheel painted on the playground blacktop. It includes options like “Wait and Cool Off” and “Make a Deal” illustrated with frogs.

Whitcomb Elementary’s problem-solving wheel painted on the playground blacktop. It includes options like “Wait and Cool Off” and “Make a Deal” illustrated with frogs.

Aiken Elementary 

Aiken Elementary in Ontario School District used their Oregon Active Schools funds to organize, promote and expand a walking club. At first, they used it just to get students walking. Then they started using it to engage families in physical activity, too.

Aiken encouraged students to walk more by tracking how far they’d walked and challenging them to beat their own record. They also held class competitions. Originally, staff tallied each lap a student walked by hand. Now they use iPads and student ID cards. The total number of miles walked has increased every year since the walking club started.

Aiken also offered opportunities at family events for students to walk with their families during the event, providing special incentives exclusive to the students who participated in these events. In this way, they’ve increased awareness of healthy living throughout the whole community.

“We were able to use walking as a draw to get parents/families involved in other activities, and we were able to get parents/families walking when they were drawn by another activity.

Our current population is over 50% Hispanic. As a general rule, it was not the Hispanic population you would see out walking. Students, through their walking activity, have influenced parents to get out and move for health and entertainment.”



Look out for our final Oregon Active Schools blog next month, which will include the results of our OAS evaluation.

The Next Door Organizes Latino Parents in The Dalles

A story from Health & Education Fund Impact Partner The Next Door.

A family with two parents and two children runs through a park.

Every month since November 2018, Latino parents of children zero to eight-years-old gather in The Dalles to discuss health and education issues and develop their leadership skills. They’re brought together by Liliana Bello, a Community Health Worker at The Next Door. Liliana wants to hear about the barriers these parents face, meet their needs and help them become advocates for their children and families. 

Having been active in her community for the last fifteen years, Liliana knows how to meet Latino parents where they already are. She visited schools to recruit parents for this coalition. Twelve parents attended the first session. Through word of mouth, the coalition has grown to 17 participants. The Next Door gives parents $15 per meeting and provides child care with constructive activities, including art, games and walks around the building. These supports allow parents to attend consistently.

Community Health Worker Liliana Bello

Community Health Worker Liliana Bello

At the first coalition meeting, Liliana asked parents to voice their concerns about education and healthcare. A few of the concerns they listed: lack of communication between schools and parents, lack of bilingual staff at schools, discrimination against Hispanic children, unfair punishments, unhealthy cafeteria food, dangerous parking lots, bullying, uncertainty about how to help their children with mental illness, teachers’ ignorance of students with disabilities’ needs, healthcare providers’ discrimination against patients on the Oregon Health Plan and poor translation during healthcare visits.

Parents’ concerns guide the agenda for each coalition meeting. Liliana invites guests to speak on topics of interest. So far, guests have spoken about food and nutrition, child care provider requirements and parents’ rights, child development and Head Start, and how to spot and respond to child abuse. In June, parents will learn how to support children with depression.

One of the coalitions’ most fruitful visits was from North Wasco County School District’s superintendent and the director of their migrant education program. They listened to parents’ concerns about their children’s education and told parents who they can contact in specific situations. They also encouraged the parents to consider running for an open school board seat. Currently, no Latino or bilingual representatives serve on North Wasco County School District’s board, which means Latino students needs are not heard or represented. The director of the migrant education program later followed up with an invitation to a day-and-a-half long symposium and information about applying for a school board position. Fifteen people attended the symposium; nine of them were from The Next Door’s coalition!

One parent from the coalition already sits on a local board – the One Community Health board of directors. Thanks to the coalition’s encouragement, more parents have expressed interest in leadership positions, including on the school board, Head Start’s board of directors and policy council. The coalition participants feel supported by one another, often calling each other between meetings. They wish each meeting lasted longer, because they have so much to talk about.

Northwest Health Foundation looks forward to finding out what these parents do next!

Learn more about The Next Door.

Southern Oregon Parents Support Driver's Licenses for ALL and the Oregon Voting Rights Act

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Successful Transitions.

Spanish-speakers attend a Driver’s Licenses for ALL community forum in southern Oregon.

Spanish-speakers attend a Driver’s Licenses for ALL community forum in southern Oregon.

Kids do better in school and life when their parents are involved in their education and able to advocate for them. Due to language barriers, fear, and unfamiliarity with systems, immigrant parents often struggle to advocate for their children and families. That’s why Unite Oregon has been working closely with Southern Oregon Education Service District (SOESD) to engage and inform parents in SOESD’s migrant parent leadership program.

SOESD staff member Bianey Jiminez invited parents from the leadership program to attend Unite Oregon’s Driver’s Licenses for ALL Community Forum in Spanish on March 28. Almost 100 people turned out for the event. That’s where Unite Oregon staff began building relationships with these parents. 

Since the forum, Unite Oregon has helped the parents advocate for HB2015 (the Equal Access to Roads Act) and HB3310 (the Oregon Voting Rights Act). HB2015 would allow all Oregon residents, regardless of citizenship status, to obtain driver’s licenses after passing the required written and practical tests. This would allow undocumented immigrant parents to purchase car insurance and drive their children to school, the doctor or the park without fear of getting deported for driving without a license. HB3310 would allow Oregonians to challenge and offer solutions to discriminatory electoral methods. This could lead to more candidates of color winning school board, city and county elections.

A parent holds up a poster decorated to look like a giant Oregon driver’s license. His face is framed by a square cut-out in the upper left corner.

Unite Oregon’s Bilingual Organizer Alessandra de la Torre coached parents on how to call their representatives and voice support for these two bills. She reassured undocumented parents that calling would not put them at risk.

Unite Oregon continues to welcome these parents to events like tenant rights trainings and citizenship classes. By talking to these parents over the phone or in person, they’ve gathered parents’ community concerns and visions, which contribute to an intercultural movement for justice.

The parents in the leadership program want to encourage other community members to take advantage of the resources and connections available to them. Although it might be uncomfortable, they emphasize that people need to empower themselves if they want change.

Learn more about the Equal Access to Roads Act and the Oregon Voting Rights Act, then call your legislators to voice your support!

Q&A with Raquel Garay, 2019 National Migrant Parent of the Year

Raquel Garay is a member of Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Successful Transitions, which is based in Medford, Oregon.

Raquel Garay smiles, holding a plaque.

Raquel Garay smiles, holding a plaque.

Q. How long have you been involved in the migrant parent program in southern Oregon?

A. As a parent, I think maybe five years. But I wasn’t as involved to begin with. I got more involved about three years ago.

 

Q. What motivated you to get more involved?

A. At first I would always just attend the meetings. Then I was selected by the parent advisory council to represent them, because they needed someone who could travel to conferences and trainings. Once I started getting more involved, I realized there was a high need for migrant parent leadership, and especially bilingual migrant parent leadership. I realized we do have rights and a stake in our kids’ education. Parents need to know this and get educated. I had something to say, and, being bilingual, I could give that extra service.

 

Q. How have you changed through your involvement with this program?

A. Before I had a blurry vision of what we were being served and what we deserved. Through meetings, trainings and conferences, I gained tools for advocating, not only for my kids, but for other kids and parents as well. I learned there is no right or wrong answer, and it doesn’t hurt to speak up or ask. I’ve learned to be less shy and to model for other parents and accompany them when they feel uncomfortable. There’s no one in front of me who has done it, so I have to be a leader in a way of trying. Our community is so unequal, so it is hard to expose yourself. But I’ve made connections, and I’ve learned who and how to ask for help.

 

Q. What leadership positions do you currently hold?

A. I’m the vice president for the Eagle Point School District Parent Advisory Council (PAC). I’m also on the budget committee for the school district, and I represent southern Oregon, Lane County and Klamath Falls on Oregon’s state parent advisory council (SPAC). We meet four times a year in Salem. And I’m on the Southern Oregon University parent committee for the Latinx community.

 

Q. Have you seen southern Oregon or Eagle Point School District change because of the migrant parent programs’ efforts?

A. A little bit. Eagle Point is tough to change. I urged people to vote for a person who will acknowledge our community, because our community doesn’t function the same way as other parents. And she won! The woman I urged people to vote for won. Finally, there’s someone elected advocating for us. She encourages parents to come to meetings and tells people about the work I’m doing. She’s always asking for my input. She understands all the kids in our classrooms aren’t the same.

 

Q. What do you hope to happen in the future through this work?

A. I want the district to follow through on concerns voiced by the parents. They listen, but then they don’t do anything with those concerns. We’re losing parent representation in the program because no changes are happening. If one thing changed, that would be a big deal.

 

Q. What’s something you love to do in your free time?

A. My kids play soccer. My passion is traveling with them and watching them play. Actually I’m part of that committee too. I like to sit and watch them play and yell. If I’m tired, that moment is relaxing.

The Roots of Health: Latino Network

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) at Northwest Health Foundation was founded in 2004 with an initial $28 million investment by Kaiser Permanente to improve conditions for health. As we learned how to best partner with community organizations, we made pivotal decisions that changed how we operated. In this story, we tell how Latino Network taught us to focus on the roots of health, even when it pushes us out of our comfort zone.

Children participate in Latino Network’s Juntos Aprendemos program.

Children participate in Latino Network’s Juntos Aprendemos program.

“We need programs — in the schools — for us to attend with our children when they are young, so we can learn what is expected of them in kindergarten and how to prepare them. There is no one in the school who speaks our language, and then they tell us our children are already behind when they start kindergarten. How is it possible that our babies be behind if we were never given the opportunity to teach them?” — First year participant in Juntos Aprendemos

In the late 1990s, Latina mothers in Portland had clearly articulated the racial opportunity gap in early learning and had a vision for how to eliminate it for their children. When Sadie Feibel, director of Children, Family and Community Services at the Latino Network, heard this frustration and determination voiced by many families in her community as they struggled with the transition into kindergarten, she and Christine Taylor, a community health nurse, responded.

They brought Latino parents, children, and educators together to build bridges between the community and its schools. And so, Juntos Aprendemos (Together We Learn) was born. The culturally specific, dual generation early learning program prepares young children to succeed in school and supports parents to be their children’s first teachers and strongest advocates.

When KPCF first started, we funded programs focused on equity in healthcare, such as delivering culturally competent care. We did not connect our vision for health to programs like Juntos Aprendemos. As we learned from our community, as well as from the growing public health conversation about social determinants, we realized how important childhood and education are for life-long health.

“We need to start creating the conditions for success as early as possible. When kids start kindergarten ready to learn, they do better in school and can graduate with the knowledge and resources they need to be healthy adults,” said Northwest Health Foundation Community Engagement Officer Michael Reyes Andrillon.

Health and hospital systems weren’t used to funding groups like Juntos Aprendemos, and doing so took us out of our comfort zone. We weren’t familiar with the nuances of early childhood and education, nor were we a part of existing networks and collaborations focused on these issues. We needed to adapt to become an effective funder in this area. “As we grew, we learned about the entire ecosystem that allows students to be successful in school. School districts are incredibly complex; funders and community partners need to support families as they navigate bureaucracy and advocate for their children,” said Michael Reyes Andrillon.

While not easy, these changes allowed us to be a better community partner, as illustrated by the collaboration between KPCF and Latino Network. Over the past three years, we have supported the growth and expansion of Juntos Aprendemos. What began as a pilot at one elementary school has now expanded to twelve schools, serving over 1,600 children and parents since the program began. These children and parents are now better able to succeed in school, advocate for themselves, and create healthy patterns of development.

“Our work has an emphasis on whole families and whole communities,” said Michael Gibson, development manager for Latino Network. “It’s not just about getting the outcomes for X, Y, Z in terms of reading or math. It’s also the connections that families make together, which can then lead to system change, advocacy, and greater community strength.”

The successes of Juntos Aprendemos show what is possible when funders step out of their comfort zones. Through funding this program, we learned new approaches to creating health in our communities and invested in developing partnerships and networks. We worked to identify great programs led by community members, and instead of asking them to navigate our funding, we changed our funding to best support them.

“Often, funding priorities are rigid and narrow, and not focused on racial justice or holding up community-driven solutions as a priority,” said Sadie Feibel. “But KPCF has invested in what’s already working in our community. They’ve provided support for existing sites while helping to expand Juntos Aprendemos to new schools. Through their support, we are able to grow this program in more communities that need it.”

Through thoughtful listening to learn what works, KPCF was able to develop new approaches to amplify the change that is happening in communities, making investments for more effective and long-lasting change.

New Approaches to Community Partnership: SKCE

The Kaiser Permanente Community Fund (KPCF) at Northwest Health Foundation was founded in 2004 with an initial $28 million investment by Kaiser Permanente to improve conditions for health. As we learned how to best partner with community organizations, we made pivotal decisions that changed how we operated. In this story, we tell how Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality taught us to put new insights into action.

A mother and son practice reading together at SKCE’s Leyendo Avanzamos program.

A mother and son practice reading together at SKCE’s Leyendo Avanzamos program.

Before Estela Flores joined the programs offered by the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality (SKCE), she did not understand the grading system at her children’s school. Estela did not graduate elementary school and moved to the United States with the hope of a better future for her children. However, she did not know how to navigate the bureaucracy of the school district, she couldn’t help her children with the homework they were assigned, and she was not familiar with the meaning of an “A,” “B,” or other grades the teacher gave.

“I remember back when I was young and see how far we have come, how far my mom has come,” said Estela’s daughter, Celia Flores. “I just feel so thankful that she has had the opportunity to attend workshops and events and become part of the group of Latino parents with the coalition. One of the most important ways I saw my mom change was when she learned not to be afraid. She didn’t know English, and she didn’t know much about the school system, but she learned how to make sure we were doing well in school.”

SKCE’s motto is backed by solid research: parents are the key to their child’s educational success. For years, SKCE has worked to inspire and equip Latino parents to get involved in their children’s education and schools and change the dynamics that influence academic success for students of color.

When SKCE first connected with KPCF, SKCE wanted to address Latino student education success through parent program support and increased advocacy. They worked to activate more Spanish-speaking parents to get involved in their children’s education, focusing on absenteeism and mental health. At the same time, SKCE also knew that direct intervention with parents was not enough; they needed to advocate more and work to change school district policies and practices by partnering with districts.

We saw an opportunity to invest in SKCE in a way that brought together many of the lessons we learned throughout the life of our fund. Instead of funding a specific program, we provided SKCE with flexible funding, coaching, and technical assistance that allowed the organization’s leaders to hire administrative staff and step back from day-to-day operations. By doing so, they could focus on building capacity to deepen relationships, develop partnerships, and create the community-led infrastructure for systems change advocacy.

SKCE increased the size and resources of their advocacy program budget to campaign for a more equitable and culturally responsive education workforce. 38% of the district’s students are Latino, but only 6% of their teachers are, and SKCE knew students would benefit from seeing themselves reflected in their educators. It is well-documented that when students see their race, ethnicity, and culture reflected in their schools, their educational success, health, and attendance significantly improve. In addition to funding staff time for advocacy activities, committee participation and professional development, KPCF provided critical technical assistance to conduct a community assessment, clarify strategies, and use developmental evaluation to track community change.

Building strong relationships with district administrators and leaders was a key component and took lots of time. SKCE was able to hire more people and parents from the local Latino community and develop their leadership. With their new capacity, they had the ability to attend the school district’s decision-making committees, testify more at school board meetings, and meet consistently with district leaders. Together with district leaders, they identified specific changes the Salem Keizer School District needed to make in their recruiting, hiring, and training practices.

Annalivia is excited: “I started bringing Latino parents and staff to committees. I’ve got staff that are trying to learn English, and they’re boldly going forth and trying to figure out how to get in this committee and say something. KPCF had an understanding that we have to pay low-income, underrepresented people to do what you would expect other white organizations to do with volunteers.”

With SKCE’s expert Latino parent voices, the district adopted their first Safe and Welcoming School Resolution, created a new office of Equity and Student Advancement, and promoted a long-time principal of color to direct it. The new office began the work of training principals and teachers in cultural awareness and responsiveness, and developing long-term plans for continual professional development in these areas. Latino students and parents began feeling more welcome and safe at school.

With flexible funding, SKCE was also able to hire Spanish-speaking parents to plan a systems change strategy with their constituents. They focused on partnership development and continuously showed up to district meetings as they grew into a trusted partner of the district. The highlight came in the summer of 2017 when the district awarded SKCE a contract to conduct a teacher training institute in collaboration with the district’s human resources department. Hosted at SKCE’s office, 17 educators attended the pilot Language and Culture Institute, learning Spanish in the morning (taught by the district) and spending the afternoon doing activities with Latino parents and staff. SKCE staff also worked with the district to host job fairs where they hired Latino employees.

The relationship between the district and parents of SKCE has grown strong, in part due to the openness of Superintendent Christy Perry and the people she hired. Last year, SKCE was recognized as the district’s partner of the month at the school board meeting. “I feel like we have finally reached our goals of being a partner to the district, of being truly valued as a Latino organization. This literally happened because KPCF,” said Annalivia.

Without the capacity and technical support of KPCF, Annalivia says they never could have maintained the steady growth, and the steady planning and accountability meetings needed to reach many of their goals. Annalivia added, “We are changing school and district culture, and we will never stop, and we will become a part of their culture so what was radical 20 years ago is best practice and innovative and highly praised now.”

KPCF is proud of our flexibility in keeping up with the latest research and trends, not just in health but in the nonprofit sector, in education and in and equity issues in general. We found that our culturally specific nonprofit partners were more than ready to take their work to a higher level of systems change as soon as we stepped up to help them make that possible, and other foundations are following suite. Culturally specific organizations are often led by people who are affected by the social justice issues KPCF wants to fund. We are investing in these organizations as the most effective way to improve health and education equity in our society.

 
Infographic - SKCE.jpg

CAPACES Leadership Institute is preparing Latinx Oregonians to run for office

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

Graduates from People’s Representatives’ elected office cohort stand and smile in front of a large painting depicting farmworkers.

Graduates from People’s Representatives’ elected office cohort stand and smile in front of a large painting depicting farmworkers.

Representation matters. When elected officials and other community leaders reflect the communities they serve, those communities do better. Having had similar experiences to their constituents, these leaders understand the issues firsthand, know the barriers they need to tear down, and can create change that improves people’s lives.

In reality, leaders rarely reflect the communities they serve. Although only 31% of the U.S. population is made up of white men, white men make up 65% of the United States’ elected officials. Similarly, 38% of Oregonians are white men, but white men make up 67% of Oregon’s elected officials. That means women and people of color, among other populations, are underrepresented.

Four out of five students in Oregon’s Woodburn School District are Latinx, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the Woodburn school board had a majority of Latinx school board members (although still not four out of five). As Latinx representation on Woodburn’s school board has grown, Latinx student dropout rates have gone down, teen pregnancy rates have gone down, gang activity has decreased, and graduation rates have gone up. One of Woodburn’s high schools is now among the top five in the nation. 

Woodburn’s success in electing Latinx candidates is largely due to the efforts of a group of nonprofit organizations known as Alianza Poder/Power Alliance (Formerly the CAPACES Network). The Alliance includes an electoral organizing entity, a housing development corporation, a nonprofit focused on educational accountability and equity, a statewide immigrant rights coalition, a youth leadership program and more. By leveraging all their skills, resources and, most importantly, people power, Alianza Poder does an amazing job of engaging and activating their communities, getting out the vote, and preparing community members for leadership opportunities. Acción Política PCUNista, the Alliance’s 501(c)4, succeeded in electing Oregon’s first Latina immigrant to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2016. They also supported Latinx candidates to run for school board and other local positions.

While Alianza Poder has led incredible progress, Oregon’s elected officials are still far from reflecting Oregon’s Latinx population (Oregon’s largest ethnic minority). So, this year CAPACES Leadership Institute launched People’s Representatives – a bilingual leadership development institute based in Marion and Polk Counties, designed to prepare social-justice-minded Latinxs to compete for appointed or elected office or volunteer on committees.

People’s Representatives has two tracks: one for people curious about running for elected office, and one for people who want to serve on committees. Over the course of five trainings, all participants self-assess their values, financial resources, social network, etc.; conduct research about their region and elected office/committee of choice; and learn about messaging. Elected-track participants also learn about fundraising for and planning a campaign, while committee-track participants learn about building relationships and making change through committees.

Graduates from People’s Representatives’ committee cohort stand, sit and kneel in front of a wall hung with paintings and photos. They’re all smiling.

Graduates from People’s Representatives’ committee cohort stand, sit and kneel in front of a wall hung with paintings and photos. They’re all smiling.

The committee pathway graduated its first cohort of 16 people, mostly Latinx parents, on April 28, 2018. The first elected pathway cohort graduated on September 15, made up mostly of young adults. Already, some of the committee pathway graduates have been selected to serve on a school district hiring committee and a Salem area transportation committee.

People’s Representatives will continue to check in with all its graduates, even after they’ve taken on public service leadership roles.

We can’t wait to hear more stories from People’s Representative graduates and the cohorts to come!

(c)3s and (c)4s and LLCs (oh my): EUVALCREE Finds New Ways to Support Community

A story with Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities Collaborative Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families.

A dancer in a Jalisco dress and Sugar Skull mask performs at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

A dancer in a Jalisco dress and Sugar Skull mask performs at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

Communities need places and reasons to gather, to build relationships, celebrate together and support one another. When neighbors know each other and spend time together, neighborhoods are safer and stronger.

Strong community connections are even more important in rural communities, where resources are scarcer and services are farther away.

In eastern Oregon, the nonprofit EUVALCREE (a 501(c)3 organization) arose with the purpose of connecting Malheur County’s Latino residents with each other and with other eastern Oregon communities and institutions. They wanted to see more Latinos taking on leadership roles and influencing policies. By engaging and connecting community, and training and positioning leaders, they believe they can improve the lives of children, families and communities throughout Oregon and Idaho.

One way EUVALCREE seeks to accomplish these goals is by hosting large public events, bringing people together to relax and enjoy themselves. This strategy has had huge success. For one, it creates safe cultural environments, through which the Latino community in Malheur County has shared their culture with non-Latino community members and overcome negative stereotypes. It’s also resulted in many more community members expressing interest and becoming involved in EUVALCREE’s leadership trainings and other programs.

Youth stand and smile beside a food cart at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

Youth stand and smile beside a food cart at EUVALCREE's Day of the Dead celebration.

EUVALCREE’s events attract thousands of community members a year. Their largest event so far, on Children’s Day 2018, drew over 3000 people. Not to mention, 94 volunteers committed 754 hours of their time to make it happen.

When EUVALCREE was founded in 2014, the infrastructure to support these events didn’t exist. So, EUVALCREE created the infrastructure. They gathered the people and learned the skills to provide sound systems, lighting, security, etc. Before long, other groups were asking for their help with non-EUVALCREE events.

As demand for their services grew, EUVALCREE’s leadership decided to form an LLC – an event production company – to meet the community’s needs and protect their nonprofit from liabilities. They also registered a second LLC – a security company – owned by the production company. All proceeds go to their 501(c)4 (EUVALCREE ACTIO), which owns the first LLC.

Members of the Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families pose in front of the Oregon State Capitol building.

Members of the Eastern Oregon Latino Alliance for Children and Families pose in front of the Oregon State Capitol building.

EUVALCREE ACTIO was founded in 2018 to support and provide community members with additional tools and resources for civic engagement and community efforts.

Altogether, EUVALCREE, EUVALCREE ACTIO and the two LLCs are operated by and with 76 people and engage hundreds of volunteers and thousands of community members.

They continue to expand their work. In September of 2018, EUVALCREE will be opening an office in Hermiston. Their region has expanded to include 8 counties in Oregon and 5 in Idaho, and they hope to host events and support community in all these places.

If you’re ever in eastern Oregon, make sure to check out one of EUVALCREE’s events. If you’re interested in hosting an event in eastern Oregon, use their services! You’ll be supporting community and leadership development among Latino Oregonians.

Q&A with Disability Justice Visionary Myrlaviani Perez-Rivier

In 2017 and 2018, 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. Myrlaviani is one of the leaders participating in the Collaborative.

photo portrait of Myrlaviani

What is your vision for the future of our region?

I envision Disabled People of Color winning political positions, influencing decisions, and deepening our overall capacity as a community.

What is most exciting to you about Disability Justice?

Disability Justice demands, by way of compassion and caring communities, systems change, institutional reform, and a new notion of private and public market performance defined, owned, operated, and valued by community members most impacted. Disability Justice is all about creativity and innovation. It’s invigorating and demanding. It means you have to show up and demonstrate radical self-love and compassion, which are founded on standards of quality caring and intimate connection. We account for the complex strata of universal access, intersectionality of race, disability, gender, and religion with the never-ending and always-loved question of “What am I missing here, right now? Do we have what we need?” We are the road builders and bridge architects we need. I feel we are ready for Us.

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

My goals include organizing a group of leaders holding conversations within and across urban-rural communities to discover and cultivate participants committed to policy and program change and implementation. Addressing current power dynamics will enhance collaboration across systems by way of generating ideas and building alternative solutions. Our community has the solutions and, through strategic partnerships, we can help lead and build the results we need.

For instance, this looks like rural and urban Oregon building relational bridges and, through a willingness to learn, adapt, and innovate, realizing opportunities for one another while addressing public problems. One which comes to mind is food deserts. We need effective policies whereby our Disabled community can readily access high-quality, nutritious food. There are solutions, but we need courage and support. At the same time, nothing happens without supportive housing, and who says passive-designed homes cannot also be designed within the universal design criteria? High-quality housing designed around collective access means building a new type of community—a community where people actively support one another. This is the vision I have of our reNew Oregon™—one where we support one another and build a meaningful future together. When enough of us make this decision, then we will see employment rates rising, especially for Disabled “People of Color.”

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

I am committed to becoming a better transformational leader: identifying, cultivating, and promoting leadership and leadership development in Disability communities. I am keen on improving the employment rates of individuals with disabilities and recognize this will require not only policy change but also changes in awareness and attitudes on the part of families, businesses, and civic leaders.

What communities do you consider yourself a part of?

Disability foremost, and all else follows. I come from a multicultural background. I grew up dancing flamenco, listening to Tejano music, being friends with Latins from Central America to South America to Spain, marching with Chicano Agricultural Workers (Cesar Chavez), listening to my Mother’s stories of her ancestors and, on my Father’s side, learning about poverty and oppression, or how the Mexican-American wars impacted the trajectory of his family’s development. The cultural extremes from both families provided a rich and textured playground of possibilities from which my curiosity and drive still develop.

What leadership roles have you played?

I have participated in local advisory boards or commissions, as well as community engagement work across Disability lines, especially with “People of Color.” I also started a community restorative listening circle. I have been particularly enthusiastic in volunteering for positions that work towards criminal justice reform, racial justice, and disability justice, across government and community-based organizations.

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

The book I’m enjoying the most right now compels me to wonder and enjoy breathing, reading, imagining impossibilities and living, again. It is Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Artists lead the way for social change and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is wonderfully and refreshingly uncompromising.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

When you love something or someone, including yourself, you make a stand, define your standards, live with integrity and a willingness to self-assess. With that in mind, I’m curious about what is important to my fellow Disabled community members. I want to know what satisfies and, equally, what leaves them with discontent within our current system. Further, what improvements are they willing to invest their talents, energy, and time in to create and operate? If you are interested in developing dialogue around these and other questions, please contact me through NWHF.

Building Latinx Youth Leadership on Oregon's North Coast

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

A group of nine Latinx youth pose in front of a wooden bridge surrounded by trees and other greenery.

BYP100. Dreamers. The students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Youth are leaders. And, they will continue to lead as they grow older. We need to prepare them for future leadership roles, from committees and boards to elected office and everything in between.

Oregon and Southwest Washington become more and more racially and ethnically diverse every day. Unfortunately, there are few culturally-specific youth leadership programs, particularly beyond the I-5 corridor. Youth of color don’t see themselves represented at most leadership programs, and, often, they opt out.

A decade ago, Cispus Learning Center staff member Vincent Perez noticed few Latinxs participated in youth leadership programs in Washington. So, he convinced the Association of Washington School Principals to develop a leadership camp specifically for Latinx youth. That camp was La Cima, a bilingual leadership camp for Latinx youth with the goal of building their skills and improving school climates. Last year, noticing a similar need in their region, Lower Columbia Hispanic Council started La Cima Lower Columbia on Oregon’s North Coast.

La Cima Lower Columbia welcomes Latinx high school students from Astoria High School, Seaside High School, Warrenton High School, Tillamook High School and Taft High School in Lincoln City. In 2017, 19 students spent three days together at Camp Kiwanilong. This April, 36 students spent four days together. Both years, participants wished the camp went on longer.

Participants and staff in the second La Cima Lower Columbia camp in 2018 pose together in rows. There are 48 people total.

At La Cima, everything is in English AND Spanish, and no one has to be proficient in both – campers or staff. Campers engage in hands-on activities, reflecting on experiences and issues, making goals for themselves, creating fun group presentations and solving problems together.    

“[La Cima] is a great camp,” said 2018 participant Alma Bolaños Hinojosa. “Not only will you make friends, but you feel the atmosphere of a family. When you least expect it, at the end of the day, you are already known as a leader.”

Six Latinx youth stand in a row, foot to foot, their legs spread wide. They're inside a wooden shelter with picnic tables.

This year, youth spent the last day of camp learning how to start clubs at their schools. That way, they’ll still have a little bit of La Cima with them throughout the year. So far, Astoria High School and Warrenton High School have both received funding for this purpose.

Lower Columbia Hispanic Council Executive Director Jorge Gutierrez wrote, “I have found this program to be unique, innovative and among the most rewarding and satisfying work I have been a part of as an executive director at LCHC.”

As the lead organization for La Voz de la Comunidad, one of Healthy Beginnings+Healthy Communities’ ten Community Collaboratives, LCHC is involved in a project to learn about leadership development programs across Oregon and Southwest Washington and create a resource bank of leadership development curriculum. La Cima Leadership Camp is an asset to our region, and will certainly help inform that resource bank.

Q&A with PSU Student and Advocate Arlene Amaya

In 2017 and 2018, 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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.